In general, writing a eulogy, a tribute, a letter, or keeping a journal presents another equally valuable opportunity for you – 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 to discover and take advantage of this.
What a Eulogy Should Accomplish
There are two common misconceptions about the purposes of a eulogy. Some people think 1) It should be an objective summation of the deceased’s life, or 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 convey the feelings and experiences of the person giving the eulogy. The most touching and meaningful eulogies are written from a subjective point of view and from the heart. Don’t feel compelled 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 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 and deliver a eulogy, realize that it may be the most difficult speech you will ever make; and it may be the most rewarding. It is important to realize that people are not going to judge you. They will be very supportive. No matter what happens, it will be okay. If you break down in the middle of the speech, everyone will understand. Take a moment to compose yourself, and then continue. There is no reason to be embarrassed. Remember, giving a eulogy is a noble gesture that people will appreciate and admire.
If you can, make the eulogy easy to read. On 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 bottle or 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 in case you need it. Sipping water before you start and during the speech if needed, will help relax you. If you are nervous before delivering the eulogy, breathe deeply and tell yourself that everything will be fine. It will be. Look around at your relatives and friends and realize that they are with you 100 percent. Realize 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.