If you’ve been asked to write a eulogy, it means the family trusts you to honor the deceased person’s memory. Being chosen to write a eulogy is an honor, but it may also be an intimidating task to anyone asked to do it. After all, what if you can’t write well? What if you say the wrong thing? What if you’re not as eloquent as the deceased person deserved?
Remember that the eulogy is for the living, not the dead. And it is more important that you be sincere than that you be extremely eloquent. It’s about sharing memories and honoring the deceased, not showcasing your writing or public speaking skills—and people will likely be thinking of the deceased, not about your elegiac skills.
Here are a few tips for writing a eulogy from the heart—that does justice to the deceased.
Make a list of your memories
If you’ve been asked to write a eulogy, it means the family trusts you to honor the deceased person’s memory. Being chosen to write a eulogy is an honor, but it may also be an intimidating task to anyone asked to do it.
Talk to other people
If you have time and access, ask others close to the deceased: what things do they remember most about the person? What did they admire about him or her? What will they miss most? Do they have any touching or funny stories to tell? You don’t have to use all these ideas, but it may help you to get a sense of who the person was and how they affected other people.
What do you know about the person’s life?
Many eulogies contain some biological information. It may help you to write a timeline of the major events in the person’s life—including work, military service, marriage, and family. This will give you a reference for any details you might want to include in the eulogy.
What did they love
Make a list of all the things the deceased person loved. Many eulogies contain personal details about the deceased’s passions in life. In addition, it’s not uncommon for eulogies to include the deceased person’s favorite poems, passages from much-loved books, quotes or expressions, or scripture verses. You could also include song lyrics from the person’s favorite song, or something the deceased wrote himself.
Keep it positive
It may be obvious, but now is not the time to air dirty laundry. Avoid addressing any parts of the deceased’s life that may be controversial to others, or may cause someone pain. Talk about the positive ways the person affected you and others around him, his loves and interests, his funny quotes, and happy or inspiring memories of this person.
Don’t be a perfectionist
Writing a eulogy might feel like a high-pressure task—but it’s essential that you let go of any ideas that this eulogy must be perfect. Most eulogies are written in very short timeframes, and often while the writer is in grief or possibly in shock. Do what you can, be honest and heartfelt, but don’t worry about making it the perfect summation of the person’s life.
Have a back-up
Most eulogies are five or ten minutes long—check with the funeral director if you’re not sure. That might not seem like a long time—but when you’re up in front of other people, it can stretch on forever. Bear in mind that you may be too emotional on the day of the funeral to read the eulogy all the way through. It’s a good idea to give a copy to the funeral director or an alternate family member who can step in and finish if you are too emotional to continue.
Writing a eulogy is a wonderful way to honor a deceased loved one. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself—this is not about you and your writing ability. Instead, think of it as a way to share your feelings about how much you loved this person, in a room full of people who also loved him or her. If you do, you’ll be more likely to write something genuine and heartfelt that truly honors the deceased.