How To Write A Eulogy Or Funeral Speech





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Preparing To Write A Eulogy

It's not that long ago that funeral services were somewhat divorced from those grieving with the church minister or funeral directors controlling the proceedings. In those days, everyone wore black and there was little room for light-hearted comments or anecdotes - they belonged at the wake.

These days the entire service may be in the hands of family and friends (with some assistance of course). There may be a 'Master of Ceremonies', poems or Bible readings from family and friends, reminiscences, video recollections or the playing of favourite songs. More casual, more meaningful but more pressure on those who have to speak.

And the most important speech is the eulogy. In some ways it is a greeting - introducing members of the congregation to aspects of the deceased's life they didn't know - but it is primarily a farewell: a respectful tribute and the celebration of a life.

The main task for the person delivering the eulogy is to bring the person back into the minds of those in attendance. A good starting point is to sit down and jot down things you fondly remember about the deceased. This will 'unblank' the page and give a starting point to the structure of the eulogy. As with all writing, a eulogy needs a beginning, middle and end. To make the beginning personal allows everyone to understand why you have been given the honour to speak. The middle (and bulk) of the speech should be about the person in general - the achievements, hobbies, passions and legacy left. The end should be succinct, memorable and moving.

If you have been asked to deliver a eulogy and you didn't have a personal relationship with the deceased, you will need to start with research but again, establish who you are in the opening - e.g. "I have been asked by the family to speak to you today as part of the celebration of Geoffrey's life. I never knew Geoffrey but after speaking to many friends and family members, I wish I had." This allows you entry to other people's reminiscences.

Here are a few questions that might get you started with the preparation:

  • Where and when did you meet?
  • What was it that made you close or that you had in common?
  • What did you most admire/respect in the person?
  • What will you miss/remember most?
  • Does a funny anecdote spring to mind? Or a touching one?

What you are presenting with a eulogy is, in effect, a piece of 'theatre' - a short, verbal documentary on a person's life. It should be informative, fitting, moving and, in a strange way, entertaining.






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