How do I write a Eulogy? and Funeral Etiquette


How do I write a Eulogy?



Eulogies- the delivery of speeches, tributed and prepared as an homage to those that have passed away.  To eulogise a loving family member can be difficult, daunting and traumatic, for some to consider- especially when passings are unexpected and sudden.  The word eulogy has connections to the Greek word elegiac; referring to someone or something that has died, passed away.  Furthermore, referring to something in the past, expressions of sorrow or lament.

In preparation to writing a eulogy- the process itself can be overwhelming.  Considering the writer is possibly a family member- and grieving, whist abiding to tight time restraints to get the job done, of writing the eulogy.  So much needs to be considered, yet the notice the writer is given in most cases in short.  Hence the pressure to ensure a beautiful, fitting and well deserved eulogy be delivered at the funeral.  But where do you start?

We’ve put together 6 simple steps in writing and delivering a eulogy.  Six simple, effective steps that will result in the delivery of a beautiful eulogy before family and friends.  There is no particular order regarding writing the eulogy, in fact; there is no right or wrong.  A beautiful eulogy can come straight from the heart- spontaneously, or be delivered as a structured, perfectly written speech.  It doesn’t matter.  Consider the following elements; choose which you would like to be included.  Your delivery is destined to be remembered for a very long time…

  1. Concepts and Ideas

First, consider writing down or thinking about the concepts and ideas about your eulogy.  How will it be delivered?  In what style and fashion will it be written?  Was the person from the corporate sector, perhaps a judge, or maybe they were a thrill seeking, free spirited individual that lived peacefully on their own?  What words do you feel are fitting and appropriate for the individual?  Were they comical?  Serious?  Did they make you laugh all the time?  There are endless possibilities regarding your ideas and style.

Consider also interviewing family members.  For example- interview the widow, who has asked you to deliver the eulogy of her beloved husband.  Consider the many aspects you could write about.  For example; the couple was married for 70 years, they had 6 children, 12 grandchildren, 8 great great grandchildren and 4 great, great, great grandchildren.  The couple were champion ballroom dancers and won 2 global championships…   

  1. Introduction

Every eulogy should have an Introduction and warm welcome to all family members and friends that have gathered at the funeral.  Will you include a Welcome to Country or an Acknowledgement of Country?  Check to see if you must include this- and if not compulsory, if it is chosen to be part of the eulogy.  Clearly introduce yourself as the speaker, and that you will be delivering the eulogy.  You can mention the relationship you had with the deceased, welcome the family and friends to the deceased’s funeral and acknowledge the immediate family of their loved one.  You may also express your honour to have written and delivered the eulogy, and perhaps express your deepest sympathy and condolences to the immediate family as well.

  1. Biography

The Biography would have to be one of the most important parts of the eulogy.  This is the part that specifically talks about your loved one’s life.  Their birth place and date of birth, their adolescence, their parents, family- growing up etc.  School years, career and professional accomplishments and affiliations, marriage, children, personal goals and memorable stories etc.  The sky is the limit here.  This part can include whatever you wish specific to the memory and homage of the life of your loved one.

  1. Farewell and Conclusion

The Farewell and Conclusion allows the writer to express words of closure regarding the passing of the loved one.  Here, a simple and beautiful poem or quote can be included, or words of peace and solace may be extended to the family to forever cherish the memory of their loved one.  Again, here you may be as explicit as you wish- or keep it short and simple.

  1. Proof Read Proof Read Proof Read!

Proof read, edit, fine tune until you are completely satisfied with the end result.

  1. Practice, read aloud…

And finally, once written and proof read- practice reading your eulogy aloud.  Become familiar with the information.  Ensure you look up and make eye contact with the gathered family and friends.  Read comfortably, not too fast, not too slow- breath, smile and relax.  Enjoy the experience.  Be honoured that you are honouring the extraordinary life of a loved one, whose memory will be eternal.  Be proud that your words will be warm and humbling, comforting, appreciated and remembered equally for a very long time.

How long should a eulogy be?  There is no time restraint, however a minimum of 5-10 minutes is ideal.  Keep in mind though that it should not drag on and on.  Consider there is a burial scheduled and a possible wake where catering could spoil if your eulogy runs for an hour.  Therefore, anywhere from 5-15 minutes is an ideal time frame for a eulogy.  Also multiple speakers are ok- to share the honour regarding reading the eulogy if more than one person has been asked to deliver.

In closing- preparing for a eulogy should not be daunting.  Rather an educational time, and memorable experience putting all the information attained together.  Remember practice makes perfect, ask as many questions as you need, breath; and deliver a eulogy that will be remembered forever…

 Funeral Etiquette

 “I’m going to a funeral- What do I wear?  What do I do?  What is expected of me?  Help! 

 We should never assume that everybody we know has been to a funeral.  Rather, there are people, many of whom we know- that have probably never been on a flight before, nor have they flown overseas, or even attended a wedding.  Therefore we cannot assume that everybody knows what is expected of them, when it comes to attending a funeral; yet alone dressing appropriately for one.  We hope the following information allows individuals attending a funeral for the first time- to feel less daunted, rest assured that there is a first time for everything.  As always, if in doubt, ask.  Ask as many questions you require to ensure that you are comfortable, and feel at ease when attending a funeral for the very first time.

This beautiful country of ours is so diverse, multicultural and colourful.  There are no two funerals alike considering there are religious elements to consider, churches, cultural traditions, non-traditional funerals, such as memorial services and farewell services, etc. etc.  The key question for many is- what do I wear?

Funeral services have significantly changed in Australia over the past decade.  Once a funeral was considered to be a mournful and sombre occasion, whilst today it is common to have a celebration of life- as opposed to a sad funeral, where at the celebration of life- the farewell is more of a happy party.  However we cannot make assumptions that all funerals are sad occasions.  You can still have a beautiful funeral, for example that of a 105 year old grandfather who lived a wonderful and fulfilling life.  A funeral, fit with beautiful flowers and the attendance of generations of the family on end.  This funeral wouldn’t necessarily be a sombre and sad occasion, but indeed a deserving celebration of life, of the extraordinary man that he was.  There are though distressing, very sad passings- that would not be celebrated at all.  Hence common sense prevails.

Again, if in doubt ask.  Different cultures have different and many requirements and expectations when attending funerals.  For example, it is customary at Greek funerals to wear dark coloured clothing- preferably black- as a sign of mourning.  Traditionally a widow would not wear a bright red and yellow 2 piece suit to her husband’s funeral.  Unless, the word here; unless- that it was a request from the husband to do so, or instructions from the family to wear bright, happy colorful attire.  Again, if in doubt- ask the questions- what do I wear?  What is expected of me?

To be safe though, always wear conservative, neat and tidy attire.  Wear darker clothing, just to be safe, and do not bear too much flesh.  Ensure you wear comfortable shoes.  You may be standing for the duration of the service.  The church may possibly have no seats.  You may be in the condolence line for over an hour, yet alone stand at the cemetery for a long period of time also.  When you arrive, at the funeral service- if unsure, it’s ok- ask the funeral conductor present any questions or concerns you may have.  Where may I sit?  May I enter?  It’s important you feel comfortable at the funeral rather than uncomfortable and awkward.

In most cases you have a couple of days or so, to consider a funeral- regarding preparation for it.  Plan ahead, regarding location of the church or venue, including car parks and walking distances.  Take the time to appear neat and tidy; your expression of honouring the deceased, and showing consideration for your family and/or friends in mourning, will be evident.  When preparing to dress for a funeral you might like to consider getting your hair trimmed and taking some time to polish your shoes. These efforts with personal grooming and presentation will clearly deliver your respect you hold for the occasion.  Furthermore consider an umbrella or rain coat in case it rains.  A small bottle of water in case you get thirsty and fresh breath mints.

In closing, attending a funeral- especially for the first time- should not be an overwhelming or frightening one.  Common sense prevails, preparation is key- as is the effort to ask for information you may need to ensure your attendance is comfortable, and that you’re aware of what to expect.


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