Writing and delivering a eulogy can be one of the most stressful things you are ever called upon to do. Public speaking is in and of itself frightening for most people, but when it is combined with the loss of a relative or friend, it can be truly scary. Fortunately, there is plenty of help available if you’re called upon to deliver a funeral speech.
There are two principal times when we’re called upon to perform this duty: when, because of our status or position we’re asked to deliver the eulogy for a well-known person; and when it is because of our relationship to the departed. Of the two, the hardest is when we’ve had a close relationship with the departed.
Writing funeral speeches for well-known personalities is usually a simple matter of making a short presentation about the life of the deceased. They are usually solemn, and can be easily done. When we’ve had a close family or friendly relationship, the task is considerably more difficult.
Here are a few helpful hints to make eulogy writing less stressful.
Relax. Find a quiet place without distractions, and spend some time remembering the deceased. Think of the good things you know about him or her, and how your own life was impacted by his or her presence. This will help put you in the right frame of mind.
Seek advice and information. Talk to others who knew the deceased. Compare their thoughts and memories with your own.
Keep it short. The best public speeches, and funeral speeches are no exception, are brief. It is better that people forget what you said than that they remember you spoke too long. The best eulogy is five minutes or less.
Write for yourself. Even though you will be speaking to other mourners, it will have greater impact if it comes from your heart, and speaks to your feelings for the deceased.
Be honest, but stay positive. A funeral speech is not the time to bring up negative things about the deceased. Don’t invent things, but stress the positive things about the person.
Keep it conversational. A conversational tone conveys both sympathy and sincerity. Don’t make it sound like a sermon, or a dreary reading of a newspaper article.
Prepare a draft. It is a mistake to try and wing it. A draft does not have to be verbatim, but can be just the main points you wish to make.
Type it in large font type. This is a handy aid to help you stay on your speech and deliver it smoothly.
Practice. Rehearse the speech in front of a mirror, or a friend whom you trust to give a candid critique. This helps with timing delivery, and can be useful in determining if the remarks are appropriate.
There are a number of web sites that offer detailed advice on eulogy writing, including sample speeches to help you get started.