Think about all the nice things you could say about your closest friend, a parent, or even a sibling. All the things they've achieved, the stuff they were proud of and the funny stories inbetween, as well as the impact they've made on you..
Put simply, that's a eulogy. Without all the stress and pressure and blinding desire to ‘get it right', this piece of writing really is just a meaningful tribute to the deceased person's life; often written by a close relative or friend and read out at the funeral.
This will typically make up three to ten minutes of a memorial service, and can be between 1000 to 2000 words long.
Whilst there's no strict rules on who can and cannot speak at a funeral, eulogies are usually taken on by a loved one or close family member of the deceased.
Whether it's close friends, children or loved ones, the person who reads and/or writes the eulogy speech can depend on a number of factors. For some, the task of reading and writing a eulogy amid their grief is too much. For others, they may manage to write a eulogy but then get support from someone else to share it at the ceremony.
Either way, all that matters is that there's a positive tribute to remember your loved one- whether that helps the healing process for those left behind, or just helps distract people from a focus of death at the funeral.
In some cases, a few family members and friends will choose to speak at the deceased's funeral- either in a short few lines each, or a number of individual speeches.
This could be a best friend, another close family member, or could be a member of the Defence Force or Emergency Services if the deceased was a member.
For many people, speaking in public is hard enough. From the sweaty palms to the croaky voice, the anxiety and the rumination- it can be daunting to even the most confident people.
When grief is still raw and the pressure is ever high, a funeral speech can feel all too much. And even if you choose to have someone else read your speech, it can feel daunting to capture the essence and meaning of a loved one in a few words.
To help you tackle this important responsibility, we've included some top tips to get you started.
Improvising a speech is often not a good idea, especially when it comes to eulogies. Writing all your thoughts and practising your speech in advance is an important way to prepare to speak on the day- helping you feel less self conscious, or overwhelmed with grief.
Printing out the speech with a large font and double spacing can help you speak it in this scenario. We'd even recommend practising with a couple loved ones at home, to get you more comfortable with the words and emotions which might crop up. Things like eye contact, speaking slowly and taking those deep breaths are also worth practising before, to help best prepare you for the day.
Whilst you might be the one writing the speech, it's important to speak to close relatives, a close friend and other important people to the deceased. Looking through old photo albums can also be a powerful way to trigger positive memories and ultimately paint the best picture of your loved one; including all the ideas, stories and friends that were important to them.
In thinking about their impact, this wider involvement also ensures you don't leave any important aspects out of the eulogy speech. Giving old friends a call, looking through photo albums and speaking to those who lived around them can also help trigger memories to inspire your speech, as well as shift the focus away from death.
No ones perfect, and when someone dies, their flaws and negative attributes don't necessarily always fade out of memory too. Looking back at old memories can bring up a mix of emotions and feelings, however it's important to remember that a eulogy is a time for positive stories, memories and aspects of the deceased person.
With this in mind, try to keep the eulogy speech light hearted and avoid dwelling on negative traits or judgements. You have a role to play in shaping their positive legacy, and whilst there is sometimes scope for jokes, it's not an opportunity to write a roast.
Once you've done the research and have a basic idea of what you are going to write, you can follow the below template to writing a eulogy.
You might start by introducing the deceased, and then specifically to your relationship. Whether you talk about how you met, your first impressions or life stages you shared together- this can help provide context for the audience and wider family.
One meaningful way to bring these details to light is by storytelling- offering the chance to combine memories and traits of the person in one.
To help get you started on this, we've included a short example below:
E.g. We are here today to mourn the loss of Caroline Smith. She touched all our lives as mother, sister, friend and colleague. I first met Caroline when we were just kids back at school and I was sitting by myself in the playground. She came up to me and asked if I wanted to be friends.
Writing a eulogy provides this important opportunity to tell the life stories of your loved one, rather than maintain focus on their death. This can be as basic as their full name, where they were born and their family background, or as complex as their career, education, life goals and achievements.
The ‘little big' details also play an important role here- from how they liked to spend their spare time, their small quirks and their big impact on other people. Topics like community, service, hobbies and family are likely relevant here.
After introductions, eulogies offer a chance to talk about the impact your loved one had on the world. You may like to talk about their hobbies, their passions and how they impacted the lives of people around them. This can cover their impactful ideas, their influence as a friend or their life values.
E.g Caroline was the most adventurous person I ever met. She was always outside trying new extreme sports and dragging us along for the ride. Her passion for the outdoors inspired so many people to get active and try new things.
One way to make a eulogy especially meaningful is to round it off with a personal story. This can capture the meaning of the deceased to you, as well as their essence as a person.
It doesn't have to be some huge adventure tale, and sometimes the smaller day-to-day life stories are best for capturing what that person meant to you.
E.g I remember the time Caroline planned an overnight hike in the Tasmanian wilderness and we got caught in a snow-storm. She helped navigate us to shelter and even had a thermos of hot chocolate and marshmallows to keep us warm and keep our spirits high while we waited out the storm.
5. Closing statement
Finish your written speech with a simple statement to farewell the deceased. These words offer the chance to say something profound about the life of the deceased- with popular eulogy examples finishing with a quote, poem, or song lyrics.
This might sound dramatic, but it can leave a final lasting impression and appropriate energy in the air for a memorial service. Even something as simple as ‘we will miss you', can be incredibly powerful to close on.
If you are still feeling stuck on writing a eulogy, you may use a more structured eulogy example template like the one below. By filling in the gaps, this can help you find the words to express the impact this person had on your life.
We are all here today for one reason: to celebrate the life of ________ (name of the deceased). ________ (name) came into my life when ________ (details of your meeting). Since then, I have come to realise ________ (name) was the most ________(adjective) person I've ever known. He/She ________ (include a memory or anecdote).
DETAILS OF THEIR LIFE
_________ (name) was born on ________ (birthdate) in _______ (city). He/She was the
______ (first, second, only) child of ________ (father) and ________ (mother). His/her sisters and brothers are ________, ________, and ________ (add more or less as needed). _________ (name) was an ________(adjective) child. (include information about how you met, or an anecdote from their family about their childhood if you didn't grow up together).
THEIR IMPACT ON THE WORLD
_________ (name) had a lasting impact on everyone around them. In high school they developed a passion for ________ (hobby/passion) and it was obvious they were set to change the world in a positive way. When they left school they pursued this ________ (hobby/passion) and turned it into a career. Their love for ________ (hobby/passion) meant they were always ________ (adjective).
My favorite memory of ______ (name) is that time when ______ (memory). (try to tie this memory back to their character – how the deceased was as a person).
The loss of ______ (name) has been devastating for all of us. Even though ______ (name) is gone, we will always have fond memories of our time together.
Earl Spencer's Funeral Oration for Princess Diana
“We are all united not only in our desire to pay our respects to Diana but rather in our need to do so.
For such was her extraordinary appeal that the tens of millions of people taking part in this service all over the world via television and radio who never actually met her, feel that they too lost someone close to them in the early hours of Sunday morning. It is a more remarkable tribute to Diana than I can ever hope to offer her today.
Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty. All over the world she was a symbol of selfless humanity. All over the world, a standard bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden, a very British girl who transcended nationality.
Someone with a natural nobility who was classless and who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic.
Bindi Irwin's Eulogy for her father Steve Irwin
My Daddy was my hero – he was always there for me when I needed him. He listened to me and taught me so many things, but most of all he was fun. I know that Daddy had an important job. He was working to change the world so everyone would love wildlife like he did. He built a hospital to help animals and he bought lots of land to give animals a safe place to live.
He took me and my brother and my Mum with him all the time.
We filmed together, caught crocodiles together and loved being in the bush together. I don't want Daddy's passion to ever end. I want to help endangered wildlife just like he did.
I have the best Daddy in the whole world and I will miss him every day. When I see a crocodile I will always think of him and I know that Daddy made this zoo so everyone could come and learn to love all the animals. Daddy made this place his whole life and now it's our turn to help Daddy.
Oprah Winfrey's Eulogy for Rosa Parkes
I -- I feel it an honour to be here to come and say a final goodbye.
I grew up in the South, and Rosa Parks was a hero to me long before I recognized and understood the power and impact that her life embodied. I remember my father telling me about this coloured woman who had refused to give up her seat. And in my child's mind, I thought, "She must be really big." I thought she must be at least a hundred feet tall. I imagined her being stalwart and strong and carrying a shield to hold back the white folks.
And then I grew up and had the esteemed honour of meeting her. And wasn't that a surprise. Here was this petite, almost delicate lady who was the personification of grace and goodness. And I thanked her then. I said, "Thank you," for myself and for every coloured girl, every coloured boy, who didn't have heroes who were celebrated. Continue reading.
Safewill Cremations offers an affordable and meaningful way to plan a farewell service around you, or your loved ones wishes.
We take care in ensuring all details honour the deceased- whether that's helping you organise the person to deliver the eulogy or the type of memorial or funeral service you opt for.
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