If you have recently lost a loved one or are planning a funeral for the first time, you might be intimidated at the prospect of writing a eulogy or giving a funeral speech. After all, this is your one chance to let everyone know in words just how important the deceased was to you and how he or she affected your life.
Eulogies don’t have to be intimidating—even if you’ve never done any public speaking before. Funerals (like weddings) are one of the few times when a show of emotion is not only acceptable, but expected. As long as you say what’s in your heart, chances are you will do just fine.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s always an easy task. As you prepare to draft your eulogy, here are a few steps that will help you organize your thoughts.
- List the basic facts. If you’re struggling to get started writing the eulogy, make a list of all the things you know to be true. Birthdate, age, family members, hobbies, beloved items…all these things are the foundation of who we are as people. Although you won’t want to read them off like a list in the eulogy, going over them might help you spark an idea.
- What was the deceased good at? Move beyond facts to include more intangible thoughts about the deceased. What was he or she particularly good at, and how did that affect your life? Was he great at teaching you? Did she make you laugh? Is your house filled with artwork he did? The personal ties that existed between you and the deceased are important things to include in a eulogy, as they will make it unique.
- Include favorite memories. Are there one or two memories that really stand out in your mind? Jot these down and consider adding them to the eulogy, since they are likely to add a comforting and personal touch. Two memories is usually enough—any more and you might risk monopolizing the funeral.
- Think about what you will miss the most. Part of the funeral planning process is looking forward to the future. Most people involved in funerals can barely see beyond the immediate moment, and helping them to look ahead can provide true comfort. Stating what you will miss the most is a good way to indicate that life will go on without disrespecting the grief in the room.
- Add an audio/visual component. If you’re afraid of breaking down or speaking in front of the crowd, you can also turn to technology. A picture montage set to the deceased’s favorite music or a tribute video (either a home video or one you make) can be a great way to show your respect without giving an actual speech.
- You can also plan on doing no planning at all. Some of the best eulogies are those that arise from the moment, when your feelings are at their rawest and most clear, or when another family member’s memory spurs one of your own.
Whatever your eulogy style, the most important thing to remember is that no one is judging you. Your grief is likely to be shared by everyone present, and the fact that you’re willing to stand up and declare your affection means much more than you probably realize.