Writing and delivering a eulogy is a noble gesture that is certainly worthy of thought and effort. It is an opportunity to make a contribution to a memorial service; a contribution that your friends and family will remember for a long time.
In general writing a eulogy, a tribute, a letter, or keeping a journal presents another equally valuable opportunity for you. That's because the ability to use the writing process as a therapeutic tool to help you deal with your grief. The power of writing is undeniable and there is no better time than now for you to discover and take advantage of it.
What a Eulogy Should Accomplish
There are two common misguided beliefs about the purposes of a eulogy. A number of people think:
1. It needs to be an objective review of the deceased's life;
2. It should speak for everyone who is present at the memorial service.
Both of these assumptions are unrealistic. A eulogy is much simpler. It should express the feelings and experiences of the individual giving the eulogy. The most touching and meaningful eulogies are written from a personal point of view and from the heart. So don't feel obligated to write your loved one's life story. Instead, tell your story.
Clearly, the burden of the eulogy does not have to be yours completely. If you have the time, ask friends or relatives for their recollections and stories. In a eulogy, it is perfectly acceptable to say, for example, "I was talking to Uncle Lenny about Ron; he reminded me of the time Ron came to our Thanksgiving dinner with half of his face clean-shaven and the other half bearded. It was Ron's funny way of showing that he had mixed feelings about shaving off his beard."
Honesty is very important. In most cases, there will be a lot of positive qualities to talk about. Once in a while, however, there is someone with more negative traits than positive qualities. If that is the case, remember, you don't have to say everything. Just be honest about the positive qualities and everyone will appreciate the eulogy.
Remember, you do not have to write a perfect eulogy. Whatever you write and deliver will be appreciated by the people at the funeral. If you are inclined to be a perfectionist, lower your expectations and just do what you can, given the short time frame for preparation and your emotional state.
Tips for Delivering a Eulogy
If you decide to write a eulogy and deliver it, understand that it could be the most difficult speech you will ever make; and yet it may be the most satisfying. It is important to recognize that people are not going to judge you. They are going to be very supportive. Regardless of what happens, it will be okay. If you break down in the middle of your speech, everyone will understand. Take some time to compose yourself, and then continue. There is no reason to be embarrassed. Keep in mind, giving a eulogy is a respectable gesture that people will appreciate and admire.
If you can, make the eulogy simple to read. If using a computer, print out the eulogy in a large type size. If you are using a typewriter, put extra carriage returns between the lines. If you are writing it by hand, print the final version in large letters and give the words "room to breathe" by writing on every second or third line.
Before the service, consider getting a small cup of water. Keep it with you during the service. When you go to the podium to deliver the eulogy, take the water with you just in case you need it. The act of sipping water before you start (and during the speech if needed) will help to calm you. If you are nervous before delivering the eulogy, breathe deeply and assure yourself that everything is going to be fine. It will be. Look around at your family members and friends and recognize that they are with you 100 percent. Keep in mind that it is acceptable to read the eulogy without making eye contact with the audience, if that would be easier for you. Take your time. Do the best you can. No one expects you to have the delivery of a great orator or the stage presence of an actor. Just be you.