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Eulogy

A eulogy (from εὐλογία, eulogia, Classical Greek for "praise") is a speech or writing in praise of
a person(s) or thing(s), especially one recently dead or retired or a term of endearment.

Eulogies may be given as part of funeral services. They take place in a funeral home during or
after a wake. However, some denominations either discourage or do not permit eulogies at
services to maintain respect for traditions. Eulogies can also praise people who are still alive.
This normally takes place on special occasions like birthdays etc. Eulogies should not be
confused with elegies, which are poems written in tribute to the dead; nor with obituaries, which
are published biographies recounting the lives of those who have recently died; nor with
obsequies, which refer generally to the rituals surrounding funerals. Catholic priests are
prohibited by the rubrics of the Mass from presenting a eulogy for the deceased in place of a
homily during a funeral Mass.

Eulogies are usually delivered by a family member or a close family friend in the case of a dead
person. For a living eulogy given in such cases as a retirement, a senior colleague could perhaps
deliver it. On occasions, eulogies are given to those who are severely ill or elderly in order to
express words of love and gratitude before they pass away.

Types of Eulogy
Writing a eulogy, tribute or memorial speech has many different themes and styles. Your eulogy
style will depend on who is being remembered and the nature of their death. Giving a eulogy
while coping with the loss of a loved one could be a very difficult challenge. However, giving a
eulogy is also like giving a tribute to the person you lost.

It is easier to prepare your eulogy if you know what style and theme to follow.

There are different types of eulogy presentation and the most common ways are:

• Chronological or Life History – this type of eulogy presentation talks about the person’s
life, awards and achievements. You talk about their experiences, share anecdotes from their
journal that remind you of the person. This could be factual and may allow you to distance
yourself from the grieving emotion you are feeling at the moment.

• Shared Memories – these are your personal recollections. This could be easier to write but
the hardest type of eulogy to present because this is based on your personal memories. You
are not only talking about the deceased, but you may also be exposing yourself to the pain of
losing a loved one.

• Tribute – this form is usually used in obituaries in the newspaper. This type of eulogy
focuses on the achievements and accomplishments of the person you lost.

• Legacy – this type of eulogy allows you to focus on the achievements or projects that
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person is leaving behind; it could be his family, his profession or a project that he has
undertaken.

• Using Main Points – this is the most common way of making not just a eulogy, but any
kind of speeches. You choose major points about the person’s life and use this to highlight
your thoughts. Summarize the points you used in the entirety of your speech upon the
conclusion of your eulogy.

• Special Theme – there are different themes or concepts that you may use in the preparation
of the eulogy: religious, musical, humorous, toasts, or given for someone unknown.

Religious themes are often given in religious funerals. A eulogy using musical theme combines
music and words in celebrating the person’s life. This is a moving memorial because the music
used is usually a reminder of your loss. Including humorous speech in your eulogy, you need to
be sensitive to the type of audience you have and the deceased being remembered.

Funeral directors, clergies or parish priests are sometimes asked to deliver a eulogy during the
funeral service about the person they did not know. They need to make a research as to the
person’s life, how they died, and their achievements and about their family.

Giving a toast during a funeral service is remembering the deceased in a brief and inspiring way.

No matter what type of theme or style you use, the purpose of giving a eulogy is sharing a
person’s life in one single speech. It is important to touch upon the life and the afterlife of the
deceased. Involve your audience emotionally. Don’t worry if you need to shed tears during your
delivery, it is likely that everybody listening were crying too.

How to Write and Deliver a Eulogy


Although it's an honor to write and deliver a eulogy, it can also be a daunting task. If you're like
most people, you might feel some stress and anxiety. Some people worry they won't be able
properly honor the deceased, or sum up the entire life of someone in just a few minutes. Some
worry they'll become emotional and won't be able to get the words out.

Of course, typically a eulogy is delivered during a funeral ceremony to honor and celebrate the
life of someone close to you.  Your main goal is to provide comfort and closure by sharing why
the person was well-loved and will be missed. Usually it’s very short (two to five minutes). 

Step One: Gather Memories

I view a eulogy as a special gift for those left behind. It’s often the beginning of the healing
process. Remembering all the good things about someone helps to lighten a heavy heart. It can
also help to keep everyone (including you) focused on what was gained (and not what was lost).

It's important to talk to friends, significant others, kids, and parents--all the important people in
the life of the deceased. You'll want to hear and enjoy the stories they have to share. Even if you

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don't include them in the eulogy, think of these shared memories as gifts that will help you to
cope with your grief. So spend as much time as you can on this step.

Step Two: Relax; Don’t Worry

Unfortunately, you aren't going to have enough time to include all of the stories. So choose the
memories you think are best by listening to your heart. In fact, many people find the words just
flow out of them when they aren't worried about what they are "supposed" to write. Trust that
whatever you share will be appreciated. Trust that the words you choose will be the right words.
The key is to relax. And as I’ve mentioned in previous episodes, I suggest diaphragmatic
breathing and visualization to help you relax.

Step Three: Choose a Theme

Sometimes it helps to pick a general theme and focus on that.  Maybe you'll decide to praise
accomplishments and achievements.  Maybe you'll choose to talk about work and family,
describe a few positive character traits, or explain how this person influenced or made a
difference in your life. Some people prefer to simply share favorite music, scripture, or poems.
This may be obvious, but this is not the time or place to share any negativity. 

Step Four: Organize the Middle

Once you've decided on your theme, you'll need to organize the main body of the speech. I think
it's easiest to follow the rule of three; you might remember that this rule suggests things
presented in threes are more satisfying and easier to digest. Talk about three accomplishments,
three achievements, three stories about work and family, three character traits, your three favorite
memories, or three poems. However, if you feel like the stories and experiences you gathered are
better broken into two, four or five parts, that's OK too.

For each main section, just be sure to give examples or stories that illustrate your point. The
main idea is to share your own stories or some of the stories you heard from others. By the way,
it’s OK to share both serious and humorous stories because the eulogy is a celebration of a life
well-lived.

Step Five: Organize the Beginning and End

Like any speech, the end of your eulogy should summarize the main ideas that you talked about.

Once you know your main points and the supporting stories, the next step is to create the
beginning and the end. You'll want to start your speech by saying who you are.  "Good
afternoon, I'm Lisa Marshall, one of Paul's daughters." You might also want to thank the people
who are gathered and let them know that simply by being there they are providing comfort and
support. Finally, the introduction should introduce your theme. “I’d like to share with you three
lessons that my grandfather taught me.”

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Like any speech, the end of your eulogy should summarize the main ideas that you talked about.
Very briefly repeat the main ideas using different words. Then close with something memorable.
Perhaps by reciting a favorite poem or piece of music, by talking directly to the deceased:
"Chuck, may you always dance in heaven," or by asking the guests to share a hug or a memory
with those sitting nearby.

Step Six: Review and Practice

Once you’ve got a draft of the speech, you might want to show it to another person and ask for
suggestions. If you have time, let it sit for a day or two and then return back to it to make any
final revisions. This is one speech you really want to practice delivering aloud. For sure, you’ll
want to rehearse the parts that you might find emotionally difficult to deliver several times. 

Print the speech in large type so that you can easily see it without glasses and possibly through
tears.  Keep in mind, that what's important is for you share your feelings and thoughts not that
you’re a perfect public speaker.

Step Seven: Take Your Time with the Delivery

It’s normal to become overwhelmed by emotions. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s OK
to take a break to sip water or to breathe deeply when you need to. If you think you might not
make it through, ask someone to be ready as your back-up. Or ask someone else to read it for
you altogether (that’s what I did for my late husband John).

Finally, when you choose your words remember to consider the theme. For most eulogies an
informal, conversational tone is the way to go, however, at times a eulogy calls for loftier, more
formal language.

Step Eight: Share and Commemorate

Remember to print and share copies of the eulogy with those who are grieving. The ability to
read your words again and again will help to provide comfort whenever it’s needed for many
years to come. And that is an incredibly special gift.

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