Loving Words: How to Prepare a Eulogy

January 20, 2020

You’ve been asked to deliver a eulogy for a loved one’s funeral. The first thought is panic, followed by questions about where to start, what to say, and whether you can get through your words without breaking down. Fear and uncertainty are valid feelings when asked to write and deliver a eulogy for someone that has meant so much to you. But did you know that preparing a eulogy is a helpful step in the grief process?

As trained celebrants, our Kelowna funeral home Memorial Care Assistants Connie Kimmich, Jodi Labun, and Mariko Nagata have helped families share their heartfelt stories and memories. Here they answer questions on what it takes to prepare a eulogy.

What’s the point of a eulogy?

“A eulogy is the opportunity to tell the person’s story and capture the essence of what you want the world to remember about them”, Connie says.

“This can be how they influenced those around them, what decisions they made, and how they lived their lives. The most successful eulogies are those that share a relatable story that not only honour your loved one, but create an atmosphere of community between those who knew and loved them.”

“A tribute or eulogy marks the huge milestones in one’s life. If you don’t have something to mark that significant transition, then you can suffer for it afterward. As hard as it is to write a eulogy, it is one of the first steps in healing,” says Mariko.

Adds Jodi: “If we can help someone to gain the courage to write a eulogy, this creates a deep sense of community that is so necessary for the process of grief.”

How does one start a eulogy?

When meeting with a family for the first time, Connie asks them to relate three words that describe their loved one and then gets them to add a story of why each word is important.

A farewell letter to the deceased can also be very impactful and can signify what the loss means to the person writing the eulogy, Mariko says.

Ask: “What if she was sitting here? What would you like to tell her?

What should be included in the eulogy?

Jodi believes a proper eulogy should include a personal message such as an address to the deceased loved one.

“Speaking from the heart and saying, ‘Dad, I love you so much. I’m going to miss you,’ holds such a deep meaning and can be a comfort to the person delivering the eulogy.”

Another thing to remember is that the eulogy is not about the speaker.

“Sometimes, people start talking about themselves. It’s not about them. It’s about paying close attention to the person they are speaking about and how that person made them feel. That’s how we move forward with the loss,” Jodi says.

Mariko recommends the eulogy be written down on paper.

“Don’t do it off the cuff. Make sure you write the eulogy down and bring a copy with you and give one to your celebrant. This helps us to place everyone and understand the flow of how the procession will take place. If it’s a group delivering the eulogy, it helps to have a copy, so the same jokes and stories are not told, or if we need to step in, we can. It also helps if they have forgotten their copy to bring to the service.”

Who should give the eulogy?

Often delivered by an individual or group of family members, a eulogy can also be read by a close family friend, priest, minister, or celebrant.

“While we are here to assist, we can also perform the eulogy if asked. Knowing that we can read the eulogy somehow gives families the confidence, and 99 percent of them will find the strength and courage to do it themselves,” Connie says.

Adds Mariko: “We’re dealing with people who are often overwhelmed, so we let them know that it’s okay to show emotion. That’s what the day is about.”

How long should a eulogy be?

On average, a eulogy should be 3-5 minutes long and no more than 10 minutes.

“Give a parameter of time. I had one person speak for 25 minutes. Luckily, he had everyone interacting and laughing, but normally that amount of time will cause people to disengage. If you prepare for five minutes, then it will likely take seven,” Connie says.

Is it okay to make jokes or tell a funny story as part of your eulogy?

Yes. We believe a funeral, memorial or celebration can include laughter alongside tears. Showing emotion releases tension and shows that everyone’s grief is real.

Mariko recalls a service where at the end of the photo tribute, the family showed a short video clip of their dad laughing in the kitchen, “everyone was surprised and joined in. It was a beautiful expression of recognition and emotion.”

Jodi recalls another service for a young man who loved protein shakes.

“At the end of the eulogy, one of his brothers blended a protein shake instead of lighting a candle. Every person going forward from that service will remember that. That was his legacy, and eventually, they’ll smile at the memory.”

“You can be real and humorous but be sure to leave out anything that could embarrass the family. Most importantly, make sure there is a story in there, this will allow other people to remember their stories too,” Jodi adds.

What resources are available in preparing a eulogy?

Our Springfield Funeral Home Memorial Care Assistants have several resources to help you plan your loved one’s memorial. This includes a handout that we give to families that contains eulogy information and examples.

As a family-owned Kelowna funeral home serving the central Okanagan for 40 years, Springfield Funeral Home offers a compassionate ear and a caring hand to help you plan your loved one’s service. Contact us at 250-860-7077 to speak to one of our Memorial Care Assistants and to book a tour of our facility.