How to Write a Eulogy for a Friend
There is a saying that a close friend is like our "chosen family." This means that although we had no choice in what family we were born into, we can choose who we become friends with, and in turn they become like family to us. That is why losing a friend hits as hard as losing a relative. For many people, our friends know us better than some of our family members. That's because we can open up to friends without judgment that sometimes family members are quick to dish out when you say an opinion they don't agree with, or live a lifestyle they don't approve of.
Also, friends tend to be closer to your age than older or younger family members. Oftentimes, our strongest and oldest friendships started out in school. For this reason, our friends can relate more with us because you all go through the same growing pains over the years. You share many experiences with friends because they're typically the people you hang out with the most.
When you lose a friend, especially a best friend, their sudden departure can be very hard to accept. It's hard to imagine that the person you spend so much time with, who you might have seen just yesterday, is gone from your life all of a sudden. There is a feeling of emptiness when they pass away. But don't worry, because time will heal all wounds and you will get through it with the love and support of other friends, and family members.
That is why when your close friend passes on to the next life, you should be one of the people at their funeral or memorial to give them a beautiful eulogy. We know it can be a difficult undertaking, especially with emotional wounds still fresh, but your dear friend deserves to be honored by one of the people they were closest to, you.
Whether you have plenty of time to prepare for the funeral or the situation was sudden, there are some basic steps you can follow that will allow you to give your friend a proper eulogy. We've outlined those steps so that you one less thing to stress over during this time of grief and healing.
1. Write the First Draft
As with any piece of writing, it is important to write a first draft. It will contain the "raw" version of your thoughts, emotions, and other elements of your narrative. It's the piece of document that you will end up editing many times before finalization. The first draft is also a way to remind you that you shouldn't rush something as important as a eulogy. Don't just write a eulogy quickly and then forget about it until the funeral. You should take your time to perfect it because it's a special speech meant to honor your beloved friend. The first draft is your starting point, your first step towards delivering your loving tribute.
If you're going to include biographical information about your friend, be sure to think like a reporter. This means you should fact-check every piece of information in your eulogy. Even if you believe you knew your friend very well, it doesn't hurt to verify with source materials and members of your friend's family, or even colleagues who might know about your friend's work or career better than you. In a eulogy, there is no room for error. Once it is delivered at the funeral, in front of an audience no less, it cannot be redone. So, make sure that any information in your eulogy is correct and accurate. Your friend deserves this special attention to detail.
3. Speak From the Heart
This is a speech for someone you love and hold dearly in your heart, so speak from your heart. We don't mean you should be sappy, per se, but even if you veer off into the dramatic, no one will judge you for it, nor should they. After all, you are grieving and you had just lost someone you adored. 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 of the window. You simply write or speak what's on your mind. That's why it's important to have a first draft; it is where you can spill your ink. Later on, after your catharsis, you can then edit it so that it is coherent for the audience.
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 vulgar jokes. Even if that was the type of dynamic you had with your friend, not everyone in the audience might understand or like that type of your humor between you and your late friend. Just keep those to yourself as an inside joke; something special between you and your friend that you can remember them by. Also, don't go on long rants about unrelated topics. The eulogy is about your friend's amazing life and personality, so keep it on point.
4. Tone of Voice
What we mean by "tone of voice" is not limited to the actual tone of your vocalizations, but rather the feel and temperament of what you say as well. For instance, a eulogy is, for obvious reasons, said in a solemn and serious tone. However, you can bring up lighter stories and even appropriate jokes. You're not just mourning their passing but also honoring their life. So, don't think that your eulogy has to be fully serious. We recommend that you place the lighter material at the beginning of your eulogy. This will help break the ice with the audience and help them relax.
5. Length and Time
Typically, a eulogy is around three to five minutes long as a speech. We advise that you make sure it doesn't take longer than ten minutes. The length of your eulogy will depend on your pacing, or how fast/slow you deliver it. We recommend a slower pace so that you can enunciate and articulate your thoughts more clearly. As a written document, your eulogy should be between 500 and 1,000 words. Keep in mind that others might also be delivering eulogies and other speeches after you, so you want to give others their dedicated time to honor your loved one.
6. Final Edit
While spelling and punctuation is not a primary concern, since it's a speech rather than an article for the New York Times, it is still important to proofread your eulogy. In particular, you should pay attention to the grammar of your speech, because grammar translates on 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 read your writings.
7. Practice Makes Perfect
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 and there's less 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. This brings us to the next element of delivering a eulogy. Read on.
8. Mind the Audience
I know it can be hard to look at some people in the eyes during a funeral or wake, particularly close family members and friends who were just as close to your departed loved one as you were. You can see the pain in their eyes, but it is important to establish eye contact with your audience. Making eye contact projects your presence and allows you to command their attention during this very important tribute to your loved one. 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 the people, "I'm here with you and I am here for you."
Now that you know the basics of writing a eulogy for your friend, 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 dearly departed friend. Write and deliver him/her a eulogy that they would be proud of. it is one of the best gifts you could ever give them.