Last Updated on August 17, 2021
I’m a professional writer with a eulogy writing business. In this article, I’m going to show you the exact process I use to write my eulogies.
The eulogy is a funeral speech that commemorates the life of a departed loved one. It’s an important feature in the funeral service, often the central event.
It is a high honor to be chosen to give the eulogy, and I’m glad you’re seeking advice on how to do it well.
Here is my guide on how to write a eulogy that is beautiful, brief, appropriate, and winsome.
How to Write a Eulogy
A eulogy is a speech given at a funeral that honors the life and memory of someone who has died. The eulogy chronicles their life, showcases their accomplishments and personality, and upholds the legacy they leave for family and friends to treasure and remember.
Although these funeral speeches are delivered in the context of death and burial, the tone doesn’t necessarily have to be serious or somber. Depending on the person, some eulogies are downright hilarious, some are joyful and celebratory, and others are reflective yet optimistic.
Let’s take a look at how to write a good eulogy.
Writing a Eulogy in 7 Steps
Step 1: Choose the Tone
Decide on the tone you want to express. Do you want your eulogy to be serious, religious, or even slightly humorous?
To help you decide, consider your audience and also the person who has died. For instance, the eulogy for a young child may be very different than that of an elderly person who have passed away under completely different circumstances.
Step 2: Introduce Yourself
Let’s get to the writing. First, introduce yourself. Of course you’ll want your audience to know who you are, how you know or are related to the deceased, a little about your relationship with the person. But keep it brief – it’s not about you.
Step 3: Provide a Biographical Sketch
Provide a brief but thorough biographical sketch of your loved one. This can include their date and place of birth, any family members and friends, where they grew up, graduated from, married, etc. It can also include their date of death. Remember our tips, though – don’t get bogged down with details!
Step 4: Add in Some Favorite Memories
Write about any favorite memories you have of your loved one. This is where you can get into a little more detail than in the biographical sketch. A good story or two can help provide the color and life to your eulogy.
Write about your loved one’s personality, how they met their significant other, any pastimes they may have had, their dreams, friendships, and accomplishments in life. You know, what made them who they were. These stories and memories will make up the bulk of your eulogy.
If you don’t have any suitable stories of your own, you can also collect any stories about your loved from family and friends. Anyone who created special memories with your loved one would no doubt like their stories represented in the eulogy.
Step 5: Organize Your Material
Now it’s time to consider the order of your writing. For many people, this is the hardest part of writing a quality eulogy. To keep it “sweet and simple,” simply put the stories and memories you’ve written down in chronological order. This will make it easier for your audience to follow.
If you have a lot of stories and memories, the best way to narrow it down is to choose a common theme.
Here’s an example. Perhaps you’ll realize that there are a lot of stories that show your loved one’s kindness. Developing this as the theme, choose one story of kindness that is funny, one that is tenderhearted or even sad, and one that is either well-known by everyone or completely unknown.
Step 6: Mix in Some Gratitude
Don’t forget to say your thank-you’s toward the end. Showing gratitude for everyone who came to the funeral is always a nice gesture.
Remember, too, to thank everyone who has offered support throughout the past several days, as well as the church, funeral home, hospice center, etc. Include anyone who has been taking care of your family or loved one (if appropriate).
Step 7: Closing & Goodbye
Finally, say goodbye to your loved one. This will mark the end of your eulogy. It may be the most emotional moment of your eulogy, so it will help to prepare for it by practicing saying it out loud.
If you have made it this far and are still feeling overwhelmed over the thought of writing your eulogy, stop right now and just tell yourself, I can do this! Confidence is key and once you believe you can do it, you are already halfway there.
But when life, being life, intersects with death, things can quickly get overwhelming. If you are sure that you can’t tackle your eulogy right now, bear in mind that help is available.
You can ask a trusted friend or family member to help you, or you can even hire me. It is what I do for a living, after all.
Tips for Writing a Beautiful Eulogy
Keep it short. Eulogies should be brief, poignant, and summarize the individual’s life without going into every detail. It should be approximately 1000 words and take around 6-8 minutes to deliver.
Be authentic, but focus on the positive. A good eulogy can admit the person’s faults but will typically emphasize their strengths. Be sure to mention your loved one’s major accomplishments (personal and vocational), spouse and children (if any), hobbies, passions, religion, and volunteer work.
Think of their best stories and attributes. Start with a favorite story or memory, and connect that to one of the person’s defining characteristics. Or, alternatively, do the reverse: think of their most important attributes and then think of memories or quotes which illustrate the attributes you want to highlight. This simple process will give you at least half of your material; from there, just find a good eulogy outline and begin filling it in.
Consider a theme. Use a central story, phrase, or quote as a motif. Remember, there’s no way you can fully sum up a person’s life in a short funeral speech. Highlight their best characteristics by using a story or phrase that captures several aspects of their life and personality.
Don’t get bogged down in details. Of course, you’ll want to briefly summarize the person’s family, accomplishments, and legacy. But avoid making the entire eulogy a list of people, places, and events. Focus on their personality and how they affected the lives of others.
Less is more. You’ll be surprised at how much you end up wanting to say. Remove unnecessary details and keep it to 1-2 short stories.
Write it out. Unless you’re an experience public speaker, don’t rely on notes or a bare outline. Write out each word you want to say.
Practice. Print out a completed copy of your speech before the funeral. Use a large and readable font with double spacing. Practice reading it aloud to make sure the sentences flow. Do this in front of a mirror or a family member, and time yourself from start to finish.
Slow down and speak clearly. You’ll be tempted to read the speech quickly. Practice speaking in a slow and clear voice, and be sure to enunciate your words properly. Right before it’s time to stand up and deliver your eulogy, take a few deep breaths. You’ve got this.
There is no set outline or traditional template for a eulogy. But as with all writing and public speaking, it is good to have an attention-grabbing opening, a solid middle section in three parts, and some concluding remarks.
This is the traditional three-point outline you learned in school, and it will serve you well in writing a eulogy.
- A good introduction can include a funny or engaging story, a meaningful quote, or something that illustrates their personality
- Use the introduction to establish a motif (a theme that you can come back to throughout the eulogy)
- Mention your relationship to the deceased and thank everyone for coming on behalf of the family
- Aim for one to two minutes
Part One: Life Details
- Keep this section brief; one minute at most
- Include just the highlights; some but not all of: Place of birth, family lineage, education, work, marriage, children, hobbies, religion, community involvement, awards, accomplishments, places lived, travel
- Don’t include everything; this will make your speech dry and boring
Part Two: Memories
- Share a memory or two that allows one or more characteristics of the person to shine; something that will resonate with anyone who knew them
- Allow a good two minutes or so to properly share some memories
- Aim for 2 or 3 stories
Part Three: Legacy
- Connect the theme you’ve developed in the stories, memories, and introduction
- This is what you want to highlight as their legacy
- Instead of saying, “She was loving, caring, and kind,” show how she was loving, caring and kind
- This doesn’t need to be long; one minute is perfectly fine
- As with the introduction, it is good to close with a story, quote, or illustration
- Your closing remarks can be between ten seconds to a minute; just a few brief sentences to wrap things up
- Consider saying “goodbye” to your loved one
- End by simply saying “Thank you”
Here is a free downloadable fill-in-the-blank eulogy template along with a more detailed outline to help you shape your speech.
Eulogy Quotes & Poems
Here are five beautiful and meaningful eulogy poems. You can use these in your funeral speech, or find many more in our collection of 101 Funeral Poems.
Farewell to Thee! But not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of Thee;
Within my heart they still shall dwell
And they shall cheer and comfort me.
Life seems more sweet that Thou didst live
And men more true Thou wert one;
Nothing is lost that Thou didst give,
Nothing destroyed that Thou hast done.
– Anne Bronte
If only we could see the splendour of the land
To which our loved ones are called from you and me
If only we could hear the welcome they receive
From old familiar voices all so dear
We would not grieve
If only we could know the reason why they went
We’d smile and wipe away the tears that flow
And wait content.
May the roads rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land:
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
– Christina Rossetti
TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON
To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
Find more funeral and eulogy poems here.
A memorable eulogy will often center around a good quote. Here are five of our favorites.
- Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. – Dr. Suess
- What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us. – Helen Keller
- If winter comes, can spring be far behind? – Percy Bysshe Shelley
- There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein
- We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give. – Winston Churchill
More quotes and inspiration:
- 20 Funeral Quotes for a Loved One’s Eulogy
- 33 Inspiring Life Celebration Quotes
- 10 Biblical Prayers for a Christian Funeral Service
- Missing You: 22 Honest Quotes About Grief
There are many eulogy examples available on the web. I think you’ll find the best inspiration on writing a eulogy by looking at a few general examples and then also reading a few famous and timeless eulogy examples.
- Lydia: Eulogy example for mother
- Edwin: Eulogy example for father
- Laura: Eulogy example for grandmother
- McKayla: Eulogy example for cousin
I’ve included some of my own sample eulogies at the links above. Read them to see how I practice these tips. Here are some more examples I’ve written, and next you’ll see some famous eulogies you can read for inspiration.
- President Reagan’s Eulogy for the Challenger 7 crew
- Oprah Winfrey’s Eulogy for Rosa Parks
- Bob Costas’ Eulogy for Stan Musial
- In Memory of Y.B. Yeats by W.H. Auden (poem)
Who should deliver the eulogy?
Anyone can deliver a eulogy. It is ideal to choose someone who was personally close to the decedent. Often eulogies are given by family members or friends. This can be a spouse, parent, child, sibling, close cousin or other relative, a pastor, or a good friend.
For some close relatives (spouses, parents, or children) the pain is very raw and they may have difficulty composing or delivering a eulogy. It is perfectly acceptable for the closest family members to ask someone else to give the eulogy.
If you are asked to deliver a eulogy, you should be honored. It is a sign of your close relationship with the deceased and the high regard in which you are held by the family.
Can there be more than one eulogy?
Yes. Often there are two eulogies given, one by a family member and another by a friend. This gives two different perspectives on the deceased’s life and can greatly enhance the funeral service.
One eulogy is very common. You can do three or more eulogies, but if so it is imperative that the speakers be brief; three to four minutes minutes maximum.
How long should a eulogy be?
A good length for a eulogy is about six to eight minutes, but no more than ten.
If there are two or more eulogies, try to keep each one at five minutes or less. Or choose one to be the longer “main” eulogy at 5-7 minutes and the others no more than three minutes. Ultimately, it’s up to you, but these are good guidelines to ensure that the audience remains engaged.
How long should a eulogy be in words?
The written eulogy should be about 1000 words. A good range to aim for is 500-1200 words. Do not go over 1200 words; if you go that high, make sure you read it at a good clip otherwise you are in danger of going over 10 minutes.
What should I not include in the eulogy?
Don’t include every detail. Many eulogies do mention important personal details such as family, vocation, and special accomplishments. But you don’t have to, as most people attending the funeral will be aware of these.
Don’t embarrass or disparage them. The funeral is not the time to bring out sordid details. Even if they were a difficult person, emphasize the good things in their life.
Is it ok to share a funny story in the eulogy?
Humor is entirely appropriate. Stay away from awkward or embarrassing moments, off-color jokes, and foul language. There will be a wide variety of people in attendance and you do not want to needlessly offend.
Aside from that, keep in mind that life is funny. People are funny. Funerals are mostly serious, so a few appropriately humorous stories and anecdotes can help tremendously to lighten the mood.
Can I sing a song during the eulogy?
Certainly, but first clear it with the officiant, the family, and whoever is arranging the funeral.
How do I deliver a eulogy without crying?
It’s perfectly fine to cry during the eulogy. No one will think the worse of you for it, and if you realize it’s acceptable to get emotional then you’re actually less likely to do so.
Still, we have some great tips for you on how to avoid crying during the eulogy speech.