How to write a eulogy for a father

Funeral Planning
A father walks with his smiling daughter through a flock of pigeons.

The death of a much-loved father, while undeniably difficult, presents the opportunity to celebrate an amazing person who has had a crucial role in your life.

With all that fathers do for their children, if you're asked to give the eulogy at your dad's funeral, you might wonder where to begin. This guide is designed to help you through the process, but of course, since your dad was unique, you may need to adapt it to your own particular circumstances.

1. Create an outline

First up, think about what you want to cover in your eulogy. Will you detail his whole life story, including key milestones and achievements? Or will you focus on your relationship with your dad specially? The information you include may well depend on other speeches and readings that will be a part of his funeral or memorial service, so take that into account in your planning.

Once you've made your choice, make quick notes, in any order, of what you want to include. This could be anything from the dates of important events, to particular stories about your dad that really reflect who he was, and what he means to you.

Now, take each of those items and try to organize them into a natural flow. You could do this chronologically, for example, starting your eulogy with your experience of your dad from childhood right up to today. Or perhaps you'd like to organize the items thematically, first talking about his family, then his work, and finally his other interests and hobbies. There's no "right" way to do this. What's important is that you're reasonably comfortable with the structure you create. Remember, though, you can change it down the track if you find it's no working the way you expected.

2. Confirm the facts

It might be dates, places, or people's names; it might be confirming that your recollection of events is accurate by asking someone else who was present at the time. But whatever you discuss in the eulogy, it's important to make sure the information is accurate.

This is true firstly because your father deserves to be spoken about correctly, but also because any errors are likely to be noticed by the funeral's attendees, and those errors will stick in the mind forever. You don't want a mistake of a date or name to be the key thing someone remembers about your father's funeral, so it's wise to make sure the facts you include in your eulogy for dad are accurate.

3. Speak from the heart

Now we come to the task of writing itself. While your personal style will obviously be key in the way you write the eulogy for your father, it's usually a good idea to speak from the heart. This will help others to connect with what you're saying and remember your dad as he really was. It will also give them a deep insight into what your dad means to you — which is, after all, a key aspect of a eulogy.

Naturally, there are things you won't disclose in his eulogy — things that are private between you and him, or will stay within the family forever. Don't feel you need to betray his confidence to give a good eulogy, but do speak from the heart in your speech.

4. Think about your delivery

As you write, consider how you'll read those words. Often when we write for formal purposes, our writing can become quite formal, too, but if that isn't what you're aiming for, you'll need to be conscious of that.

Think about how you want the stories you're telling to be heard — maybe this one will make listeners smile or give them a chuckle; that one might remind them how grateful they are for your dad's life. The way you write — and read — the eulogy will help listeners to feel those emotions, so consider carefully how you'll read what you're writing.

5. Keep to time

Eulogies are typically just one in a series of readings or items that make up a funeral program, and you will likely have been given a time limit for your speech. Typically, a eulogy might run for between 3 and 5 minutes, and depending on the pace of your reading, you might need to write 500 to 1,000 words.

In any case, to make sure your eulogy fits the timeframe you've been given, practice reading it aloud and timing yourself as you go. This will help keep your eulogy well-paced and interesting.

6. Proofread the speech

Spelling and punctuation are only an issue in cases where your eulogy will be printed in the service booklet, or appear somewhere else, like your dad's online memorial (if he has one). But proofreading is important for the sake of grammar, too, because while spelling errors can't be heard, grammatical errors can.

So, proofread your writing. If you're not confident you'll spot any issues, ask a trusted family member or friend to read it, too. Their "fresh eyes" may well pick up some small errors you'd overlooked.

7. Practice it aloud

Practice reading your eulogy out loud so that you can get a sense of its rhythm and pacing, make sure you're keeping to your time limit, and of course, gain confidence in your delivery. Reading out loud will also help you commit parts of the eulogy to memory, and that will likely help you speak in a more natural way when you finally deliver it at the funeral.

First, practice by yourself, perhaps in front of the mirror, until you're comfortable with how it sounds. Then, ask a family member or two to listen to you read it. This is a great way to build confidence with delivering what is often a deeply meaningful speech at a very emotional moment. By reading it aloud in front of others, you'll be able to get really comfortable with how it reads, so there'll be no surprises for you on the day of the funeral.

8. Make eye contact

One final tip for giving your dad's eulogy: make contact with the audience. They'll obviously be upset, and while that can make eye contact a challenge, your looking at them directly will help them feel that you appreciate their love for your father, and understand their grief. It communicates that you're there for them, and at the same time may help you feel that the eulogy you prepared for your dad has been heard and understood, and that it has depicted your father honestly and well.

Now that you have the essentials for writing your dad's eulogy, adapt this process to your needs. These tips should provide a strong foundation, but of course, you will decide how best to celebrate the incredible man who was your father.