How to write a eulogy from the heart

Funeral Planning
A woman sits in a park thoughtfully writing in a notebook.

One of the most inspiring and memorable parts of a funeral is the eulogy or the funeral speech. Eulogy, a speech or a writing that praises a person who has died, comes from the Greek word eulogia, which means “blessing” or “praise.”

If you’re tasked with writing and delivering a eulogy, it’s understandable to feel nervous and anxious. After all, you want to make it as perfect as possible, since you're honoring someone you love who has died. The pressure to do well might be even more intense if you’re the type who’s uncomfortable talking in front of a crowd.

There are two keys to fulfilling your task of successfully delivering a eulogy: prepare a well-written eulogy and practice delivering it. As for the anxiety, you just need to remind yourself that it’s not you in the spotlight, but the person who has died.

That means you don’t have to worry about failing — minor mistakes aren’t really viewed as failures when delivering eulogies. Don’t be scared to show emotions, either, as it's perfectly natural to get emotional when talking about a loved one who has died.

With all that in mind, where should you begin with writing the eulogy? And how can you make sure it gives your loved one their due? These tips should help.

6 Tips to writing a great eulogy

1. Start with a structure

Prepare an outline before writing your eulogy. An outline typically includes an introduction, the main body, supporting details of the story, and a conclusion.

You can just make a few notes for each of these points — we're not drafting the whole thing here — but beginning with a structure can help you to easily see gaps in the narrative, and identify points you want to fact-check with others. And don't forget to start the eulogy by introducing who you are and your relationship to the subject.

2. Pick a theme

The theme will dictate the tone of your eulogy. A eulogy doesn’t always have to be emotional and heavy. It can be light-hearted or even humorous as you recount funny memories of your loved one, especially if the subject is known for their sense of humor. Or, it could be inspiring if you share stories of how the person overcame particular challenges in life.

So take time to decide if your story will be humorous, creative (such as reading a poem or singing a song about the person), religious (saying a prayer or putting your story in a spiritual context), inspiring, biographical or perhaps a combination of these themes.

3. List the things that you admire about the person

What qualities do you value in the person who has died? Make a list of things that you admire about them and beside each quality, make note of events and memories that support your description of them.

For example, if you say that the person was exceptionally kind and generous, mention a couple of events in their life where they demonstrated these qualities. If she was a doctor, it could be the time when she gave free treatments to the homeless anonymously. If she was your sister, it could be an event where she supported you financially and emotionally without expecting anything but your own comfort and happiness in return.

4. Recall personal memories that trigger positive emotions like joy and gratitude

This is a chance for everyone in your loved one's life to get to know them better and be inspired by the life they lived.

Your unique relationship with them will mean that you have special stories about your loved one that others may not know, but which can add meaning to your eulogy. Just remember to stick to the positive and leave out details that might be embarrassing for the deceased or their relatives.

5. Practice your speech

The two reasons why you need to practice your funeral speech — in front of a mirror first, then in front of a trusted friend or family member — is to make sure you’re comfortable with the words you wrote and that the length of your speech is right for the service. Don't neglect to delete words that you tend to get mixed up or those that are hard to pronounce as you practise.

6. Review and edit

Review and edit your eulogy until you are satisfied with the outcome. There are free tools online that can help you refine and make your content better by removing or reworking hard-to-read sentences or complex words, such as the Hemingway App.

With these six tips, you should be able to create a eulogy that really does speak from your heart. You can be sure it will be memorable for all those who attend the service.