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How to Write and Deliver a Eulogy

Learn eight steps to help you create a special tribute to your loved one.

By
Lisa B. Marshall,
February 26, 2010

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Today's topic from a reader:

Lisa, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on writing and delivering a eulogy.

How to Write and Deliver a Eulogy

Although it's an honor to write and deliver a eulogy, it can also be a daunting task. If you're like most people, you might feel some stress and anxiety. Some people worry they won't be able properly honor the deceased, or sum up the entire life of someone in just a few minutes. Some worry they'll become emotional and won't be able to get the words out.

So today, I’ll cover eight quick and dirty steps to help you to write and deliver a eulogy. By the way, even if you don’t ever write a eulogy for someone else, you might want to consider using this episode to write your own eulogy.  Yep, I did say write your own eulogy.  So why would I suggest that?  Well, either to create exactly the right mood at your own funeral or as a self-development exercise to help you create a vision for your life (you might be surprised at what you discover about yourself). 

Of course, typically a eulogy is delivered during a funeral ceremony to honor and celebrate the life of someone close to you.  Your main goal is to provide comfort and closure by sharing why the person was well-loved and will be missed. Usually it’s very short (two to five minutes). 

Step One: Gather Memories

I view a eulogy as a special gift for those left behind. It’s often the beginning of the healing process. Remembering all the good things about someone helps to lighten a heavy heart. It can also help to keep everyone (including you) focused on what was gained (and not what was lost).

It's important to talk to friends, significant others, kids, and parents--all the important people in the life of the deceased. You'll want to hear and enjoy the stories they have to share. Even if you don't include them in the eulogy, think of these shared memories as gifts that will help you to cope with your grief. So spend as much time as you can on this step.

Step Two: Relax; Don’t Worry

Unfortunately, you aren't going to have enough time to include all of the stories. So choose the memories you think are best by listening to your heart. In fact, many people find the words just flow out of them when they aren't worried about what they are "supposed" to write. Trust that whatever you share will be appreciated. Trust that the words you choose will be the right words. The key is to relax. And as I’ve mentioned in previous episodes, I suggest diaphragmatic breathing and visualization to help you relax.

Step Three: Choose a Theme

Sometimes it helps to pick a general theme and focus on that.  Maybe you'll decide to praise accomplishments and achievements.  Maybe you'll choose to talk about work and family, describe a few positive character traits, or explain how this person influenced or made a difference in your life. Some people prefer to simply share favorite music, scripture, or poems. This may be obvious, but this is not the time or place to share any negativity. 

Step Four: Organize the Middle

Once you've decided on your theme, you'll need to organize the main body of the speech. I think it's easiest to follow the rule of three; you might remember that this rule suggests things presented in threes are more satisfying and easier to digest. Talk about three accomplishments, three achievements, three stories about work and family, three character traits, your three favorite memories, or three poems. However, if you feel like the stories and experiences you gathered are better broken into two, four or five parts, that's OK too.

For each main section, just be sure to give examples or stories that illustrate your point. The main idea is to share your own stories or some of the stories you heard from others. By the way, it’s OK to share both serious and humorous stories because the eulogy is a celebration of a life well-lived.

(Listen to episode to hear Lisa tell a bonus humorous story).

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