Journalist Peggy Noonan said, “I love eulogies. They are the most moving kind of speech because they attempt to pluck meaning from the fog, and on short order, when the emotions are still ragged and raw and susceptible to leaps.”
While writing and delivering a eulogy is a noble gesture, that is worthy of thought and effort, it can be a challenge to write – and if you’re not comfortable in front of a crowd of people, it can be equally as challenging to deliver.
However, it is an opportunity to make a contribution to a memorial service, a contribution that your friends and family will remember for a long time. For that reason, if you are asked to write one, we suggest you consider doing so, if only for yourself.
That’s because writing a eulogy is a therapeutic tool to help you deal with your grief. The power of writing is undeniable and there is no better time than now for you to discover and take advantage of this.
What Should Your Eulogy Accomplish?
People often think one of two things about a eulogy:
• it should be an objective summation of the deceased’s life
• it should speak for everyone who is present at the memorial service.
Both of these assumptions are just plain unrealistic, don’t you think? How can you possibly be objective after losing a loved one; or sum up a person’s life in just a few minutes of time?
Let’s think of the eulogy as being much simpler. It should convey the feelings and experiences of the person giving the eulogy. The most touching and meaningful eulogies are written from a subjective point of view and from the heart. So don’t feel compelled to write your loved one’s life story. Instead, tell your story.
Clearly, the burden of the eulogy does not have to be yours completely. If you have the time, ask friends or relatives for their recollections and stories.
Honesty is very important. In most cases, there will be a lot of positive qualities to talk about. Once in a while, however, there is someone with more negative traits than positive qualities. If that is the case, remember, you don’t have to say everything if it would make you, or the guests uncomfortable. Just be honest as you can, and do your best to show the full humanity – both the good, and the not-so-good, characteristics of the deceased. After all, everyone there knew them, and is there because they want to acknowledge their relationship to the deceased. In other words, you have a “warm” audience, who will welcome your words.
Don’t Strive for Perfection – You’ll Make Yourself Go Nuts
Remember, you do not have to write a perfect eulogy. Whatever you write and deliver will be appreciated by the people at the funeral. If you are inclined to be a perfectionist, lower your expectations and just do what you can, considering the short time frame for preparation and your emotional state.
When You Walk up to the Podium
• Realize that people are not going to judge you. They will be very supportive. No matter what happens, it will be okay. If you break down in the middle of your speech, everyone will understand. Take a moment to get composed, and then continue. There is no reason to be embarrassed. Remember, giving a eulogy is a noble gesture that people will appreciate and admire.
• Make the eulogy easy to read. On a computer, print out the eulogy in a large type size. If you are using a typewriter, put extra carriage returns between the lines. If you are writing it by hand, print the final version in large letters and give the words room to breathe by writing on every second or third line.
• Before the service, get a small cup of water. Keep it with you during the service. When you go to the podium to deliver the eulogy, take the water with you in case you need it. Sipping water before you start and during the speech if needed, will help relax you.
• If you are nervous beforehand, breathe deeply. Remind yourself that everything will be fine. It will be. Look around at your relatives and friends and realize that they are with you 100 percent.
• Realize that it is acceptable to read the eulogy a loud. You don’t have to make eye contact with anyone.