You’ve received word that a friend or loved one has passed away, and the family has asked you to deliver the eulogy. If that request has put you in a panic, take a deep breath. With some simple guidelines, it’s possible for anyone to create a meaningful, memorable eulogy. Start making notes as you work through this list and you’ll soon have a thoughtful tribute to the one who is gone.
What, exactly, is a “Eulogy?”
In a word, the eulogy portion of a funeral is a “tribute.” Someone special (you, in this case) has been chosen to provide a spoken tribute to the one who has died. It isn’t necessary to be a great public speaker, but there are some guidelines that all great eulogies follow:
1. Focus on the Life Being Celebrated: It’s tempting when you’re grieving to focus on how the person’s death has made you feel. A eulogy, however, is meant to provide a picture of the person being remembered. You can do so by focusing in on the life being celebrated. The eulogy sometimes includes reading a published obituary. Ask the person planning the service if you’ll be expected to do so. You can also use these questions to build your eulogy: What kind of person were they? What were their major accomplishments? How did they impact the lives of others?
2. Talk to Other People: To learn about that impact, talk to others close to the deceased. Find out if friends and family will be gathering in the days before the service and offer to come by to collect their memories. Keep in mind that the best eulogies are personal, loving tributes that include the ways others remember them.
3. Remember Your Audience: Here’s one cautionary note about those memories: although “Uncle Mike” may have been quite the party animal, your audience at the funeral may include those who remember him differently. It isn’t necessary to share his off-color jokes, but you can mention his great sense of humor. And this definitely isn’t the time to score points against his first wife or former friends! Remember who’ll be listening and try to tailor your comments so they’ll comfort, rather than shock, your audience.
4. Keep it Short and Simple: If you’ve ever attended a funeral where grief-stricken mourners were trapped by an endless eulogy, you know why this is important. Ask the funeral planner how much time’s been allotted and respect their guidelines. Write out your thoughts, include special memories from others and then edit the eulogy down to fit the time you’re given.
As the person delivering the eulogy, you can help those left behind to leave the funeral comforted and filled with fond memories of the deceased. Focus on celebrating the life of the one who is gone. Share the memories of that life honestly while considering your audience. Keep your tribute short and respect the time frame given by the people planning the funeral. By following these simple guidelines, you can do what you’ve been asked to do in a way that honors the life being remembered.
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