Saying Goodbye & Doing It the Right Way!

Learning how to write a eulogy, sometimes referred to as a "funeral speech", does not need to be complicated. Delivering it, however, can be difficult and emotional. Think of it as a speech about a person's life. Follow these steps to make it both outstanding and memorable.

The responsibility of giving a eulogy is a solemn undertaking. It has got to be done correctly to honor the deceased. It must also give counsel to the family and friends of the departed.

Most often you will have only a day or two to interview family members and friends. You will need to gather lots of information and stories. So, start as soon as possible.

This is necessary unless yours is one of many eulogies. Then you can slant it to your relationship and your point of view. If you do not feel comfortable giving a eulogy, now is the time to gently refuse the invitation.

The Obligation

Your obligation, in my opinion, is to capture the essence of the person that has died. That is what makes a good eulogy. Listeners must be saying to themselves as they listen, "Yes, that was Martha".

In a single speech you will be summarizing or giving the essence of the deceased's life. Select a theme or a couple of themes. No more than two. Was Martha a great cook? Was she a terrific mother or successful businesswoman? Establish the subject matter.

Let your listeners know the exact direction you are heading. Be yourself in any speech - particularly in a eulogy. Consider your own feelings and those of the family and friends during your preparation.


I started giving eulogies after hearing clergy and funeral directors give generic tributes. They would insert a name and story here and there and the remainder was generic. Nobody deserves to have that type of eulogy.

One of the purposes of a eulogy is to help family and friends make the transition of their loved one being there and now, forever, not being there. I've been told dozens of times that my words were consoling and supportive.

A funeral can be very somber. In that situation the tribute should not be jovial. However, if the day is to be a celebration of that person's life, make it a celebration.

The Tom Hanks tribute for Michael Clarke Duncan was filled with laughter.

The Preparation

You should have most of the information and a theme by this time. Outline your speech. Take a break. Go back to the outline. Do not proceed unless you like the outline.

Next is the first draft. Most people are not talented enough to use cue cards filled with the major topics of the tribute. I prefer to write down every word. This type of speech is that important. I must be as good as possible.

Each paragraph must flow into the next. Keep the audience's attention with fascinating data and stories. Disclose interesting facts that even family members might not know.

There are times when it would be appropriate to list all the wonderful things the deceased did in her life. How one person affected the lives of many is another theme. I eulogized my mother and chose to chronicle her life. Most of those in attendance knew her later in her life. My theme was describing how she became the feisty lady that they knew.

Typical opening paragraph lines are: "It is an honor...", "Each of us here...", "May God bless...", "We have lost...". Be sincere and humble. Be believable in your praise.

Cater to the listeners. Make it interesting. If the deceased knew hardship, controversy, victory, happiness and passion, mention it. Include an appropriate quote or poem. It can be comforting for everyone present.

The Delivery

Preceding the funeral date practice giving the tribute in front of a mirror. Have someone read it. Refine it. Practice again.

I recommend typing the eulogy in larger print. Pauses are important. Mark them with a red slash. Rehearse it again.

Rehearsals will make you familiar with the material and allow you to deliver the eulogy almost from memory. Maintain eye contact with your listeners while keeping your finger on your place on the page. A thin black 3-ring binder containing the tribute should never leave your hands.

Introduce yourself. Many may not know who you are or what your relationship is to the deceased. Briefly elaborate if necessary.

Mention the family members by name as you extend your condolences for their loss. Thank the guests for attending. Limit your talk to about ten minutes. Five to fifteen minutes is acceptable if you are the only speaker.

Practice staying in control of your emotions. Occasional tears are okay.

A backup person to continue the reading eulogy is better than not finishing this important speech.

"In Closing"

Keep the closing short. Do not introduce any new information. Say goodbye to the person that you have been honored to eulogize. This can be a good place for another quote or poem that provides closure.

You now know How to Write a Eulogy. It is never easy. But, it can be very rewarding.


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