If you've been asked to give a eulogy at a loved one's cremation or burial, you may be a little overwhelmed. Writing a eulogy that captures the essence of someone's life is difficult when you are sorting through your own grief. However, this process can be made easier if you take it one step at a time. And, you may find that this is actually a good chance to reflect and work through your grief.
Before you start writing the actual piece, you should sit down and jot down a few ideas. Write down your favorite memories of the deceased. Stick to uplifting, funny, and positive moments—a eulogy is not the time to shed light on weaknesses or embarrassing moments.
After you jot down some memories, you may want to talk with other family members to gather historical information like their life work, education, hobbies, or any special achievements. Lastly, you may want to collect any meaningful scriptures, poems, or songs that were significant to the deceased or to their family.
Look For an Underlying Theme
This is arguably the hardest part of the process. Once you have completed your brainstorming, you'll need to start parsing through all your material to find not only the most poignant anecdotes and supplementary material, but also those that can tie together. Without a theme, the eulogy will just be random thoughts strung together.
If you are stuck on the underlying theme, you may want to start with an online template and then go from there. Here are two other ideas that can help you develop a theme:
Focus on one memory you had of the deceased and what that memory taught you.
Think of a positive trait that the deceased embodied. Write that trait on the top of your paper and look through your brainstormed material to find content that reflects that trait.
Create a First Draft
Once you have your theme, you can begin to compile a draft. Everyone goes about this a different way, but you may want to create five headings: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Write a title for these headings and start grouping your ideas underneath them. Don't get hung up on making the piece sound perfect. Once you write down your thoughts, you can then go back and added needed transitions between each paragraph. After you've written your first draft, set it aside for a night, so that you can review it the next day with fresh eyes.
Have Someone Edit It and Read it Aloud
When you think you are satisfied with your draft, you should read it aloud to a trusted friend or relative. Since you will be reading the eulogy aloud, this step is imperative since it will let you see which areas of the eulogy flow and which could be improved upon. Have this friend or relative help you edit it.
If you don't have someone to edit the draft, you can still look at your draft with impartial eyes. HowToWriteAEulogy.net says that you should avoid these three pitfalls:
- Focusing Only on Your Relationship with the Deceased. While it's understandable that you want to share your grief, the eulogy is about the deceased's life and legacy. To avoid this problem, really focus on the tips from the Brainstorming section. Make sure you get all sorts of accounts from family and friends so that you aren't relying on your own experiences.
- Talking about Religious Beliefs. Even if you shared the same beliefs as the deceased, funeral proceedings and familial beliefs are personal. Now's not the time to preach on touchy subjects. If you do feel strongly about talking about religious subjects, consult with the family and the deceased's pastor or other spiritual adviser.
- Trying to Minimize the Loss. Similar to talking about religious beliefs, this is not your time to make judgement about the "rightness" of the deceased's passing. You can still share positive anecdotes without saying insensitive things like "it was his or her time."
Practice and Achieve the Right Length
Some people memorize their eulogy, but this can be difficult if you dread public speaking. And even if you are comfortable with public speaking, you may have difficulty anyway during this emotional speech. It's a good idea to bring the written eulogy up with you anyway even if you have memorized it. If you become too emotional continue, have a friend come up with you and stand by so that they can help finish it if need be. The most important thing you can do is practice it over and over, so that you can feel comfortable sharing it with others. Lastly, make sure that you don't take too much time with the eulogy. While you may want to continue to share everything you knew about the deceased, inspirationaleulogy.com says that this can make people inattentive.