Writing Funeral Speeches
Saying the right thing
The prospect of writing eulogies as a memorial can be intimidating. You're going through a difficult time of loss, and perhaps you've never written anything before or you have very little experience writing. But don't worry - while you're working through your writing you'll naturally find your voice. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- First of all, relax. Let your mind wander over the experiences you had with the deceased. Think of good times. Are there any themes that emerge to guide your writing? What were some of the best, most consistent qualities of the deceased?
- Brainstorm. You may want to begin writing down ideas right away, like a list of anecdotes (e.g. 'the time we went to Niagara Falls, all the disasters and he never lost his temper once'), a list of the deceased's favorite hobbies and activities or a list of standout personality traits. You might create a eulogy outline so that you're sure to include everything you want to talk about.
- Write for yourself, without worrying about what other people want to include. There's a reason that you've been asked or decided to write a eulogy. This is part of your grieving process and your way to celebrate the life that has been lost. Use this as an opportunity rather than a burden.
- Creative license is allowed. You don't have to write a professional speech, but instead include the deceased's favorite scripture verses, song lyrics, poems and expressions, or even original writing by the deceased. This will add a more personal dimension to the eulogy, and it will also take some of the writing burden from you.
- Write a draft. Let the ideas and words flow. Don't let yourself be interrupted - don't answer the phone (it would be good to disconnect it), don't get up from your desk, don't worry that it's past your usual bedtime, etc. In the case of some eulogies, this first draft may be exactly what you want, because it's a memorial coming directly from the heart.
Working Through the Process
Writing is a time consuming exercise and you might want to think of it as a process. You can prepare yourself with the following, if things aren't going well:
- Set it aside for a day or half a day. Think about other things or talk to others who were close to the deceased and ask their advice.
- Go back and make revisions. You may want to consider the time, keeping your eulogy less than ten minutes. This may discipline you into choosing only anecdotes that are appropriate for the funeral.
Delivering the Eulogy
A well-prepared eulogy will go a long way to easing your stress when it is time to deliver. Bring some notes with you to make sure you get a chance to mention everything you wanted to say. Talking about things you know best will also be a great help to you. Relax and recognize that people are there for a funeral, to listen to memorials that honor the deceased. No one is going to judge your ability to speak in public if you're delivering a eulogy in memorial of a loved one.