Eulogies

Giving a meaningful, moving eulogy can be stressful for even the most accomplished public speaker.  How can you summarize somebody’s life in a few short minutes? Is it possible to be both somber and funny at the same time? Eulogies are a therapeutic tools to help deal with your grief. Being chosen to deliver one is a distinct honor, and it should be treated as such. To help you prepare, we have put together some tips for writing and delivering the eulogy that your loved one deserves. 

  • Organize your thoughts.  Jot down your ideas and create an outline of your speech. You can then fill in the information as you gather it.
  • Gather information.  Talk with family members, close friends and co-workers to get information about the deceased.  Some important details to include are the person's family and other close relationships, their education/career, hobbies or special interests, places they have lived and/or traveled, and any special accomplishments of which they were especially proud.
  • Prepare a written, legible copy.  It is not appropriate to make off-the-cuff remarks as you might at a wedding. One should not ad lib a eulogy. Writing it all down ensures that you have remembered and can repeat every detail you wanted to include. For ease of reading, print it in large font. If you must hand-write it, leave a few spaces between each line. This makes it easier to find your place if you look up to the audience from time to time.
  • Consider any time constraints. The best practice is to keep things short, especially if there are other speakers. Check with the officiant or funeral director if you are concerned about the length of the eulogy.
  • Review and Revise.  Your first draft will not be your last. When you think you have finished, sleep on it. When you are freshly rested in the morning, take the time to make any necessary revisions.  
  • Practice, Practice, Practice.  You should read the eulogy several times to better familiarize yourself with the content. Practice in front of a mirror, or if you would like feedback, read it to a friend or family member. You should be familiar enough with the eulogy that you can recite it without seeming to read from a script. Each time you practice will make you more comfortable. 
  • Make them laugh, but be respectful. A funny story or light-hearted joke is appropriate, though you should not attempt to disparage the memory of the deceased. Fondly recall a story about the person that everyone can relate too.  Keep it appropriate, as there are sure to be elderly and/or children who do not share your sense of humor. Laughter truly is the best medicine, and some well-placed humor will help people cope, while bringing to mind fond memories of their loved one. 
  • Don’t be afraid to show emotion.  Funerals are an extremely emotional event, and no one expects you to be made of stone.  However, if you feel there is a chance of becoming too emotional, have a back-up plan in place. Trust someone to deliver the eulogy for you, giving them a copy in advance, if you feel this could be an issue.
  • Have a glass of water as well as tissues handy.

Obituaries

Writing an obituary is a difficult and emotional task.   First, you will need to gather information from family and friends of the deceased about their childhood, education, career, hobbies and interests.  You should also speak to the funeral home to confirm important information regarding date, time and location of any services or funeral-related events.  Using the template will help make the process easier and will ensure you write a properly structured obituary.

Instructions: Replace all items in ITALICS below with the appropriate information.

[GIVEN NAME] [MIDDLE NAME (AND NICKNAME)] [SURNAME NAME], [AGE], of [CITY], [STATE], passed away on [DATE OF DEATH] in [LOCATION OF DEATH].

Funeral service will be held at [LOCATION] on [DATE] at [TIME] with Reverend [NAME] of [CHURCH] officiating. Burial will follow at [CEMETERY NAME], [CEMETERY LOCATION]. Visitation will be held at [LOCATION] on [DATE] at [TIME]. [NAME OF FUNERAL HOME] will be handling the funeral arrangements.

[NAME] was born in [LOCATION OF BIRTH] to [PARENT’S NAMES] on [DATE OF BIRTH]. He/she went to high school at [SCHOOL NAME] and graduated in [YEAR]. He/she went on to earn a degree/certificate in [DEGREE TYPE] from [SCHOOL NAME]. He/she worked as a [JOB TYPE] for [COMPANY] for [NUMBER OF YEARS]. He/she enjoyed [ACTIVITIES/HOBBIES]. He/she received [AWARDS/HONORS] and was involved in [CHARITIES/ORGANIZATIONS].

[NAME] is survived by his/her [RELATION], [NAME] of [CITY].  (List all survivors: spouse children, siblings, parents, grandchildren, nieces and nephews). He/she is preceded in death by his/her [RELATION], [NAME]. (List predeceased: spouse, parents, children and siblings.)

Memorial donations may be made to [ORGANIZATION NAME], [MAILING ADDRESS].  The family wishes to extend their gratitude to [ORGANIZATION/NAME] [FINAL WORDS].

Remember, most newspapers charge by the word. This template will help capture necessary information in as few words as possible.  You can make any adjustments you feel necessary, however, as this template is not a requirement.