Seven Easy Steps to Writing a Eulogy
by Mary Hickey
Both writing and delivering a eulogy are emotional, but at the
same time a step towards healing. It's never easy to put into
words what someone's life meant to you and to summarize their
life in just a few minutes. By following the seven steps below
you'll be on your way to creating a memorable and heart felt
Step One: Gather information. Jot down as many personal notes
about the deceased as possible. Look at photos. Flipping through
photo albums may remind you of important qualities and memories
of the person who died. Answer a few questions: What made your
loved one truly happy? What inspired you to write this eulogy?
What were your loved one's passions? What will you remember most
about this person? Keep in mind that a eulogy is not a biography
but more your personal thoughts and remembrances from your point
of view. You may want to ask co-workers, friends and others for
their stories and memories. You should see some repetition in
your notes and this will lead to the main theme.
Step Two: Begin to organize your content. Outline the eulogy in
these steps: I. A beginning to establish your theme. II. A
middle section to build on your theme with personal stories,
information, quotes, comments, sayings, poems and other content.
This information should make up 90% of the eulogy. III. A short
conclusion to summarize your thoughts and restate your theme.
Step Three: Work first on the middle section (Part II). Once you
have this part the beginning and summary will be easy. Develop
the outline by grouping similar themes from your notes from Step
1. For example, you might want to gather all the achievements
together. Merge the comments about the deceased's philosophy of
Step Four: Organize the conclusion (Part III). A conclusion
reminds the listeners of the theme and imprints the strong
feeling you have about the loss. The key is to conclude
effectively and quickly. Here is an example: "We will all miss
Jackie's sense of humor, her talent for knowing what is really
important in life and her famous chocolate chip cookies" (a
little humor doesn't hurt as long as it's not offensive to
anyone). "Her example lives as an inspiration for all of us to
Step Five: Write the beginning of the eulogy (Part 1). This
usually starts with an attention getter. It will set the theme
and can be in the form of a short story, a poem, a saying,
lyrics to a song. It will introduce the goal and theme you used
when you began the process.
Step Six: Polish it up. Your best bet is to walk away from it
for a few hours or overnight if possible. Work on it so it
sounds like a conversation. You want to talk to the audience as
naturally as possible.
Key tips: Keep it short, 4-8 minutes long, 3-7 typed pages. Type
it out using 14 pt type so it's easy to read. Vary sentence
length. Number the pages. Practice the eulogy aloud and time
yourself. Read it to friends and family and get their feedback.
Edit where necessary. Keep the content in good taste and keep it
Step Seven: Delivering the eulogy. While normally speakers do
not read word-for-word, because you are more than likely going
to be emotional, don't be afraid to read word for word. This way
you won't leave out any key points you or others wanted said. If
making eye contact with members of the audience will make you
emotional, either try and keep your eyes on the page or look
just over the top of the audience to the back of the room. Feel
free to pause, take a deep breath and drink some water. Everyone
will understand. They are emotionally distraught also. Speak as
naturally as you can just as if you were telling someone about
your loved one. Speak up. It's very important that you speak
clearly and loudly so that everyone can hear you. Keep the
written eulogy as a memento. You can add it to your memento
chest and share it with others who may want a copy.
By following these steps, writing and delivering a eulogy will
become less stressful and more of a healing process.
Mary Hickey is an urn designer and thought leader in the funeral
industry. She is co-founder of Renaissance Urn Company, based in
San Francisco. For more information on how to plan a life
celebration visit www.nextgenmemorials.com. Hickey can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
article re-published 3 August 2006