by Diana Raab
By definition, a eulogy is a speech given at a memorial service in honor of the deceased. Sometimes there is one eulogy, other times, there is more than one. Typically, the person organizing the memorial service will ask the family and any friends who might be interested in giving a eulogy. Anyone who desires to speak is usually given the opportunity. Rarely are people turned away from saying something at the service. If you have not been asked, but want to say something, you should come forth and tell the family members. It is also a good idea to prepare what you are going to say and be organized. Writers usually embrace the opportunity to write. As the family writer, I have often been called upon to write eulogies for my family and friends, and think of it as a privilege.
The first time I wrote a eulogy was the most difficult; but now, as I approach 60, I think I have gotten the hang of this particular art form. In many ways, writing someone’s eulogy is an honor. Not only does it help others understand the deceased, it also offers the person who wrote the eulogy the opportunity to achieve a sense of closure and honor the departed at the same time.
There is nothing more bothersome than going to a funeral officiated by someone who really knows nothing about the deceased. So a personal eulogy, written by someone close to the deceased is a wonderful way to say good-bye.
There is no right or wrong way to write a eulogy.
[box type=”info” align=”aligncenter” ]The most important aspect about writing one is that it should be written from the heart. It should sound like the writer actually knew and appreciated the person.[/box]
8 Tips on Writing a Eulogy
1) Identify yourself. It is a good idea for the audience to know who you are and why you are speaking. Doing this frames what will be said and gives your words the proper context.
2) Be positive. Even if the person who has passed was difficult or unethical, focus on the individual’s positive attributes. Delivering a eulogy is not the time to be revengeful or unkind to the deceased. If you are unable to focus on the positive, then it might be a better idea to have someone else write the eulogy.
3) Decide on the tone or goal of the eulogy. Often, the tone of a eulogy reflects the personality of the deceased and the person delivering the eulogy. The tone is also dependent upon the age and reason for the deceased’s passing. Humor can provide good comic relief at a memorial service. However, if the deceased was an infant or young or if the death was caused by suicide, then humor might not be such a good choice. If the individual who died, significantly influenced many lives, it’s important to offer regrets to those most feeling the loss.
4) Consider the attendees. Most often the person delivering the eulogy has an idea of who will be present. If there are people who played a key role in the deceased’s life, it is a good idea to honor them in the eulogy. Remember to mention family and loved ones as well.
5) Focus on key ideas and events. In preparation for the writing of the eulogy, make a list of all the deceased’s key life events. Some subjects to consider are: other family members, colleagues or anyone else who was impacted by the deceased and why.
6) Share specific events or anecdotes. The more specific you are, the more compelling your eulogy will be. Write the eulogy as if you were writing for someone who did not know the person. Basically, try to paint a portrait of the deceased. Sometimes it is good to speak to loved ones and friends before writing the eulogy as a way to gather stories and information.
7) Keep it short. The length of time for eulogies depends upon how many others are also speaking. You don’t want to bore or take advantage of your listeners. Typically, eulogies should be between 3 and 6 minutes. Less is often more. Be succinct, make your point, and pass the microphone to the next person.
8) Practice reading to someone. If you are unsure how your eulogy will come across, it might be a good idea to read it out loud to someone you trust who will offer an honest opinion and/or suggestions.