The task of writing a eulogy when a loved one dies often falls to a close family member or friend. It can feel especially daunting because it’s frequently at short notice, and there’s only one chance to do it well.
This guide offers an alternative to leaving that burden behind, so that your loved ones are not lost for words when they’re already dealing with your loss. We’ll show you how to create a eulogy you can be proud of, even if you’ve never written one before. That’s one thing we can take the grief out of.
Who is this guide for?
What is the purpose of a eulogy?
Most funeral services include a eulogy and it’s more than just a pretty speech. When it’s written well, the eulogy gives a flavour of the deceased’s personality and journey through life. At a time of heightened emotions, the eulogy can also ease the pain a little and help people to grieve.
Why it makes sense to write your own eulogy
No one wants to hear a eulogy that starts with: “I didn’t know the deceased well, but I like to think…” But lots of people have.
Writing your own eulogy is not only a kindness to others, it also gives you the opportunity to select your favourite anecdotes to be remembered by. Nobody knows you better than you.
You get to tell your story your own way. That could mean paying tribute to loved ones and friends, sharing some passions, or acknowledging some failings. Many of us go through life feeling we’ve been misunderstood, but this is one way of definitively setting the record straight! A good eulogy conveys the deceased’s character and gives solace to the bereaved.
What is the structure of a eulogy?
Before you start writing your own eulogy, you need to understand the nuts and bolts.
A eulogy typically lasts around five minutes and is a central part of the funeral or memorial service; on paper that equates to roughly a page and a half of text.
Now that you understand what the eulogy is for and the ideal length, you can break it down into manageable sections that flow naturally. The big question is: what do you want to say?
How to make a start writing your own eulogy
A straightforward approach to creating your own eulogy would be to have three sections.
- 1The beginning introduces you on your own terms. That could mean solemn, humorous or any point in-between. As the saying goes, it’s your funeral!
- 2The middle section covers some life events, usually in chronological order, so that could reference childhood, adult life (work / family) and later life.
- 3The end section could be what you feel you’ve learned from your time on Earth or a mention of those you’re leaving behind. This part may also include a moment of reflection.
The importance of writing a eulogy in your own voice
No one expects you to tell a whole life story in five minutes. What you can do instead is touch upon key milestones in your life and maybe one or two appropriate anecdotes, bearing in mind the mixed audience and the emotions of the day.
Writing in your usual speaking voice will give your words authenticity and bring your presence into the room.
The alternatives to writing your own eulogy
Putting your own eulogy on paper can be difficult. Aside from the practicalities of finding a structure that works for you and deciding what to include or leave out, it means confronting your own mortality and perhaps thinking about those who must go on without you.
What are the alternatives if you struggle with the writing?
There are a couple of options that may make the process easier for you:
Record your eulogy instead
Not everyone is a writer, and some people find they can organise their thoughts better by speaking. Use the voice recording function on a mobile phone, or the free-to-use software such as Audacity which enables you to record and edit your words, plus add music. It’s just record, cut, copy and paste. Then you convert the file to mp3 or wav format.
Or why not video yourself using your mobile phone? For a full belt and braces approach, upload your video to a captioning service. If the mourners can’t hear you, hopefully they will be able to read you.
Write some pointers
Rather than creating the full eulogy, you could write out some pointers. This could include which people to speak with, some hints about what you’d want to be said, and any phrases or anecdotes you would like to be included.
What to do with your eulogy once it is written
Whether you decide to write your whole eulogy, just jot down some notes, or record your final speech for posterity, make sure other people know about it and where to find it.
Once you've had your say keep a copy (always have at least one back-up copy!) with other important documents, such as your funeral wishes, your Will and your funeral plan if you have one.