How to write a Eulogy

Dec 29, 2023 | Funerals

Let’s get started!

Before you start thinking, writing or reading, please take a moment to quietly reflect on your loved one and how much they meant to you. With your eyes closed, take a deep breath, let your mind wander to your favouite memory or time spent with them. Allow yourself to smile at the memory. Allow yourself a moment to breath.

Some people find it cathartic to write a personal letter to their loved one first before attempting to write a eulogy. It is like having your last conversation with them, letting them know how much you miss them, how much your life is going to change now and how you are going to try to do them proud by writing and delivering a eulogy for them. It can often settle the mind and heart allowing you to approach the eulogy from a place of love rather than fear.

When you are ready, read through the checklist first. It will give you topic prompts that may not have instantly come to mind.

Are there any topics on the list that you think you may want to include? If so, tick the box beside the topic name.

Are there any topics on the list that you want to include but will need to speak to other family members or friends to gain more information? If so, tick the box beside the topic name then write the name of the person you need to speak to in the free space. If you are not able to gain any further information you can either put a line through the topic on the checklist to exclude it from the eulogy or you can decide to mention it briefly in the eulogy. Something like “I remember dad telling me he once drove a formula one car around the track in Bathurst, that must have been quite an adventure for a young man”.

Are there any topics on the list that you definitely want to leave out? If so, draw a line through the topic and tick box.

Think about the times you spent with your loved one, think about the stories they shared with you. Think about the things that they did on a regular basis. Think about the people they welcomed into their life. Think about the way that they lived. Think about what was important to them and what was important to you about them? You may wish to double tick or highlight the topics that you feel are most important to include.

Set the scene!

Before you think about trying to write the eulogy, it is a good idea to set the scene to create a sacred space that will allow memories, thoughts and words to flow with love and peace.

Do not try to write a eulogy while you are cooking the dinner, supervising homework hour or in a room filled with people who all have a good idea for you. It simply will not work.

Find a time in the day that you are free. Find a place where you feel comfortable and will not be constantly disturbed. Find your zone.

Gather your notes, your letter to your loved one, your checklist together so that you have all the information you need in the one place. You may wish have your favourite photo with you. You may want to light a candle or play some soft music or just be in silence. How you set the scene is entirely up to you, if it works for you, it is right.

Writing the eulogy!

Read back over your notes and just start writing, it doesn’t have to be in order just yet it just has to be the words you want to say. Think about your relationship with your loved one and write it as if you were telling your best friend, who has never met them, all about them.

  • Were they a funny person who made everyone laugh? Consider including a few funny stories in the eulogy, this will allow you breathing space and break any tension that may be in the room.
  • Were they a serious person who had to do things by the book? Consider keeping the eulogy factual, an account of their life. There may be facts that other people in the room were not aware of, and it is nice for them to come away knowing just a little bit more about the person they cared for.
  • Were they an avid reader? Consider including a short passage from a book or a quote from their favourite author.
  • By knowing in advance the tone that you want to use throughout the eulogy, your words will flow a little freer because you will not be second guessing how it should be written.

You do not have to thank everyone for coming, the funeral celebrant will have already done that in the welcome. You can give a special mention to special people if you like.

Start with the topics you have noted as being important. An example of a humourous eulogy opening statement could be “For those of you who don’t know me, I am Jack, son of Frederick or Fred, or Jacko or just plain old dad as I liked to call him. Dad was a born larrikin, he always said it wasn’t his fault that he was a cheeky bugger always up to some mischief or other. He reckoned that it was a bit like his red hair… all his mum and dad’s fault. See, dad was the second youngest of 10 children (most of whom have passed away sadly) and he had no choice but to develop a sneaky cheeky nature so that he was not lost amongst the bedlam of his early family life”.

As you can see from the example above, in just a few short lines you have:

  • Introduced yourself
  • Introduced your loved one
  • Introduced his early life
  • Introduced his character
  • And set the tone for the eulogy

Continue to write as if it were a conversation, try to hear it in your head as you write or read it out loud to yourself as you go. Does it sound the way you hoped? Does it cover the topics you want to cover? Does it follow a logical timeline of your loved one’s life?

When it is written, look back over the checklist to see if you have missed anything. Tick off each topic to ensure you have included everything you wanted. When you are happy with the content, read it out loud to yourself and check the timing. A good rule of thumb is around 5 minutes (I know that doesn’t sound like a long time, but believe me when I tell you, you can say a lot of words in 5 minutes).

Well done, you are now ready to type it up. It is always better to type it up to read on the day because handwriting can be unforgiving when you are trying to read it out loud to a room full of sad faces while you yourself are fighting back the tears long enough to get through the reading. If you are not able to type it up yourself, ask a family member or friend or even your funeral celebrant to type it up for you. Remember, they are all here to help you in any way they can.

It is a good idea to provide your funeral celebrant with a copy of the eulogy to ensure there is no double up of information on the day. It is your story about your loved one and it is best told by you in your words, your way. The funeral celebrant will simply weave the rest of the service around the eulogy.

Well Done!

Don’t forget to breath, you are embarking on a beautiful gift for your loved one, the gift of memories, the gift of family, the gift of love.

Writing a eulogy checklist

Date & place of birth   Music  
Nationality / cultural influences   Concerts  
Son/daughter of   Live theatre/ballet  
Brother/sister to   Skilled with hands  
Where they lived   Building things  
Other   Knitting / Sewing / Crochet  
Special interests   Other  
Interests when young   INTERESTS    
Educated at   Travel  
Military service with   Holidays  
Employed at   Walking  
Promoted to   Cars  
Relocations   Bikes  
Retirement   Gardening  
Other   Reading  
GOALS     Other  
Achievements   RELATIONSIPS    
Future plans   Family & extended family  
Other   Friendships  
PERSONALITY     Close friends  
Happy & cheerful   Marriage / Partner  
Determined   How they met  
Sense of humour   Courtship  
Outgoing & generous   When & where they married  
Loving & caring   When & where children born  
Thoughtful   Groups  
Quiet & reserved   Clubs  
Family oriented   Animal & pets  
Independent   Other  
Friendly & popular   SURVIVED BY    
Other   Husband  
HEALTH     Wife  
Good health / fitness   Children & spouses  
Poor health / illness   Grand & great grand children  
Other   Parents  
HOBBIES     Brothers & sisters  
Cricket / golf / bowls   Nieces & nephews  
Horse racing   TRIBUTES    
Fishing   Special friends  
Chess   People who helped  
Dancing   Work colleagues