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Tips for Writing a Meaningful Eulogy

It is perhaps one of the most complex and unpleasant things anyone wants to do—write and share a eulogy for someone recently lost near and dear to you. Writing and giving a tribute is a way of saying farewell to someone that, in a sense, brings the person back to life within the minds and hearts of those within the audience.

If you have been asked to deliver a meaningful eulogy and are struggling with how to start and what to do, we’re here to help. You don’t need to be a prolific writer or a great orator to deliver a heartfelt eulogy, and with some of these tips and tricks, you should feel more confident about where to start and what to write and say. 

Find and speak on a happy memory. 

Find a happy memory that is something you truly cherish. A eulogy is far more than just a list of great qualities and deeds of the deceased. It is a chance to share stories and remember their life with friends and family. 

If you can’t remember all the story details or aren’t sure if you have all the details, ask friends and loved ones for help clarifying. Ask them to send you some of their favorite memories and stories, or record them sharing a happy story and use that to add to what you already know and have. 

Generally, it’s best to avoid negative stories unless they can be spun into a positive outcome or message. 

Keep it at a length comfortable for you. 

Generally, a page or two is likely enough for you to fit in the best stories you wish to share, but that always depends on how close you are with the person, how many stories you have to tell, and how comfortable you are with public speaking. A eulogy has no specific time limit, but remember that it is only one part of the entire service or gathering. Shorter is relatively better for all involved. 

Have someone look it over. 

Even if you are a prolific writer and public speaker, getting someone to look over the eulogy before delivering it is always a good idea. Preferably, you’ll want someone who knew the deceased well. This is both to ensure the text makes sense and is coherent, but they can also add to any stories you want to tell, advise you what to keep or leave out, and give you any feedback. Positive encouragement from a fellow friend or relative is also incredibly comforting during this emotional time and helps encourage you when it comes time to speak publically. 
Remember your audience when writing. 

Light-hearted jokes, as long as appropriate, are usually welcome on such a somber day; however, be careful not to offend your audience. Finding the right balance between what to say and what not to can be challenging, but if in doubt, it is always best to leave it out—another reason why it’s always best to run your eulogy by someone beforehand. 

Read it Outloud

It will help you if you read your eulogy out loud after writing it. Writing can sound stilted compared to naturally speaking, so when you read it out loud, you might find places and phrases that need improvement. We don’t naturally speak in flawlessly perfect sentences, and what’s important isn’t the grammar but the points you make and the person you will be speaking of. 

Don’t forget to introduce yourself briefly. 
Even if most of the people in your audience know you, state your name and give a few words that describe your relationship with the deceased. If you’re related to the dead, tell how; if not, include a few words about how and when you met. 

Try your best to avoid cliches, like the often too-overused “we are gathered here today,” for example. Begin with something unique to that person. After introducing yourself, it is usually best to get straight to the point, as it is obvious why everyone is there. 

Include Family
A eulogy shouldn’t read like an obituary of a list of basic information, and you should always touch on a few key points, like what their family life was like, what their career achievements might have been, or their hobbies or interests that mattered most to them. 

Don’t be afraid to mention other family members and friends; if possible, write down the names of the family members closest to the deceased if you are unfamiliar with them. During the intense emotions of grief and stress of the day, you may get overwhelmed with sadness and accidentally forget their names. 

Tying it all together
How will you end the eulogy? If you wish to, you can then play a piece of music or give a reading; after, you can always end by explaining why you chose the music or reading and what it meant to you or the deceased. If neither of these is something you will do, you can always end the eulogy with a warm and loving farewell, maybe the last thing you had the chance to say to them or something you always wanted to say to them before they passed. 

Remember to take a deep breath on the big day and to speak slowly. When nervous or emotional, we may find ourselves talking faster than usual—taking your time will ensure that you can say what you wish and everyone can follow, and it will give your audience the time to process and think about the lovely words you are saying.

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