Being asked to deliver a funeral eulogy is a true honor. If you’re not experienced at public speaking and writing speeches, however, that feeling of honor can quickly be replaced with feelings of anxiety and even dread. These emotions can be further exacerbated by the fact that you are also trying to navigate your own feelings of grief. Thankfully, with a little planning and preparation, you can overcome these emotional obstacles and create a tribute that’s as memorable as the loved one you’re recognizing.
Here are a few helpful tips and pointers to get you started.
Start by talking it through.
The idea of putting pen to paper can seem overwhelming. It can be helpful to simply talk through your thoughts and feelings with a friend or family member first. Spend some time with others who also knew and loved the deceased. Share stories. Reflect on his or her life. As you do, jot down a few highlights that may provide inspiration once you’re ready to start writing. If talking it through with someone else isn’t possible, spend time with your own thoughts and make a list of your own to use.
Establish a theme.
You want your eulogy to flow and be logical to your audience. To accomplish this, start piecing together stories that are similar in nature. For instance, you may find that as you brainstorm, a lot of the ideas you’re writing down relate to the person’s hobbies or passions. Or, you may have a lot of stories from a certain time in his or her life, such as childhood memories you shared growing up. If you’re struggling to link together your thoughts, try focusing on one defining story that you feel sums up the life of the person you’re eulogizing.
Develop an outline.
Now that you’ve got an idea of the direction you’re going to head in and what you’d like to cover in your eulogy, the next step is pulling it all together and organizing it in a logical way. Developing an outline can help you lay the framework for your actual eulogy. There’s no cookie-cutter formula for this step, but there are a few common ways for organizing a eulogy. For instance, you could list out events in chronological or reverse-chronological order. Or, you might organize your thoughts by topic or theme.
Once your outline is complete, the next step is to write your first draft. It’s important to note that this initial round of writing doesn’t have to be perfect, so try not to pressure yourself too much. Just work through your thoughts and start putting them together. Remember as you write to keep the tone conversational by writing things just as you would speak them. After all, you will be using this as a speech.
Get feedback and edit your work.
Have a few people you know and trust read through your draft and ask them for their honest feedback. If you can’t find a second or third set of eyes, put your first draft down and walk away from it for a while. Ideally, give yourself 24-48 hours. Then, go back and re-read. This will give you fresh perspective so you can further edit and refine until you’ve got a finished product you’re happy with.
Even the most seasoned public speakers practice their material before standing up in front of an audience. Your eulogy should be no different. Work through your speech out loud, either to others or in front of the mirror. Make sure you’ve got the tone and length down pat (most eulogies are between 10 and 15 minutes long). Keep practicing until you feel comfortable enough to deliver the real thing.
Eulogizing someone who has passed on is a truly special and honorable experience. If you’re feeling uneasy about speaking at an upcoming funeral or celebration of life, take a moment. Take a breath. And then follow the steps above. When you remove the pressure and add structure to the process, everything will come together naturally and you’ll end up with a speech that the deceased would be deeply touched by.
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