When you are grieving, it is hard to process your thoughts and emotions, let alone put into words how you feel about your lost loved one.
In this article, we will look at the elements of a eulogy and break it down into parts that are easy to understand. We hope this will serve as a practical step-by-step guide to writing a eulogy that gives you confidence to express your thoughts.
What Is a Funeral Eulogy?
A eulogy is a speech that tells the life story of the deceased. It is usually delivered at a funeral or memorial service as a way to honor and praise them.
Family members or close friends are usually chosen to deliver the eulogy. If the deceased has many family members and friends, multiple eulogies can be delivered during the service.
Difference between Eulogy, Elegy, and Obituary
Many people mix up the terms eulogy, obituary, and elegy. However, they have important distinctions.
An obituary is an announcement of the deceased together with some biographical information that acts as a snippet of one’s life. It is often published in a local newspaper and/or posted online.
On the other hand, an elegy is a song or a poem used to mourn the dead.
As noted earlier, eulogies are speeches performed during the service that praise the deceased.
Parts of A Eulogy
A good eulogy captures the essence of the deceased and how they lived. It tells the life story of the person, including the lives they touched, the accomplishments they made, and any stories that help to paint a vivid picture of the person’s life.
Details to Include in a Eulogy
Below is a road map to the structure of a eulogy. As you look at the broad sections think about details that you want to include along the way. Here is a list of ideas:
- introduce yourself and your relationship
- birth date and location of the deceased
- nicknames and aliases (some people may know them by a different name)
- where and how the person grew up
- close family and important people who influenced the deceased
- how they met their partner or significant other
- accomplishments, achievements, and awards
- sports prowess
- contributions to the community and society
- favorite writings, teachings, or songs
- clubs and organizations
- military service
- milestones achieved
- leadership roles
- humorous anecdotes
- names of close family members
- acknowledgement of important guests (and those that traveled far)
Depending on the group it may be a good idea to introduce yourself and your relationship to the person who died.
Keep in mind hat the introduction of the eulogy will set the tone and introduce the theme of how you want to portray the life story of the deceased.
At this point, keep the eulogy very simple to understand. Just keep it personal and conversational. There’s no need for you a formal speech. A eulogy will simply serve as a heartfelt appreciation for the person who died. And it is your unique perspective so there are no wrong answers.
The body will be the most detailed part of a eulogy. This is where you will further expound on the personality of the deceased, elaborating on your main point in the introduction.
For instance, if you’d like to center your speech around the kindness of the person, this is where you tell those stories that exemplify the generous heart of the deceased.
The stories and anecdotes you provide here will have more impact if they are vivid and insightful. Do you have a story that shows a side of the deceased that is not well known? It helps to recall how you felt when the story took place and offer your unique perspective. One simple way to structure the body is to progress through the person’s life and milestones in chronological order. This way it is easy to follow along.
The conclusion is essentially a short summary of the introduction and body. You can tie your thoughts together by emphasizing what made the person special to you.
Take care with the final thought. The last sentence can have a lasting impact on the listeners because it is your last statement in honoring the deceased. One idea is to close the eulogy by directly addressing the deceased. I was recently moved by the last thought of a eulogy when the son simply said “I love you Dad.”
How To Write a Eulogy
There is no master template on how to write a eulogy. The guide and samples you will find here are some essential information that can help you start the writing process. It gives a general overview of what to expect, so you don’t embark on the task blindly.
Also, it is normal to experience having your thoughts blocked, especially at a time of devastating loss. You do not have to be extremely pressured about writing the best eulogy. It just has to come genuinely from what your heart tells you. You will find out that writing a eulogy can also be therapeutic.
1. Write Your Ideas First
First, jot down some ideas on what you want to include in the eulogy. Think about some memories, stories, and thoughts that you think would best honor the person who died.
At this point, you do not have to overthink the structure of your eulogy. Just keep the ideas flowing. A common theme will emerge and you can narrow it down later on.
You may include the highlights of their life, accomplishments, passions, hobbies, and other things that make them unique. You may also write some ideas about how the person made an impact on your life and others.
There is no need to rush this step and no need to feel pressure. In a sense, it is even best to let the ideas come out naturally. You will simply need to call up memories, which is a good way to honor the deceased.
2. Decide on the Focus for Your Eulogy
After writing down your ideas, thoughts, and stories about the person, it is now time to think about the main focus of your eulogy. You may have written several stories and anecdotes.
The best guiding principle in narrowing down your ideas is to keep it personal to you and the person. Only include the details and ideas that had an impact on you and your relationship with them. This way you are telling your unique experience which will be revealing and interesting to the listeners.
3. Include Some Poems, Prayers, and Quotes
After narrowing down your ideas and stories for the eulogy, you may choose poems, prayers, and quotes that will add to your speech.
They readings could be directly inspired by the deceased or even be their favorite. This is a great option so you don’t have to rely on writing the entire eulogy. It also gives something familiar for listeners to relate to.
Use the readings to support the theme of your story. In choosing the best reading think about what would be meaningful to you or the person who died.
4. Finalize Your Eulogy
The last step for writing a eulogy is adding the finishing touches. At this stage, you can now choose an order for your stories, anecdotes, and quotes.
This is where you carefully decide the structure and the order of your eulogy. Review everything that you have written so far and finalize the stories, poems, or other thoughts that you want to keep.
There is no required limit for the length of a eulogy. Many funeral homes allow you to speak as long as you want to. A common range is 5 to 10 minutes.
5. Practice Delivering Your Eulogy
The final step is to practice your eulogy. It can be difficult to deliver a eulogy because of overwhelming emotions. By practicing prior to the funeral, you can help yourself in making it easier for you to deliver the speech.
Consider timing, enunciation, volume, and inflection and delivery. Rehearse it several times. There is no need to memorize your speech. Just make sure you feel comfortable in delivering it. The more you prepare the more comfortable you will be.
Remember that you are giving your eulogy as a way to honor the deceased. Even if you feel that it is too daunting or difficult, just remember your relationship with the person and how your eulogy would be a good way to honor their memory. There is no need to be profound…just genuine and naturally yourself.
Eulogy Poem Ideas
Here are some samples of poems to read at funerals. You can find a far more comprehensive list in our funeral poems article.
When I am dead, my dearest by Christina Rossetti
When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.
Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep By Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
Eulogy Prayer Ideas
Below are some scriptures you could add to your eulogy.
A Psalm of David.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Funeral Eulogy Examples
Here are some great examples of touching eulogies. Hopefully these samples will inspire your writing and help you understand the structure—and lack thereof—of eulogies.
Funeral Eulogy for Grandma
Source: Rebecca Solnit from her book The Faraway Nearby
From my earliest memories, she is right by my side, taking me on walks through the miniature golf course near our house, dutifully preparing my odd lunch requests for cheddar and mayo sandwiches and sneaking me Almond Joy candy bars away from the gaze of my mom.
I was so close to my grandma that around the age of 23 I grew increasingly anxious that she might not live to attend my wedding unless I hurried up. Well … she did live to attend that wedding, and also to witness my first divorce, my second marriage, and to know and love my two children. She liked Jeff from the beginning and one day before we were engaged, she boldly told him, “Well, you better put a ring on it!” quoting Beyoncé without knowing the reference.
The most remarkable qualities about my grandma as she aged were her gratitude and her humility. She often told me to live for myself and not worry about her — to work, focus on my family, and come visit when I had time. She loved every minute of our visits but never pushed for more.
I once asked her if I should have a third child and she replied, “Why, honey? You already have the perfect family.” The most important things to my grandma were family and faith; she didn’t care for material possessions. In fact, she was known for giving items away because “there was someone who was more in need.” This selflessness and service for others leave a legacy that I will try to model for my children. Time with her family was the greatest gift and even with that, she was not greedy.
I am deeply thankful to our family who cared for, loved her, and relished spending time with my grammie as she aged. Knowing she had Adie to take her to church and lunch every Sunday punctuated her week with a joyful event she truly looked forward to. Dave and Aileen always arrived with a box of her favorites See’s Candies, essentially confirming the Pavlovian model as she began to drool as soon as they walked in the door. And to my mom, who cared for my grandma for the last 10 years of her life with compassion and unrivaled duty. I thank her not only for giving back to her mom, but for modeling care and respect for our elders.
“When my friends began to have babies and I came to comprehend the heroic labor it takes to keep one alive, the constant exhausting tending of a being who can do nothing and demands everything, I realized that my mother had done all of these things for me before I remembered. I was fed; I was washed; I was clothed; I was taught to speak and given a thousand other things, over and over again, hourly, daily, for years. She gave me everything before she gave me nothing.”
Funeral Eulogy For Dad
Source: Write Out Loud
First I would like to thank all of you for your support. It means so much to us all.
Vincent was my father but he was also father to Donna, Joey, John Sr., Miriam, Harel, and Alex, and Grandfather to John Jr. Alison, Hailey, Kayla, Jake, Lila and Carissa, plus Uncle to many nieces and nephews here with us today.
We all have memories of Vincent. I want to share some of my most precious childhood memories with you now.
The most fun I had with him was staying up all night playing video games, watching hockey together, walking to Smoke Stax down the block and racing home, and painting Christmas ornaments with him. Getting a ride on my Dad’s motorcycle was also the coolest!
But what I cherished most about my Dad was that he also loved animals. If a person found any hurt animal they knew my Dad would help them.
Hopefully you all had a chance to look at the college pictures. Not to sound weird but when I saw his high school picture I was like, “Wow! Dad was hot!”
My Mom didn’t stand a chance! They met when my Mom was 16 and my Dad was 19. My beautiful Mom was waiting at a bus stop with her friends. My Dad, riding in a car with his friends, noticed the girls and asked if they wanted a ride. Of course no one takes rides with strangers, right kids?! So they said no.
Then one of my Dad’s friends said to my Mom, “Vinny LaManna wants to talk to you!” and my Mom said, “Tell Vinny LaManna to go fly a kite!”
Maybe not exactly those words but you know what I’m saying. Well, that’s all my stubborn Italian Dad had to hear and he said “I have to meet that girl!”
My Mom and her friends took the bus to an ice cream parlor not knowing that the boys had followed them. Once they got inside the ice cream parlor Dad pulled my Mom into a booth and my Mom saw those piercing green eyes and dark hair. She didn’t stand a chance.
They were married for 51 years and when they moved into their first apartment all they had to eat for dinner was a hard boiled egg which they shared. They worked, making honest livings as bus drivers and we were proud. They provided all they could. They made sure we always had the presents we wanted on Christmas and the feeling of love was always there.
My father was an old fashioned Italian who struggled with showing emotions. Growing up with him was not always easy. Most of the time I just wanted to slap him in the back of the head and say, like Cher from Moonstruck, “Snap out of it”!
I know my Dad loved us but unfortunately he didn’t know how to show us. With all of that, I have learned a very valuable lesson from my father. I will not live in fear or anger. I will love and I will grow and I will not let something like age tell me I can’t learn something new or do something I enjoy.
When I make a mistake I will forgive myself and not live in regret. I’ve decided to take him on that journey with me because I know he would be proud and think, I’m nuts but, that’s what life is about – love, learning, growing, pushing for more. That’s what he taught me and I will not let him down. I want to experience the things he couldn’t.
Again thank you to our family and friends for your support.
Dad we love you…
Funeral Eulogy for Mom
Source: John Rofrano Jr.
I know that Mom is smiling upon us today because she always smiled when her family was gathered together. Family was at the core of who mom was. She wasn’t much for social events, she wasn’t much for politics, she didn’t watch soap operas, she just cared and nurtured her family in the best way she knew how. Every Sunday she would get up early to attend Mass so that she could come home and start cooking the Sunday dinner by 9:00AM. A big pot of gravy could be found on the stove cooking, and cooking, and cooking. Somehow, Dad would always manage to steal a few fried meatballs before they made it to gravy. On special occasions she would make homemade macaroni. In fact, the whole family would make homemade ravioli with each family member having their own job to do in a giant assembly line that started in the kitchen and ended on a white floured sheet in the bedroom.
To Mom, food was love. When I asked her grandchildren for memories of their grandmother, they all agreed that the three words most often used by grandma were, “Eat, eat, eat”. That was her way of saying, “I love you, I love you, I love you”. She could whip up a gourmet meal on a moments notice out of just what was in the refrigerator and proclaim, “oh it’s so simple to do”. So many of the memories they had of her where about food and therefore about her love. Love for her husband, and her children and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The pizzelles, the home-made ravioli, the polenta, the spaghetti alio ulio, the cheesecake, the Easter bread, the Christmas cookies, and the list goes on and on. Mom sure knew how to cook up a lot of love.
We should remember today not to mourn her passing but to celebrate her life. Her life as a loving grandmother and great-grandmother to so many of you sitting here. Her life as a mother who did her best to guide her children in the right direction. Her life as a dedicated wife and companion of 56 years to Dad who loved her just as deeply. I know that Mom & Dad loved to dance and today I am sure they are together again dancing in heaven. Let us be happy for them and for the privilege to have known our mom, Antoinette Rofrano, and have been touched by her life.
What do I include in a funeral eulogy?
Add stories, memories, and anecdotes that had an impact on you and your relationship with the person. Just remember to keep it personal since this is the best way for you to fully capture the essence of their character.
You may also include poems, prayers, and quotes as long as it is meaningful to you and the person who died.
Begin with an introduction that describes the person’s character. You may start with the memories you had with the person, delivered in descriptive details. It is also good to establish your relationship with the deceased during this part.
Usually, family members or close friends are tasked to deliver a funeral eulogy.
Although there is no limit, a good range for the speaking time is about 5 to 10 minutes. However, there isn’t really a time limit for eulogies. You can take as long as you want. Bear in mind that you want to hold the listener’s attention.
There is no right answer. Eulogies are generally in offered in praise of the deceased. The tone may be dictated by the deceased and they way they lived their life or may be a reflection of the person giving the eulogy. If you are genuine and natural the message will be received well. Death is a solemn time of reflection, but humor is also a wonderful slave and can be appropriate even in a eulogy.
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