How to Give a Eulogy for a Relative
For many people, giving a eulogy for a family member is one of the most difficult aspects of a funeral. Regardless of your feelings on public speaking, the act of standing up in front of a crowd and sharing your pain and emotions is hard to do. Add in the complicated family dynamics that often accompany funerals, and you might feel that it is better to stay seated and let someone else do the eulogizing.
If you have been asked to give a eulogy at a relative’s funeral, it is important to recognize the honor of the task. Although you should not accept if you do not feel up to it, there are many reasons why you should go through with it—not the least of which is bringing comfort to both yourself and others.
Giving a Eulogy for an Immediate Family Member
If you have lost a parent, child, sibling, or spouse, you may wish to hand over the task of eulogizing to another relative—not because you are not qualified to give a speech, but because the emotional burden may be too much to bear. Immediate family members are rarely in charge of speeches at a funeral because your grief is so overwhelming.
However, you are probably the most qualified person to give a eulogy. Because you knew the deceased better than anyone, you can capture everything that was great and beautiful about them. If you feel up to the task of eulogizing a close relative, you can:
- Focus on positive stories and memories
- Speak from the heart
- Provide a moral and/or spiritual cornerstone for the funeral service
- Tap into your own grief
- Open the door for others to share their stories
Although most experts do not recommend you “wing” a eulogy, many of the most moving speeches are the ones that come from the heart. Prepare a few written words and stories, but do not be afraid to stray from the topic to speak what you are truly feeling.
Giving a Eulogy for an Extended Family Member
Even if you weren’t extremely close to the deceased, you can still give a moving eulogy. In fact, because you do not have such a strong emotional tie, you might be able to say more than someone who knew the deceased very well.
If you are asked to give a eulogy for a cousin, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or other extended relative, tap into the stories of others to provide a truly moving speech. For example, a story of how the deceased met his or her spouse, a tale about an annual family fishing trip, or a list of all the favorite holiday memories could make for a great eulogy. Even if they are not your stories, they draw from the entire family to paint a picture of the deceased unlike any other. And because you are a relative (as opposed to a family friend or outsider), people will feel more comfortable sharing what they feel.