How to write a eulogy for a brother

Funeral Planning
Five Sikh men in colorful clothing sit in a row with their legs crossed, twirling their moustaches.

Losing a sibling is like losing a limb. They are a carbon copy of you regardless of how different you may be in terms of personality, looks, interests or opinions. When you lose a brother, you also lose a trusted companion.

If your brother was older than you, it was likely that they cared for you when you were young and advised you as you grew up. If your brother was younger than you, it was likely that they were your practice for being a parent one day. You might have cared for them when your parents were away, and watched over them to make sure they were on the right path in life. Perhaps you taught them how to ride a bicycle or throw a ball the right way. If your brother was around the same age as you, then it was likely that they were one of your best friends, who you shared your growing pains with.

In any case, your brother's death can feel unnatural, and it is a difficult experience to go through. Regardless of when he died, or how, it can feel like a sudden, enormous loss since you're so used to them being there in your life.

When your brother dies, there are many aspects of funeral planning that you and your family have to consider. One of the most important is the eulogy. As your brother was there for you through thick and thin, it's fitting that you'll want to celebrate him by giving a beautiful eulogy. In fact, giving a eulogy for your brother is one of the greatest ways you can pay tribute to the awesome sibling he was. Here's how to write a eulogy you'll be proud to deliver.

1. Write a first draft

As with any piece of writing, it is important to write a first draft of your eulogy. This will contain the "raw" version of your thoughts, emotions and narrative, and once it's done, it's the place where you'll start editing those feelings into something you want to present to the world at his funeral or memorial service.

The first draft reminds us that we shouldn't rush something as important as a eulogy. Don't just write a eulogy quickly and then forget about it until the funeral. While it can be hard, it's an act of love to take your time to perfect the eulogy. The first draft is your first step in doing that.

2. Fact-check

If you're going to include biographical information about your brother, think like a journalist and fact-check every piece of information in your eulogy.

Even if you believe you know him very well, it doesn't hurt to verify dates and events with source materials and other members of your family, or even colleagues who might know more about your loved one's work or career than you do.

In a eulogy, there is no room for error. Once it's delivered at the funeral — in front of an audience, no less — it cannot be redone. So, make sure that all the information in your eulogy is correct and accurate. Your brother deserves this level of attention to detail, after all.

3. Speak from the heart

This is a speech for someone you love, so speak from your heart. In the writing community, there's a term called "spilled ink," which means stream of consciousness writing. It is when you write without inhibitions and you throw logic out the window. Again, that's why it's important to have a first draft: it's where you can spill your ink. Later on, you can edit it so that it is appropriate for the audience at the funeral.

Again, you should feel free to express your emotions and thoughts, but also keep in mind that there may be some topics that would be inappropriate for a eulogy, such as personal secrets between you and your brother, or any animosity you felt for him. Honor his loyalty and keep your secrets locked in the vault of your mind. Let go of any past transgressions and petty gripes. Hatchets are buried once a person has died. Celebrate what you loved about them instead.

4. Consider "tone of voice"

What we mean by "tone of voice" is the feel and temperament of what you say in your eulogy. For instance, a eulogy is often read in a solemn and serious tone. However, you can bring up lighter stories and even appropriate jokes.

Remember: you're not just mourning their passing but also celebrating their unique, incredible life. So, don't think that your eulogy has to be solemn. Consider placing the lighter material at the beginning of your eulogy. This will help break the ice with the audience, give them a moment to smile, and might help them relax, too.

5. Review the length

Typically, a eulogy takes around three to five minutes to read aloud, but you can of course take longer — just make sure it doesn't run to more than ten minutes.

The actual length of your eulogy will depend on your pacing, or how you deliver it. A slower pace will generally let you articulate your thoughts more clearly, and let the audience digest what you're saying as you say it.

With this in mind, as a written document, your eulogy should be somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words long. Remember that others might also be delivering eulogies and other speeches after you, so you want to allow them time to honor your brother, too.

6. Proofread it

While spelling and punctuation is not a primary concern, since it's a speech rather than a printed article, it's still important to proofread your eulogy.

In particular, you should pay attention to the grammar of your speech, because grammar translates to your vocal delivery, whereas spelling usually doesn't. It is best to ask someone else to look it over for you, not just for grammar corrections, but also to have an objective eye to read your writings.

7. Practice it

Practice reading your eulogy out loud so that you can get a feel for the rhythm and pacing. Reading out loud will also help you memorize the eulogy, which will help you speak in a more natural way when you finally deliver it to the audience.

'First, practice by yourself so that you're comfortable in a context without pressure. Then, once you've established your rhythm and pace, and have found the style of delivery most natural to you, you can begin reading it out loud in front of close family and friends. This will also allow you to practice addressing a group of people, which is different than simply reciting by yourself because you'll have to interact with the audience in subtle ways.

8. Make eye contact

It can be challenging to look people in the eyes during a funeral or wake, particularly close family members and friends who were just as close to your brother as you were. Yet it's important to establish eye contact with your audience during your eulogy.

Making eye contact projects your presence and allows you to command people's attention during this very important tribute to your brother. Also, making eye contact with different people in the audience will show that you're aware of their own presence. It makes your eulogy more personal and intimate, as if you are saying to everyone at the funeral, "I'm here with you and I am here for you."

Now that you know the basics of writing a eulogy for your brother, you can approach it with your own style of writing, and add other elements you feel is appropriate. Remember, each eulogy is as unique as the person you are eulogizing. Use our tips as a foundation, but it is up to you how you want to honor your brother. Write and deliver him a eulogy that he would be proud of. It is one of the best gifts you could ever give him.