Speech Guides >> Eulogy
Eulogy writing Guide and Expert Advice 2021
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Souzy Theophilopoulos 12 minute read Updated on 08-21-2021
Table of contents
Delivering the eulogy is a challenging role that can be both difficult and rewarding. Although you undoubtedly feel a great sense of grief, the eulogy can bring a sense of relief and comfort as you and the audience take a journey of reflection.
You have many great moments you wish to talk about and remember, and so do the audience. You have an opportunity to take family, friends, and the congregation as a whole on a journey that deepens their feelings of connection towards your loved one.
With this guide, we'll show you
"Sometimes, you know what to write and only need a bit of help. Other times, you have no idea and want to rely on technology or a team to help. Whatever you need, we've got it."
The question you have is…
How should I write a eulogy?
We hope that the templates and examples in our speech builder inspire you to create a eulogy that you’re proud of. But, to write a good eulogy, you need to take a few steps back and look at what you want to include, what your loved one would have wanted you to say, and what your family and friends hope to hear. You can then focus on creating and delivering the eulogy in a way that brings comfort to everyone.
What do people value most in a eulogy?
The eulogy is perhaps the most powerful moment of a funeral service. Don’t underestimate the value people put on it!
Most people value the journey the eulogy can take them on, and more importantly – what they take away from the journey. The good times, the bad times, the funny stories, the information you didn’t know (or didn’t need to know!)… you, your family, and friends all want to walk away with two things:
The comfort brought by having memorialized your loved one as he or she would have wanted
The memories they have of your loved one – which, undeniably, people need in order to remember what your loved one taught them and the happiness he or she brought them.
Reflecting on these together ultimately brings enormous value to the group and the individual in so many unique ways.
A great eulogy includes:
Builds a story about your loved one
Describes what made them “them” – their loves, their biography, what they did, and what they said
Would reflect the impact they’ve had on others
Contains something for everyone
Conveys the right messages of gratitude
Perfect, but now how should I structure the eulogy?
A good structure for eulogies
After reviewing a wide range of eulogies, we’ve found the answer for you.
When creating a eulogy, we generally follow a structure and process similar to:
Behind the scenes
Qualities and characteristics
Many modern eulogies overlap biographies with other stories and information throughout the eulogy, whereas your whole structure may be the journey from the very start to the very end. Having helped people create hundreds of eulogies, we’ve found that the common approach is moving between different stories and keeping things free-flowing. But, traditional eulogies will start with their loved one’s birth date and move chronologically through the person’s life story.
All we recommend is – it’s up to you!
Eulogies may vary depending on the types of stories and information relevant to your loved one, but as long as you give some thought to these areas, you will create a eulogy that honors your loved one and brings comfort to your audience.
Considering your audience
The eulogy should take those listening, including you, close family and friends, and other audience members, on a personal journey of reflection. Think about who will be hearing the eulogy and what stories, information, and style of speaking will bring them comfort and joy.
One way of achieving this is to include your loved one's style of speaking in your speech. If your loved one enjoyed a swear word or two and never held back an opinion, then you could include this within the eulogy. Though - if your audience is quite conservative, you may wish to strike a balance.
The eulogy’s theme
What is the overall message you are trying to send with the eulogy? We believe this question is particularly important for the eulogy.
You will wish to speak about your loved one's life, what he or she was like, and the things they did. But Pericles said, "What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." Think about what your loved one left behind and what he or she wove into the lives of others. Understanding this will ensure you send a clear message with the eulogy, and it will help get the creative juices flowing when the time comes to think of stories.
This example, taken from our speech builder, is a great summary of the person being spoken about. This theme can be used as a foundation, and you can then branch out into stories about community and family connections, their partner, and what it was that made them so dedicated and generous.
Your loved one’s biography
The purpose of the biographical story is to build a story about your loved one – helping the congregation better understand your loved one and connect your knowledge of your loved one with their own.
As an example, if you hope to illustrate your loved one’s strength in the eulogy, this section is an opportunity for you to highlight how your loved one’s military background led to strength of character.
A biography has often been a standard inclusion in the eulogy. Some modern eulogies choose to focus more on stories and characteristics rather than a timeline. We suggest two ways in which you could include a biography.
Firstly, you could use a timeline of your loved one's life as the structure of the eulogy, stopping at certain points to highlight specific characteristics or details. Secondly, you could briefly outline a timeline of your loved one's life, then spend the majority of the eulogy on specific stories and information about your loved one.
Choose what suits you.
Date of birth
Place of birth
Where your loved one grew up
Places your loved one lived
If you want to see a range of biography examples and build a eulogy by choosing from a bunch of different biography templates.
Stuff from behind the scenes
You have many insights into your loved one's life from behind the scenes – things that only you, or a select few, know! Reflecting on these personal stories and events highlights your loved one’s qualities and what made them “them”.
You might say:
“Dad always put the family first. While other people care for the material things in life, Dad cared the family more than anything, and we loved him for it.”
But instead, add a little more detail to cover the what do people value most in a eulogy points:
What did your loved one enjoy about life? These loves are part of your loved one’s identity, so we like to acknowledge them. This will further describe the uniqueness of your loved one, and it will help your audience to understand and connect with his or her journey.
10 loves to consider in a eulogy:
Family and friends
Films and TV shows
Talents and skills put to use
Create a eulogy using more examples like this
Qualities, values, and characteristics
One of the things people value in a eulogy is the impact your loved one made on others and what made them “them”. This section is a great opportunity to cover these.
These elements differentiate your loved one from others. They are what have been "sown into the lives of others". Describing how these have helped you and the audience illustrates how his or her life has had an impact.
Adding some special points
Of course, there may be some unique points to add that aren’t covered in the previous sections. They could touch on any of the what do people value most in a eulogy points. An example includes your loved one's final days.
Acknowledging family and friends
Special circumstances warrant a thank you message. You may wish to include messages to those in the audience who deserve a special mention, such as:
Family and friends who supported your loved one
Those who made a significant effort to be with the family at the service
There are a bunch of ways you can finish the eulogy. Some of the popular Closing statements we’ve seen include:
Describing your lasting memory of your loved one
Delivering a message to your loved one
A quote or a poem
A summary of everything you have spoken about in the eulogy
If you wrote yourself a theme – one trick is to use your theme (or extend on it if it was short) and copy it in as your closing. It should perfectly summarize and wrap up the eulogy, with the addition of a final message of love to your loved one.
Using one or all of these ideas will effectively complete this journey of reflection.
"Immediately after a loss - such a difficult time. That’s why we’ve put together tools to eliminate much of the know-how, stress, time, and effort need to create a eulogy."
When the time comes – your delivery
This is a tricky one, as the funeral service is an emotional time for all involved. So – take our suggestions with a pinch of salt. They may be more appropriate for other types of speeches, but not your personal circumstances.
One way to make a big, big impact on your audience, particularly when telling dramatic stories or during emotional points in your speech, is to use public speaking techniques. Examples include:
Whispering when telling a secret
Pausing after making a particularly important comment
Talking quickly when telling a dramatic story
Making gestures and facial expressions to emphasize certain parts of your speech
These tools will help to get maximum impact, which is why we include it in all of our speech builder and shop templates. So, if this is appropriate and if you're comfortable exploring how to deliver the eulogy, give this some thought when preparing your eulogy.
For more information, check out our Public Speaking Resources.
During your writing journey, remember that the eulogy is an opportunity to reflect on your loved one’s background, anecdotes, values, characteristics, and what sets him or her apart from others. These are the hallmarks of a great eulogy. They honor your loved one's memory and will make an impact on your audience. And always ask yourself - what do I really want to achieve with this eulogy?
Leave a lasting impression that your family and friends will remember long after the eulogy.
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