How to Write a Eulogy

Creative ideas to help you organize and create a touching eulogy

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Souzy Theophilopoulos

The creative writing process is challenging at the best of times, and it can be more so during a time of grief. When Jill approached us after she lost her husband in August, she had no idea where to start her eulogy. Eulogies can be so different from one to the next. It’s great to know that there is no wrong answer! But sometimes, we just want the blueprint. So, consider these two approaches – biography and a mix. 

With a biography approach, consider your loved one’s life story, from start to finish, as a way to organize the eulogy. Start from when they were born, move through the years of their life, and stop at moments along the way to tell a meaningful story about your loved one.

The mix is the opposite – there is no structure. But, you can jump around to include different elements that capture who your loved one was. 

If you know which approach you want to take, but you’re unsure of what to write about, consider writing an outline – a brief summary of the key messages you want people to take away from your eulogy, combined with the most important stories and information relating to the elements below. The outline will help to remove writer’s block and allow ideas to flow freely.

Whatever suits your particular circumstances, structure, and theme, we’ve put together a list of elements that you may wish to include:

  • Who they were
  • Family and friends
  • Things they enjoyed and didn’t enjoy
  • What they taught you
  • Thinking of others

Who They Were

You may expand on this throughout the eulogy, but a brief summary of how you and others saw your person is a great place to start the eulogy. This could include:

  • Things they said and did that are most familiar to you and others
  • Values they displayed
  • What they did for a career
  • Their relationship with you
  • Their personality traits
  • Where and when they were born 
  • Family background
  • Places they lived

From a writing perspective - these elements will set you up to create the rest of the eulogy and branch out more deeply into other areas of their life. On the day, it will allow you and others to start the journey of reflection from a familiar place. 

Family and Friends

Talking about family and friends is often the first thing people think about when considering what to write. Your person’s partner, children, cousin, parents, school friends, people they met later in life, colleagues, the corner store owner… anyone! Consider either including references to family and friends throughout stories in the eulogy. Or, you could include a specific section about it, starting with, “Family and friends were so important to Fred” before talking about these important people. 

Things They Enjoyed and Didn’t Enjoy

We all have things we love, and things we don’t! 

Standing up on the day and delivering a eulogy is often very difficult. But – for many, there were laughs along the way! This section is a great place to add some humor and remind you, and others, that many great times were had.

A few things to consider:

  • Jobs
  • Travel
  • Music, films, and TV
  • Skills and hobbies
  • Sports
  • Social circles
  • Clothes
  • Possessions
  • Places they lived
  • Lifestyle

What They Taught You

Your person likely had an impact on the people he or she knew. It’s these impacts, teachings, and lessons that mold us into who we are. Think about:

  • Life lessons
  • Important conversations
  • Great feats and achievements
  • Quotes and phrases they were fond of
  • Values, ethics, and morals that they embodied through their words and actions

We can’t take anything with us, so what we leave behind is most important to others. Touching on these points will reinforce the amazing ways in which he or she changed the lives of family and friends for the better.

Thinking of Others

The eulogy can be a way for you, close family, and close friends to come together through a journey of reflection. And, it can also be a way to recognize people and show gratitude for particular circumstances. These could include palliative or medical care workers, it could also include those who contributed towards end-of-life care or contributed towards your person’s life in other ways. Acknowledging these people can help to bring everyone closer together in a time of shared grief.

Summing Up

The creative thinking process can be difficult, but it can be made easier by taking a moment and thinking about how you want to approach the eulogy. Choosing a structure, combined with a basic outline, can bring you relief as you write the eulogy. Remember that there is no right or wrong answer, but include a variety of memorable and meaningful stories and information to illustrate who your person was and what they meant to you and others. 

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