Often, when we lose a loved one, an important part of the healing process is reflecting on the life they lived. A memorial gathering is an opportunity to honor and pay tribute to your loved one’s many accomplishments and unique personality. A eulogy is a lovely way to share fond memories about your loved one that you cherish and hold dear — helping to create a lasting legacy. It’s also an opportunity to express your feelings of deep gratitude and unending love.
What is a eulogy?
A heartfelt speech that pays tribute to your loved one, a eulogy tells the story of their life and shares what they meant to their friends and family. A eulogy may be delivered at a funeral service, a celebration of life or a graveside ceremony. Eulogies are normally given by family members and close friends. Religious leaders and coworkers may also be invited to share their memories of your loved one.
Eulogy vs. obituary
Compared with an obituary, a eulogy is much more personal and reflective. An obituary is an announcement that usually follows a particular template or outline. A eulogy tends to be more personal and can contain a funny story, cherished memories or an emotional reflection. Depending on who is giving the eulogy, the stories are completely unique to the relationship and the bond shared with your loved one.
How to start a eulogy
Get started by doing a little research about your loved one — the place they were born, what they were like as a child and events in their family life as an adult. Discover what they accomplished in their lifetime. Learn about barriers they may have overcome. Explore their life passions and hobbies. Find out what their family and friends cherished about them. Ask people about the impact they felt your loved one made on those around them. Sharing these memories and impressions can be an uplifting and essential part of the grieving process for all involved.
Be sure to write your eulogy down. You may be nervous or grief-stricken at the funeral, and it may be difficult to remember the details you wanted to share. It can be helpful to print it out in large font in case you get tearful while reading. If you’re not comfortable getting up and speaking in front of a crowd, you could ask a friend or family member to read your eulogy for you.
How long should a eulogy be?
Don’t worry — you aren’t expected to write a novel. You can keep it simple and short. Just share one or two of your favorite memories about your loved one. A eulogy is typically about 5 to 10 minutes long. If this seems daunting to you, ask your loved one’s friends, coworkers or other family members to share in the experience of crafting the eulogy.
How to personalize a eulogy
The details you include in the eulogy will make it unique and reflective of your loved one’s personality. Did they have a great sense of humor? You can share one or two of their favorite jokes. Was your loved one dependable and generous? Share what their relationship meant to you and others. Were they extremely driven and motivated? Expound on their values and accomplishments.
What to include
You can make it lighthearted or somber — whichever you prefer. A eulogy is typically informally written. Imagine you’re talking to a close friend. You may want to touch on some or all of these topics:
- An overview of their life story and milestones
- Relationships with family, friends and coworkers
- Volunteer work and career accomplishments
- Hobbies, interests and talents
- Their favorite stories, poems, songs or quotes
- The impact they had on the lives surrounding them
- A thank you to guests for coming to offer condolences
Remember to keep the eulogy positive. Sharing a eulogy is an opportunity to reflect on uplifting memories.
Eulogy for your parents
A eulogy for either of your parents will, above all, touch on the many ways they cared for you. If you’re writing a eulogy for your mother, you can emphasize her accomplishments, her wonderful attributes and the way she impacted those around her. How did she positively influence and support you? Likewise, a eulogy for your father could be an opportunity to share the things you cherished about his personality, character and achievements. How did he encourage and nurture you? In what ways was he a role model?
Eulogy for a sibling
When writing a eulogy for your sibling, you may want to share funny anecdotes or silly arguments you had as children. Reflect on how your relationship changed as you matured and grew up together. Explain some of the common bonds you had and the experiences that you’ll always remember.
Eulogy for a grandparent
You may have fond memories of your grandparent from your childhood. You could share some of your favorite stories, wisdom passed down from your grandma or how you’ll miss your grandpa’s famous cookies. These lovely stories will help you connect with your audience, who likely have similar memories of your grandparent.
Practicing your eulogy
When you’ve finished writing your eulogy, you’ll want to practice reading it aloud. Try presenting the eulogy to a friend or family member before deliver it. Ask for feedback so you can edit accordingly, making sure the details are understandable and accurately reflect your loved one’s personality.
When you’re nervous, you’ll likely read faster. Focus on reading it slowly. Pause briefly between details so that guests have time to reflect.
A eulogy provides closure
Above all, don’t worry about performing the eulogy perfectly. Your audience understands that you are grieving a loss, and they are there to support you. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come with the memories. A eulogy can help provide much-needed closure and comfort to you and your audience, both children and adults. Remembering your loved one and sharing their singular qualities with others helps commemorate and honor their legacy.