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A eulogy is a speech that is given at someone’s funeral or memorial service to pay tribute to their life. It is an opportunity to weave together the story of the person’s life, celebrate their achievements and reminisce of fond memories involving the deceased.
If you have been asked to deliver the eulogy or you wish to contribute to one, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Drafting the speech will need to be done in a short space of time and in an emotionally difficult space.
This post guides you through the process, including what to include and how to prepare for delivering a eulogy.
1. Gathering stories
As a starting point, begin to gather your own memories of the person. Talk to friends, family and colleagues to find out their stories and memories. You may learn new details about the deceased that you were not aware of before. It will be a difficult process but having these discussions can often help you remember happier times in the days following a death.
Speaking to others can also help you identify any areas or topics that should be avoided. Family life can be complicated. If there are certain areas that may cause conflict, upset or distress at the funeral, you can consider how best to approach any areas of contention.
Some key information to include in the eulogy:
- Birth details – date and place of birth including parents and siblings names
- Younger years – schools they attended and their favourite pastimes as a child
- Hobbies, pets, memorable childhood moments or stories
- Educational achievements
- Employment and accomplishments
- Family life – spouses (including name, when and where they met), details of children and their spouses/children/grand children
- Memorable family moments
- Favourite pastimes, hobbies and accomplishments
- Their values, favourite sayings and the type of character they were
- Life lessons and the legacy they have passed on – what would they like to have been remembered for?
2. Take notes
Writing things down as you go will make sure you do not forget any details. Take down accurate details of dates, places and stories from people. Sketch out their life in a time line. This will help you start to piece together their life in a logical way. Gather photos, videos and mementos as these will help you tell the story of their life.
3. Tone and theme
You should have an idea about the tone of the funeral or service. If not, ask the people who are making the arrangements for what they would like the tone of the service to be. Are they expecting a solemn, more traditional service or for a vibrant celebration of life?
The tone can help you develop a theme to the eulogy. You can use a theme to help portray the person in a particular way. For example, if the deceased was a very active member of their community – your speech can really help bring out all of their skills and successes. Such as:
Who was Sarah Brookes? A wife, mother, daughter, sister, a pre-school teacher, an active member of the school committee who arranged all of the wellbeing activities for the school….
What made Jack Williams special? After playing sports throughout his youth, he went on to become a community coach and set up all of the local school sports leagues. He proactively fundraised thousands to help take disadvantaged local kids on soccer trips around the country….
4. Draft and review
When you have gathered all your details, create a draft speech and read it out loud. Try asking someone to listen to your rehearsal to gain constructive feedback. Do not put yourself under too much pressure to make it perfect. It should read like a story. This is where setting it your information as a timeline or using a good theme, can help pull it all together.
It is best to take a break from the script and do something else for a while. Revisiting the speech after a break with a fresh pair of eyes is always a good idea and may help you see it from a different perspective.
5. Practise and prepare
Practice reading it out loud in advance of the service. You will become familiar with your words and this will help you when delivering the eulogy. You could also time yourself to assess if it is too short or too long. Seek feedback from someone else who you feel comfortable practising in front of. They may be able to give you pointers as to how you come across and any tweaks you may need in your presenting style.
Try to imagine the room and its layout. Consider how many people will be there and visualise yourself reading your speech to the audience.
Do not panic about this or get overwhelmed. By having an idea of what it will be like, can really help you prepare for the event.
On the day, take your time. Speak slowly and clearly. Having some water to hand can help you if you need to take a break mid-speech. And remember a handkerchief or tissues….this will not be an easy task.
The audience are not there to criticise and critique you. Nor are they are not expecting a polished, professional public speaker. You are all there to fondly remember the deceased as they pass on.
Be kind to yourself and no matter how emotionally difficult the process may be, it is a real honour to be invited to deliver a eulogy on behalf of a loved one.
What’s your story?
Why not discuss your future eulogy wishes with others now? Share stories and memories with people and make your wishes known. If it is really important that you have a eulogy at your funeral and would like a particular person to deliver it – why not discuss this with them in advance?
Normalising the topic of death can help you have peace of mind in the future. Be in control of your final send off by making sure others know your preferences now. Create your Sunset Plan today.
Why not share this post on social media? Help someone that may be in the process of writing and delivering a eulogy for their loved one.