delivering a eulogy at a funeral

Writing a Eulogy: Flow, Sample & Guidelines

19. That’s how old I was when I was asked to deliver my first eulogy. It was for my grandfather who passed away due to old age. Since then, I have seen and given quite a few eulogies.

As a speaker, many people have asked me what would be the best way to deliver a eulogy. But I am often of little help here. The tips of delivering a eulogy are quite different from a public speech.

However, there are some guidelines on how to start and write a eulogy to help you frame your eulogy a little more authentically while offering some standard dos and don’ts.

Just remember, these are simply suggestions. The important thing to keep in mind is to speak from the heart out of respect for whoever it has passed. As long as your eulogy is authentic, you would have done well.

So, let’s get started…

What is a eulogy?

I’m assuming you’re reading this because you have been asked to deliver a eulogy. But some of you might be here to simply understand what the heck a eulogy is. Let me explain that shortly.

A eulogy is a piece of writing or speech which is (usually) a tribute to someone who has recently passed away. They are usually delivered at funerals.

How to pronounce eulogy?

It’s not hard. But I have some people asking me this.

So, say it with me: yoo-luh-jee.

Eulogy.

What to Keep in Mind When Writing a Eulogy?

Share a personal story

Sharing a personal story in a eulogy.

A eulogy is, for obvious reasons, a very personal speech. So it’s probably a good idea to add a personal story you of an incident have shared with the deceased.

A story within a eulogy can be anything as long as it’s genuine, of course. Usually, people include a cherished memory that they have shared with the loved one.

What the story entails depends on your personal experience. You can maybe talk about something that happened on a trip or a get-together. Don’t be afraid to include some delicate humor here as well (more on this later)!

One great way to add a personal story into your eulogy is to share some advice or learning that the deceased has passed on to you.

This keeps the story positive, personal and shows the impact that person had on you.

Keep it focused on the deceased, not yourself

This happens rarely, but it still does happen. Some eulogy speakers end up talking for long mainly about themselves, forgetting that the whole point of the eulogy is to celebrate the one who has passed.

So try and keep the talk centered around the deceased.

Speaking of long talks, a eulogy should ideally be short and concise.

How long should a eulogy be?

In most cases, a eulogy of about 2 to 5 minutes would do. It can even go up to 10 minutes but try and not exceed that time limit.

A 5 minutes long eulogy will be approximately around 1000 words whereas a 10 minutes long one will be 15000 words, if spoken at a medium pace with appropriate pausing. It should be kept in mind to not rush through a eulogy.

To learn more about how to give a speech with appropriate pauses, check out our article on How to Harness the Power of Pausing in Public Speaking

While people may have a lot to say about the person who has passed away, one should still try and keep it short. Here’s why…

It’s not that people do not want to listen to you speak. You are most likely asked to deliver the eulogy because you’re close to the late person. But think about it this way:

The audience most likely comprises of 2 types of people, one who were genuinely close to the deceased and the other who have come more so to pay their tribute out of a formality.

Both these audiences could benefit from a shorter speech. One is still mourning and the other is not that close to be interested for too long. It’s a hard truth. But even a eulogy, at its core, is a speech. And long speeches are rarely a good idea in such contexts.

Rather keep your speech short to get your point across while you can still hold the audience’s attention.

Read our extensively written article on How to Deliver a 1 Minute Speech: Tips, Examples, Topics & More to know more about how to keep your speeches short.

Try and rehearse

A eulogy is an emotional matter. I myself broke down while delivering a eulogy for a close relative. And I’ve seen many people go through the same, unfortunately.

Our emotions take over and we just can’t help but choke up.

To help reduce these chances, try and rehearse your speech before you deliver it in front of people. Saying it out loud a few times can help normalize the words a little more and reduce the chances of choking up while saying those words.

Definitely do not go to speak without writing down some pointers. Even after rehearsing, there’s a chance of breaking down while delivering the eulogy because the mood of the funeral can sometimes take over us.

Having a small sheet with some pointers on it will help you gather your train of thought in case you lose track.

Learn more about how to practice a speech by reading our article on Surprisingly Simple But Effective Processes to Practicing for a Speech.

Include other close friends and family members in the speech

A good way to make a eulogy more inclusive is to add in stories about the deceased’s other friends and family members who are in the crowd.

This also helps the other close ones honor their relation with the deceased publicly and can offer a somewhat sublime cathartic experience.

One eulogy I had heard from a grandson about his late grandfather included a personal story from a trip the entire family had taken a few years before the passing. The story included bits and anecdotes of how the grandfather used to play pranks and cutely annoy different members of the family.

Everyone in the audience was tearing up with a joyful smile. A lot of the relatives could recall these instances because they were present at that trip. It also allowed them to remember their loved one in a positive light – even if it was just for a moment.

Should humor be used in a eulogy?

Humor, as I mentioned before, is not a bad thing in a eulogy. Of course, one must understand the situation they are in.

For example, you shouldn’t make humorous comments in the case of an untimely death of a child. That’s would be considered inappropriate to say the least.

But for people who have passed away from natural causes, whose deaths were expected in some way, a little humor for their eulogies can go a long way in easing the mood.

This one time, I was attending my friend’s father’s funeral. And I remember how gloomy the mood was (as it is in most funerals). Towards the end of the ceremony, there was a moment where all of us friends (including he who had lost his father) happened to cluster in one tiny circle.

One of my friends reminded us of something mildly funny that this deceased father had done a few years ago. And then, in a moment out of utter reverence and aloofness, all of us just burst out laughing. And, just for a second, all of us forgot the reality of the tragedy.

This is not a eulogy example, I know. But it’s just to give you some perspective on the powerful effects of humor even in dark situations.

Laughing has an amazing therapeutic and cathartic power.

Humor…can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.

Dr. Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

The Flow of a Eulogy

Flow of the eulogy

Start with greetings

‘How to start a eulogy?’ is the most commonly asked question. Starting a eulogy with a simple greeting could be a good option. Usually, I never recommend people to start speeches with a normal “Good Morning”, “Thank You”, etc.

But for a eulogy, you don’t really need an extravagant start.

You can simply start by thanking everyone for being there.

Introducing yourself

After starting the eulogy with a greeting, next, introduce yourself. Everyone present in the funeral might not know who you are.

So start by saying your name and how you’re related to the deceased. Nothing fancy to add here, as well. Just keep it simple.

Introduce the deceased

After introducing yourself, also introduce the deceased. Of course, most, if not all, people present there will be familiar with who the deceased is. But just a short intro about who they are could help.

For example, “We’re here today to pay our respects to John Brown – a husband, a father of two and a dear friend. John worked in hospitality in his early years, slowly progressing the ranks until one day, years later, he owned his own restaurant. That restaurant is where the entire legacy of our family begins and stands to this day….”

And then you move on. This gives some context of who John is, who were his loved ones and what he did while his time on earth.

Share a personal story

Now that you have greeted everyone, introduced yourself and spoken a little about the deceased, narrate a small personal story that you share with the deceased.

I already covered this earlier so I’ll spare you the details. But essentially, a small genuine story can go a long way in communicating what that person truly meant to you and what place they hold in your heat.

Mention the good deeds

My grandfather was a kind man. I know that because he did a lot of good for people who had lesser than him. Not just in money but through his time and emotional effort as well.

But he rarely ever spoke about it and very few people outside the family knew about his deeds.

When he passed, I was asked to deliver the eulogy and I told myself I would definitely talk about all those random acts of kindness that he committed.

Some people do not like to talk about their good deeds. They keep it to themselves. So, if you’re given the chance to talk about them, do it. They don’t anymore and the world usually deserves to know.

End with the legacy that the deceased wish to leave behind

Finally, begin to end your eulogy with the legacy that the deceased had in mind for their family, their work, and their world.

If the person was old, this might be easier to decipher. However, if the person was young and the death was untimely, it can be hard to put forth what legacy they would wish to leave behind.

At such moments, go back to their stories, their values. Speak to people closest to them and understand what they considered to be most important to them.

This changes with different instances, of course. For my grandfather, I spoke about his legacy of a world where everyone becomes a giver a like him. For my uncle, I spoke about how family should always come first no matter how much success you may achieve. For my cousin, I spoke about how short life can be and how we must seize every day, just like she did.

Figure out what matters most to the deceased. And leave behind their legacy for them. 

This is why a eulogy is so much more than just any other speech. It’s so personal.

Always conclude on a positive note

Finally, end by telling the audience how the deceased themselves would have wanted to be remembered after death. Would they like you to mourn? Or would they like you to celebrate and move on to achieve our purpose in life, knowing full well that they will always be with us in spirit.

Things to not say in a eulogy

1. Don’t list out events

It should be kept in mind that while giving a eulogy you are not supposed to list out the events of the deceased, as it is not a CV. 

It is very easy to fall into the trap of listing the person’s events in a chronological manner while writing a eulogy but make sure to be aware of this. The focus should rather be on telling the stories.

2. Don’t bad-mouth the deceased

The deceased may not be related to you but while giving a eulogy, you are not supposed to judge their behaviour or criticize any negative traits of the deceased. Any long-term grudges or questionable behaviour must be left out of the speech. 

A eulogy is no place to mock the deceased. Although humor is always welcomed it has to be respectful.

3. Makes jokes about death

Making jokes about death in a eulogy may put you in an uncomfortable position. Although you may be trying to lighten the mood, jokes about death are highly inappropriate and should be avoided at all costs.

Eulogy Sample Speeches

Sample Eulogy 1: From a grandson to his grandfather

Thank you for being gathered here to pay your respects. I’m Joe and Mr. Al here was my grandfather. Pa grew up in a home not so privileged as the one he left behind. As a child, he was offered little education, minimum wage and enough food to keep his stomach from being empty.

Pa was a quiet man as well. Even in his youth, based on the stories I’ve heard, he was always the last to speak. That doesn’t mean to say he didn’t have things to say, ideas to offer or opinions to share. He just preferred acting on them instead of talking about them – a lesson a lot of people in my generation, including me, can learn from.

And in his quietness, he worked – slowly slowly transforming the world around him. Having his humble beginnings from a small village to creating a business that not only served his future family extremely well but also changed the way the industry functioned. Money, recognition, a great family – it all came to him eventually.

Despite his quietness, he most enjoyed talking to us kids. I remember one day, back when I was 12, he had called all of us kids over to his home. No one was allowed to be on their phone or play video games.

We just had to sit there and listen to him talk for hours telling us stories about his extraordinary life. And we would just listen. Those nights were something to remember.

We were just speaking about those nights a couple of hours back when my brother said, “It just sucks that we couldn’t have more nights like those.”

The most memorable of his stories ended with a moral that I try to live by ever since. He said, “Don’t judge your accomplishments by the money you earn, but the lives you positively impact.”

And he impacted a LOT of lives in the most positive ways you can imagine.

But in all of these accomplishments, he never lost his routes. He still went on, humble as ever, feeling like he could do more to help his world. A lot of you may not know this, but most of his wealth was given away by him. He rarely ever donated to charities though. He would always like to oversee the charitable operation so he would often just end up doing the actual work himself. This way he made sure that every penny was being used for the betterment of somebody.

And this attitude of quietness, humility and giving is something he would have hoped to imbibe in us all. And that’s what I hope to be as I grow a little more each day. A little quieter, a little humbler, a little more giving.

And I hope you do too. God bless you, Pa.

Thank you.

Sample Eulogy 2: From a son to his father

Hi everyone, I am James, Colin’s son. First of all, I would like to thank everyone for coming to honor my dad. My father was a funny man. He liked playing pranks on people and loved it even more when people played it on him. He always used to be the heart of any party or gathering, making people laugh with his silly bits and funny jokes. 

In my summer break, when I used to come home, my dad and I had this secret tradition of playing pranks on each other and recording them. While growing up, this used to be something that I would look forward to. It was moments like these that really brought us close.

One such prank that I remember very vividly was when Dad’s friend – Uncle Ryan was invited by Dad for dinner at a restaurant on the 1st of April. I still remember Uncle Ryan calling Dad to ask if he’d left and realising later that it was a prank. These memories still manage to bring a smile on my face. 

One of the most important lessons that I learnt from my dad was the ability to laugh at oneself and one’s mistakes. Laughing at oneself is the hardest humor skills but he managed to do it with the most ease without taking things to heart. 

He always used to say that, “Son, don’t take life too seriously because if you do, you’ll forget to live one.” Today, I truly understand what he meant by that. I hope we can all learn to live our lives like Dad before it’s too late. 

I cherish the memories I share with my father and I am sure he is smiling down on all of us. Once again, I would like to thank you all for coming today to celebrate the memories of my father. 

Thank you.

Sample Eulogy 3: From a daughter to her mother

Thank you everyone for coming today to pay respects to my mother Julian, who was loved by all. I am her daughter, Jane. My mother and I shared a very special relationship as she was more of a friend than a parent. She has always been there for me and supported me irrespective of what she believed in. 

My mother and I really bonded when I was in my teens. We had a ritual of telling each other how our day was at the dinner table. Even when I left for college, I remember her calling me everyday to hear about my day and how I was doing. 

She was a wonderful person who would always be ready to help others in any way possible. At times she would also go out of her way to help others as she always believed that the world would be a better place if we all took a little extra effort for others. It was this positive attitude that she had, which helped her tremendously in her professional life.

For those who do not know her very well, she was a therapist by profession and was always there for her clients. One of the things that I learnt from her was her dedication towards her work. She loved her work and was always committed to it. There were times when she had other commitments but she made sure that they never affect her work or her clients. Her devotion for her work was something that I would love to inculcate in my life. 

She felt that if everyone does their job or fulfills their responsibility to the best of their capabilities, people will be a lot more happy and satisfied. I hope we can all imbibe such devotion for our work in our lives.

It would be an understatement to say that I miss her today but I am glad to have spent time with her in her last few days. She is and will always be remembered by all of us. Mom, you will always be in our hearts. 

Thank you.

Sample Eulogy 4: From a friend to another friend

Hello everyone. Thank you for coming to honor my friend, Liam. I am his friend Josh. I know some of you have traveled long distances to pay your respects, Liam would have loved seeing you all here. 

Liam and I met in college and I instantly knew that I had to be his friend. Liam was a gem of a person. His amiable nature was something that I loved. Making friends for Liam was like a cakewalk because people loved his personality. He would always make sure to talk to everyone at a party or also in the class. Moreover, he was also a good listener.

Liam and I got close through college events and by sharing notes in exams. He had always been there for me through thick and thin. He was like a brother to me. His friendly nature was something that we can all learn from. He always looked out for people and made sure no one felt aloof whenever he was in the room. 

I remember the first time I met him was in Economics class where the professor had divided us into groups of 7-8 people and asked us to discuss some topic. I was a little hesitant to share my ideas with the group as I felt awkward. I was sitting quietly in a corner scribbling in my book. That is when Liam comes up to me and starts talking to me, asking me where I was from. That was Liam- for people who didn’t know him. He’d smile at you even if he didn’t know you, always making you feel extremely comfortable in his presence and that is what made him the best person I have ever met.

He always felt that the world would be a better place if all of us were a little more friendly, a little more polite and a little more thoughtful of the people around us. I hope we all could learn from that and be better each day.  

Today I miss him more than anything but I know he is here with us, in our hearts. I will always cherish the memories I share with him. 

Thank you.

To Conclude, Remember to Speak From the Heart

While I have attempted to give you some sort of structure for delivering a eulogy, the best eulogies are often those which are the most genuine. They are spoken truly from the heart.

So, if the opportunity to deliver a eulogy is presented to you, forget the rules. Just speak what you want to speak.

You were asked to deliver the eulogy for a reason. Probably you shared a connection with the deceased that no one else did.

So forget the rules. You can use these points as a guide as to how to start and deliver a eulogy. But if you can take one thing from here, is that as long as you speak with almost a routed sense of authenticity, no way of delivering a eulogy is not correct.

Hrideep Barot

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.