How to write a eulogy

The weight of the occasion and the responsibility one feels when needing to deliver a eulogy can be overwhelming. It’s not easy to find the right words that can appropriately summarise a person’s entire life and then deliver a speech in front of family and loved ones in a highly sensitive environment.

That’s why Apia Funeral Insurance has put together this guide that can help you overcome your nerves, avoid making the most common mistakes, and deliver an eloquent eulogy.

What is a eulogy?

A speech made to pay a tribute to someone who has passed away is called a eulogy. It’s usually presented during a funeral service (though not necessarily). The speech becomes the medium through which you get to bid farewell to your loved one, by sharing your reflections and anecdotes of what you remember of the person who has passed away.

Tips on how to write a eulogy

It’s challenging to stand up and speak in front of a large group of people. And things can get tricky when it’s such a solemn occasion, where saying the wrong thing or being unprepared might come across as disrespecting the memory of the person who has passed away. It’s also possible that you might be overwhelmed with emotion, which is understandable. Below are some tips that you can keep in mind if you’re asked to present a eulogy. Remember, preparation is key.

1. Find the right beginning

As is the case with all speeches, knowing how to begin can feel like the hardest bit to crack about a eulogy. This is your chance to share stories and bits and pieces of history that you have shared with the loved one whose memory you’re honouring. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no way that you can capture each and every detail of someone’s life. So, you can be selective, and you shouldn’t worry if you can’t include everything.

Don’t stress about finding the perfect beginning. There is no such thing. Think back about the time you’ve spent together with the loved one being honoured. Talk to their close friends and relatives and try to see what recollections they have about them. During this process, you’ll notice that some common themes will emerge that can help you structure your narrative and tell your story with a cohesive beginning, middle and end.

2. Focus on the positives

As we go through life, there are both joyful and sorrowful moments. And it’s likely that you would have memories that encapsulate joy and sorrow about the time you’ve spent with the deceased. As much as possible, try not to dwell too much on the negative experiences. Emphasise the positive and uplifting memories as the highlights of your speech.

You can do this by sharing stories about the positive impact the person had on you and on the lives of loved ones. You can also share achievements they were most proud of and the generous contributions they have made in improving and supporting the lives of others around them.

3. Storytelling is key

As with any speech, it’s your ability to be a good and effective storyteller that can ensure your eulogy hits the right chords. Stories can form an important part of the healing process for all present. It’s good to choose from a wide selection of anecdotes and pick those that you feel describe the true essence and character of the person you’re honouring. Your stories can be a medium for others to reminisce about their own fond memories about the deceased and become an important part of sharing grief in a collective way.

What to include in a eulogy?

Important names, dates and their significance

Begin by introducing yourself and explaining how you’re connected or related to the loved one you’re honouring. This sounds simple, but you’ll be surprised how easy it is to overlook this basic step.

Go on to provide the full name, place and date of birth of your loved one. Then acknowledge the parents of the loved one with their names. You can also mention any other significant people in their life at this point such as their partners, children, siblings and other lifelong friends. Acknowledging all these people by name allows the tribute to be a collective and shared experience.

Work and education history

Mention the school your loved one went to and give some background about their favourite subjects. Were they interested in the arts or did they have a scientific leaning? Mention any further educational qualifications and any other notable awards they received.

You can also give a brief summary of their working life but remember to not make it sound like a CV. Include only those moments that your loved one was most proud of.

Interests and hobbies

Mention what your loved one was like outside their working life. What were their interests and hobbies? Did they like to be outdoors and travel or were they more of a bookworm? This will help give a more well-rounded perspective on their life.

Bring it all together

Now that you’ve got all the elements you need to tell your story, you need to bring it all together. It doesn’t have to be a speech without any visual aid or cues. You can support your anecdotes with a photo slideshow filled with relevant images that help visualise the story you are telling.

Prepare beforehand and keep it short

The one thing you should absolutely NOT do is turn up unprepared for your eulogy and start rambling. Always prepare and rehearse your speech beforehand and keep it succinct: three to five minutes is ideal. You can also print a copy of your eulogy and keep it on hand to make it easier if you feel overwhelmed.

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