Start by introducing yourself, even if most people in the audience know you.
Simply state your name and a few words to describe your relationship to the deceased. If you’re related to the deceased, describe how; if not, say a few words about how and when you met. It could be that the family have written the eulogy and you are reading it on their behalf, so you will need to state this at the beginning of the eulogy.
It’s important to remember that you are delivering the eulogy for the benefit of the family, friends and guests, so think about what they would like to hear. Also consider what the deceased would think of the tone of the eulogy. Focus on their family life, achievements, passions and the milestones in their life. If you want to include a chronological overview of their life, try to keep it to a short overview and don’t focus on events and when they happened.
Touch on a few key points, such as what their family life was like, what their career achievements were, and what hobbies and interests mattered the most to them.
If you feel comfortable, let the audience know how you feel, and that you share their sense of loss. This is a good time to share a memory. It is more effective if the guests are familiar with the memory, such as a quality of the deceased, a saying they used frequently, or an occasion like a birthday party.
Write down the names of the family members and close friends, as you may forget their names on the day if you are feeling overwhelmed by grief. Make sure you talk about some of the specifics of the deceased’s family life, as this would be very important to their family.
Use specific examples rather than reciting a list of qualities that the person possessed. It is the stories that bring out the person and that quality to life. If the deceased is remembered for being kind, talk about the time they helped someone less fortunate.
If the deceased was known for being a practical joker, mention one of their pranks. Make sure that any humour that you use is both tasteful and relevant. If in doubt, leave it out.
Emphasise the positive characteristics, but be honest. If the person was difficult, negative or experienced addictions, avoid talking about that or refer to it briefly, as in, “He/She had their demons, which were a constant battle.” However, it is not the time or place to say anything that would offend, shock, or confuse the audience.
Pretend that it will be strangers listening to your eulogy. Will they get a good sense of the person you’re describing without ever meeting them just from your words?
Remember to focus on the better times and the happy memories of their life, and not on their death. The final years may have been very sad and very hard for the family or carers, but you want your tribute to leave positive memories for the listeners. Towards the end of the eulogy, is an appropriate time to ask for guests to be supportive of the deceased’s family in the difficult days ahead.
The close of the eulogy should be memorable and it should feel natural to end at that point. You can talk about how the deceased lives on through children and grandchildren, or from a legacy they’ve left that will always be remembered. An inspirational poem, verse or quote can also be a moving close to the eulogy. Try to leave the guests with a sense of closure and reassurance.
Please see our downloadable checklist ‘Poems, Readings and Quotes’ for inspiration and suggestions.