Writing a Great Eulogy

Writing a great eulogy or memorial speech can feel overwhelming and full of pressure. But before you launch into a CV that covers birth to death and everything in between we got together with a professional writer to share a few tips on writing a big hearted, memorable speech or eulogy.


"Stories are the most powerful way to share values, connections and the personality of your person..."

There's nothing quite like the feeling of leaving a funeral or memorial with your heart and head full of the person being celebrated.

When that happens you know the speaker got it right.

Recently I was chatting with a will-maker who was in the middle of planning a funeral for her father. She had been provided with a eulogy tick list of life events by the funeral company and was worried. If she didn't know all the answers to all the questions, was she actually the right person to talk about her dad's life?

Of course she was.

In the heady, crazy days after death, when you may find yourself busy making funeral arrangements, travelling, sorting out finances, comforting other people, or simply searching for photographs or other memories, writing a eulogy can feel like yet another task you need to tick off your list.

I reminded her that like a great wedding or party the kind of speech that hooks people's hearts and heads is one that is honest, genuine, authentic and contains stories that people can relate to.

Everyone is there to celebrate the person who has died - not judge you on your public speaking (or recall of major life events).

The purpose of a eulogy

A great eulogy serves two purposes; it calls up memories as a way to honour the person who has died. And it creates an atmosphere of community and connection between everyone present.

A great eulogy shares the values, history, personality and history of a person in an honest, authentic way that is respectful and solemn but also engaging and enjoyable.


It's ok to make people laugh

Funerals can be a lot and the majority of audiences get a lot of relief from some comedy (its called comic relief for a reason!). Telling funny stories or a story with a funny punchline is still showing respect and reverence for the occasion. Avoid turning your eulogy into a roasting (the dead person isn't there to defend themself) or a non-stop joke session. A sprinkling of funny is perfect.

Be honest

Eulogies that read like a CV are boring as watching paint dry. But glossy made up speeches people can't relate to feel inauthentic. Dead people aren't always faultless - don't be afraid to call your dead person how you saw them (in the nicest possible way).

Stories. Stories. Stories

For as long as time humans have been making sense of the world through storytelling. Recalling experiences and stories about your person helps to paint a picture of what kind of person they were.

Make a list

In all the craziness of planning a funeral one of two things often happen - you don't stop thinking about things you can say about your dead person (at every hour of the day and night) OR you have a complete mental block. Start brainstorming a list of things you want to share about your person, or key events in their life, things you want people to know about them or funny anecdotes you want to talk about. Write them down as you think of them, then as you start to write your eulogy add a few ideas to each paragraph (avoid writing an entire paragraph about every point or you could be speaking for a week) and then cross them off your list.

Include others

You don't have to speak to every single event in your person's life. If there are key areas you want to be covered but don't have information ask others for stories or have them speak about that chapter of your person's life.

Great eulogies include other people and don't focus entirely on your personal relationship with the person (and they're never about you!). Be sure to mention other important people or organisations in your person's life.

Be imperfect

Practice practice practice so you know which parts of your eulogy you may need to slow down or take a breath to prepare for the emotion. Nobody will expect you to be unemotional or perfect. The best eulogies are read with emotion and feeling.

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