If you’ve been asked to write and deliver a eulogy, you are probably grieving over the loss of someone very close to you. While organizing your thoughts about your friend or loved one is no easy task, at least it’s something you can do in privacy. Delivering the eulogy in front of a group of people is another matter. You may find yourself so overcome by emotion you’re unable to read your own speech. Sometimes people who write eulogies ask someone else to deliver them for just that reason.
Recently having had this experience myself, I’ve put together tips on how to write the eulogy and how to deliver it without shedding tears. Yes, grieving is natural, but no one wants to lose control to the point they become incoherent. When you consider a eulogy is the last thing you can do for the deceased, you’ll want to deliver it with respect and in a way that would have made the departed proud.
How To Write A Eulogy
When you lose someone and you’re grieving, your creativity will probably be lacking. Keep in mind that your presentation is not a form of entertainment but a means of sharing thoughts about someone’s life. You may struggle to come up with ideas on your own, or ways to express yourself. Reading eulogies written by others online may give you the nudge you need for beginning the process.
Writing a eulogy can prove to be very cathartic. Here is a list of suggestions that may help get you started. For the sake of these examples, let’s address the deceased as your friend.
1. Begin the eulogy by identifying who you are and what your relationship was to the deceased. Include how long you were friends.
2. Don’t assume everyone who hears the eulogy will know your friend as well as you. Was there something about your friendship that was unique? Help the audience to understand your friend by sharing your personal insights, experiences and details.
3. Is there an appropriate and relevant story about your friend that demonstrates the person’s character?
4. Describe your friend’s achievements. This is a great opportunity to elaborate, not only on the particular achievement but on the way your friend might have overcome hurdles or hardships to realize a goal, or possessed a unique talent that made them deserving of reaching it. If you were on the sidelines watching your friend’s success, talk about how proud you were to witness it.
5. If you and your friend had unique things in common, describe them. Don’t be afraid to talk about funny situations, as long as they are respectful and appropriate. Your audience may actually welcome a light moment to relieve their sorrow.
6. Was your friend an exceptional husband or father? Don’t hesitate to mention it. But be considerate of close family members. The wife or children may have eulogies of their own. Don’t offer up information that would be more appropriate coming from them. You also don’t want to be repetitive.
7. Did your friend act in a way that helped you personally? Or did their behavior influence you? Offer that information to the audience. If your friend was modest, it may be the kind of thing no one else knows about.
8. Were there times in your friendship when the two of you were separated? Relate the ways in which you stayed connected.
9. When it suits the subject, quote something your friend said.
How Long Should The Eulogy Be?
Every venue has its own requirement for the length of a service and the number of eulogies as well. Ask for guidelines from the person who requested the eulogy from you. If they don’t know, ask for guidance from whoever is officiating at the service. Many churches have time restrictions due to other events scheduled to use the same space following the service. If there are no restrictions, a good rule of thumb is to limit your eulogy to about one page. When read out loud, it should take about 3-4 minutes.
If possible, it’s a good idea for speakers to share eulogies with each other days before the service to avoid several people touching on the same subject or telling the same stories.
How To Deliver A Printed Eulogy Without Becoming Emotional
Being asked to deliver a eulogy usually means you were very close to the deceased. If you’re the type who shows emotion easily, this can be quite a challenging assignment.
Here are some tips that may help you deliver your speech with relative composure.
1. Don’t deliberately try to write a dramatic eulogy that will bring people to tears. Simply speak from the heart.
2. Read your speech out loud as many times as possible. Rehearsing will help you to become desensitized to the emotion of the words you will be delivering.
3. Experts who give speeches for a living recommend that speakers look at the audience, even pick out three faces they will look at alternately throughout their presentation. This is good advice but not if you are trying to maintain your composure. In this case, you will not want to look at crying faces if they will make you cry too. Instead, look at the back of the room or don’t look up at all. No one is going to critique your delivery at a funeral service.
4. When you create your eulogy, read through it and look for natural pauses in the rhythm of the delivery and underline words as markers for those pauses. Also underline words you want to emphasize. When you print out your speech, bold the underlined words or assign them different colors.
5. When you are called to deliver your eulogy, take your time getting started. Take a few breaths. If there is a microphone, adjust it so you don’t have to reach for it to be heard. Lay your printed speech in a comfortable position before you. When you look at the page, don’t think about the emotion of the words you’ve written. Give your subconscious the task of working toward the next bold word or color. Read with an eye toward finding the next pause, which will put your focus on the task at hand instead of the sorrow you might be experiencing.