Eulogies

Giving a meaningful, moving eulogy can be a nerve-wracking situation for even the most accomplished public speaker, but it need not be. Writing and delivering a eulogy is a therapeutic tool that can help deal with grief.  Being chosen to give a eulogy is an honor and it should be thought of in that way.  Still, how do you summarize an entire life in just a few short minutes?  And how do you show respect while providing a bit of humor at the same time?   Here are some tips for writing and delivering an eloquent and memorable eulogy.

  • Gather information.  Talk with family members, close friends and co-workers to get important information on the deceased.  You will probably want to include the person's family members and/or other people close to the deceased in your talk.  You may also want to mention the deceased's education/career, hobbies or special interests, places where the person lived or traveled, and his or her special accomplishments.
  • Organize your thoughts.  Jot down your ideas by whatever means are most comfortable and familiar to you.  Create an outline of your speech, and fill in the information that you gathered about the person.
  • Write it down.  This is not a toast at a wedding where you can make off-the-cuff remarks, and you should not ad lib a eulogy.  Writing it all down allows you to include and remember every detail you wanted in the eulogy.  When you bring a copy of the eulogy to the podium make sure it is easy to read, print it out in a large font, or if it is hand-written leave a few spaces between the lines.  Be mindful of time constraints. It’s best to keep things on the short side, especially if others will be speaking.
  • Review and Revise.  Your first draft will not be the last.  When you think you are done, sleep on it and look it over in the morning when it's fresh again, as this will help you to make any necessary revisions.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice.  Read over the eulogy several times in order to become familiar with it.  Practice in front of a mirror.  Read it to some friends or family and have them give you feedback.  Become familiar with your speech so you can recite it without making it look like you’re reading from a script.  The more you practice the more comfortable you will be. 
  • Make them laugh, but be respectful.  A funeral is not a roast, but there is room for respectful humor in your eulogy.  Fondly remember a story about the person that everyone can relate to.  Keep it appropriate for a gathering that might include young children as well as some elderly attendees, and remember that not everyone shares the same sense of humor.  Laughter can be the best medicine, and some well placed humor will help people cope, and will bring back fond memories of the deceased.
  • Don’t be afraid to show emotion.  Funerals are extremely emotional events, and while shedding a few tears in your delivery is acceptable, if you anticipate being overcome by your emotions, it would be wise to have a back-up plan in place. Give someone you trust a copy of your remarks well in advance if you feel this could be an issue, and ask the person if he or she would deliver the eulogy if you are unable to continue to the end.
  • 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 and hobbies and interests.  Your funeral director will provide information about the date, time and location of the funeral service, and other funeral related events.  Using the template below 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].

[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 was preceded in death by his/her [RELATION], [NAME]. (List predeceased: spouse, parents, children and siblings.)

FUNERAL DIRECTOR TO ADD SERVICE INFORMATION HERE.

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, and this template is good for getting the all the information necessary in as few words possible.  However, this template is not written in stone.  Make any changes that you feel are necessary to fully capture the life of your loved one.