How to write a eulogy

This Australian Life -

Writing a eulogy can be tough on anyone. In the midst of dealing with your loss, it can be difficult to muster up the strength to find the right words to say goodbye. 

To help you approach the task, we've put together some helpful tips, covering everything from how to write a eulogy, to how long a eulogy should be. To begin with, you may also find it helpful to look at some examples of eulogies.

What should be included in a eulogy?

When working out how to write a eulogy, start with brainstorming. Write down your memories of your loved one, ask friends and relatives to share theirs, and look at objects that spark ideas, such as photographs and letters. Once you have enough notes, choose the most important points. Remember, you can't - and shouldn't mention everything; instead, focus on the qualities and experiences that made your loved one so special to you and others.

For example, if they were a grandparent, don’t list the name of every single grandchild; instead, talk about their qualities as a grandparent and share fond memories you and others remember of them.

How to write a eulogy in 8 steps

When deciding what you want to include in a eulogy it can be helpful to follow a structure and break up your thoughts into different sections or aspects of your loved one's life. As a guide consider following these 8 steps:

  1. Introduce yourself and outline your relationship with your loved one.
  2. Cover their early life, such as birthplace and family members.
  3. Speak to their education, such as school and/or university.
  4. Cover their working life, including details of one or two significant or meaningful jobs.
  5. Spend time on important adult relationships, such as partners, close friends and/or children.
  6. Share their interests, hobbies and/or activities.
  7. Include an emotional statement about what your loved one meant to you. You might include advice they shared and reflect on the value and importance of their life.
  8. Try to end on a positive note. Humour delivered in the right way can help lift the mood.

How should a eulogy be structured?

The next step in writing a eulogy is deciding on a structure.

Below is an example structure that you may want to follow or use as a guide as you write your own personal piece. For each step, rather than simply running through details, consider stating just a couple of facts, then tell an interesting story. This can help capture the essence of your loved one's life instead of getting caught up in the details.

For example, straight after school, John studied arts at university. But it was at that point that he developed a keen interest in playing guitar, so he was more often spotted on stage at the uni bar than at his study desk. I remember, one night, he was on stage when Tommy Emmanuel walked in.

How long should a eulogy be?

It really depends on you - but, as a rule of thumb, around five minutes is a good length to aim for.

How to prepare for, and deliver, a eulogy

To help you feel as comfortable as possible on the day, learn your eulogy as thoroughly as possible - and practice it, preferably in front of other people. Being as familiar with your eulogy as possible will help on the day when emotions take over.

Chances are you'll feel nervous on the day but try to remember the audience is there to support you. Most people respond to nerves by speaking quickly, so slow down. Speak as slowly as you can - then slower! 

It’s understandable that you might get emotional when delivering your eulogy so don’t be afraid to pause and take a deep breath. Having a glass of water to hand can give you the opportunity to help regain composure to continue. It’s important to remember that you’re in a room full of loved ones who want to support you during your speech. 

Eulogy writers

If you find you are really struggling to convey how you feel and to put pen to paper you could also consider hiring a eulogy writer to help you capture your thoughts and emotions.

Losing a loved one is one of the toughest things to go through, tackling lots of emotions including grief, anger and confusion. Partnering with Assure Programs, TAL offers Grief Support to customer’s immediate family members who have become terminally ill or passed away. Grief Support can help you and your family cope with loss and share resources to help navigate this difficult time. 

When someone you love dies, you may feel that life has changed forever and you cannot recover from the loss. While most people will experience grief and loss at some point in their lives, it is important to know that people experience it in different ways. 

Here is a booklet where you can find some information to help you understand your grieving process further.

Life with grief or loss booklet


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