by Diana Raab, Ph.D.
It is inevitable that at one point in your life you will lose someone dear to you. If you are a writer, there is a good chance that you will be asked to write a eulogy. While the task is not always an easy one, it is a great honor to eulogize another person. Basically, you are being asked to consolidate your thoughts about someone who is no longer with us. In addition to slowing you down and encouraging mindfulness in connection to the loss, the task of writing a eulogy can also inspire a great deal of self-reflection.
In undertaking this task, it’s important to spend some time thinking about the person—what they meant to you and what they meant to others, both near and far. The amount of time you are given to prepare for a eulogy will often depend upon the circumstances of the person’s death and their spiritual or religious affiliation. For example, in Judaism, the deceased must be buried or cremated within 48 hours of passing. In Buddhism, the memorial services of the deceased typically occur on the 3rd, 7th 49th and 100th day after death.
As much as it might seem like a monumental task to write a eulogy, writers are known to create their best work when in the midst of intense emotional upheaval, such as love and loss. During those times, the words just seem to pour out on the page.
It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to write a eulogy. The best suggestion is to write from your heart or a deep place inside yourself. The best way to begin is to be short and sweet, focusing mainly on all deceased’s good attributes.
Here are 7 specific tips on how to write a eulogy:
1) Jot down ten words or memories about the deceased. See if you can string them together into a coherent story. You might try having a photo or photos of them nearby to jog some memories, especially if you have not seen the person in a while.
2) Write a brief life history of the deceased, focusing on the important highlights of their life. While writing about an entire life can be daunting, consider a summary of pivotal moments in their lives. For example, write about when they immigrated, who were their first contacts after immigration, work history, education, special achievements, family, friend and values. You might consider listing all their favorite sayings.
3) When possible, share anecdotes and visuals. This will make the eulogy much more powerful while making the deceased more real. Just to say the person was generous is not enough. Show, don’t tell. Share examples of ways in which he or she was generous. When possible, it is also fun to add in a humorous story; comic relief is often welcome during stressful times.
4) Share favorite memories about the deceased. Recall what you will always remember about them—events, connections and experiences you had together. You might want to mention what you will miss most about them—whether it is daily phone calls, smiles, special meals, holidays together, comments they made or their way of doing things.
5) Consider the deceased’s spiritual connection and make sure that your comments are consistent with their beliefs. For example, Buddhists believe that life and death are simply a part of the life cycle (samsara) and actions in this life will affect future lives or incarnations.
6) For more ideas, research examples of eulogies written by others. Here are some good websites to check out: