When a loved one passes away, we want to pay tribute to their life in a meaningful way. For loved ones, honoring cherished memories and accomplishments is an important part of the grieving process. This step helps commemorate their legacy in a way that feels true to their memory and the values they held. Writing a eulogy is a beautiful way to share these pivotal moments with the people that loved the departed.
What is a eulogy?
A eulogy is a remembrance speech that family members, close friends, or colleagues give during a funeral or memorial service. Sometimes just one person gives a eulogy at the memorial, and other times multiple people are chosen to share their memories and stories. With families and friends often traveling for a memorial service, eulogies serve as an opportunity for much-needed reflection as everyone gathers to honor a loved one’s passing.
Writing a eulogy is a challenging task after losing someone dear to you. You’ll have to gather stories and memories to share in front of a room full of people. Remember that what makes eulogies beautiful is their opportunity to bring comfort to those family and friends who share your grief while keeping the legacy of your loved one alive.
Don’t feel daunted; anyone can write a great eulogy. The key is to write something genuine that comes from the heart. While there are no rules for writing a eulogy, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you create a sincere eulogy about your loved one.
How long should a eulogy be?
The deep love and loss you hold for someone who has passed can feel impossible to fit into a eulogy. Most eulogies are 5–10 minutes long, and it’s a challenge to fit someone’s whole life story into that amount of time. Look at it as a speech meant to capture the essence of their character and their values, honoring what they contributed to this world. The best place to start is deciding what stories and memories you’d like to include.
Below we’ve included a few steps for how you can write a meaningful eulogy.
What should I include in a eulogy?
Every eulogy should be unique, but these topics will help you draw inspiration:
- A brief overview of their life, including key milestones
- Your favorite memories with them, including a specific anecdote or two
- Details about their relationships with close family and friends
- Any significant accomplishments related to career, interests, or hobbies
- Poems, stories, or songs written by the departed
- Favorite words by authors or poets they admired
How to write a meaningful eulogy for a loved one
There is no right or wrong way to write a eulogy. If you’ve been chosen to deliver one, you were likely picked because of your meaningful connection to the departed and your beautiful storytelling abilities. Have confidence in yourself throughout this process — and if you begin to feel nervous, rely on the memories you have with your loved one to guide you.
1. Gather memories
First, create a timeline of some of their most significant life moments — whether getting married, having children, details of their noteworthy career, a lifetime of travel, or their involvement and dedication to their community. Seeing a timeline of their most important life moments on paper will help you identify what stands out as worth highlighting in your eulogy.
- Read old letters, emails, and text messages
- Revisit memorabilia
- Return to special places that hold memories
- Watch family videos and look through old photos
Try writing down all the words you would use to describe them and their personality
You may decide to include some of these descriptors in your eulogy. Taking the time to write down what you cherished about their character and your life together will bring back specific memories about them.
Family members and close friends are another source of ideas. Ask them about their favorite memories, insights into their relationship with the deceased, or places and times of the year that will always remind them of your loved one.
Ask friends and family these questions for inspiration:
- What were some of their favorite experiences with them?
- Were there specific personality traits that stick out to you?
- Did they have a mantra, song lyric, or quote that they loved?
- What heartwarming stories capture the essence of them?
Gathering ideas from different sources will help you identify a common thread or theme to tie the pieces of your eulogy together.
2. Write a meaningful eulogy
Eulogies are typically between 5–10 minutes spoken, or about 750–1,000 words written. When you sit down to write your first draft, write as you talk, and let the words come naturally. The most important part is to focus on how and why they were important to you; eulogies don’t need to be polished and perfect.
It can be helpful to step away from a first draft and revisit with a fresh pair of eyes. Share your first draft with friends or family members for their input. During your editing process, remember the focal point of your eulogy — whether that be their adventurous spirit or their gift as a good listener — and make sure your anecdotes and highlights help bring those traits to life.
Writing a meaningful eulogy for someone dear to you can be an extremely emotional process, but also a beautiful and cathartic one. It’s a chance to reflect on treasured memories from over the years and keep those memories alive even after your loved one is gone.
3. Practice with friends and family
Once you’ve written a eulogy that you’re proud of, practice it in front of friends or family. Eventually, you will need to speak the words you’ve written so it’s best to practice before the day of the memorial service. Have one of the observers time your speech so you know roughly how long it will take. Oftentimes you will speak faster than you expected so make sure you take time to breathe and slow down.
After you’ve practiced, ask your loved ones pointed questions about the areas you think may need work. This can sound like:
- Did I read too fast?
- Was the section about her mom confusing?
- Is there anything you’d add?
- Did this do the departed’s life justice?
Make sure you read the eulogy to someone who will give you constructive feedback so you know where to refine and make edits.
4. Edit and repeat
After practicing with friends and family, make any necessary edits to your eulogy. Sometimes you’ll find that your writing doesn't sound the way you thought it would when you say it out loud, so it’s helpful to edit after reading it aloud. Make edits to the areas you were given feedback on and repeat the peer review process until you feel it’s ready for the memorial.
The day of the memorial service
The day of the memorial service can be difficult for many reasons. Saying goodbye to a loved one is hard enough, but reading a speech in front of people can also cause stress. It’s important to remember that you’ve been chosen because you’re the best person to represent their life.
When speaking, make sure you take time to pause and catch your breath. It’s common to speak too quickly when we’re nervous, but pausing and breathing will likely be perceived as natural to the audience. Take time between sentences and paragraphs so people can reflect on what you’ve said before rushing to the next point.
Don’t let fear overcome the love you shared with the departed. After working hard on your eulogy, you are ready to read it aloud.
Below we’ve written a few eulogy examples for you to draw inspiration from.
Eulogy for a partner
One of my favorite things about my wife was the way she loved birds. Most of us pay no attention to these small creatures, but she observed every wing flutter that went past her. She could stand in a field for hours watching their flight patterns and listening for their calls. At first, I wanted to quicken her pace, growing tired of all the moments we wasted staring at the sky.
As we grew older together, I understood her need for this solitary reprieve from society. I began wanting to follow her out into those fields to see the joy flicker in her eyes. What I would do to spend one more moment in a field with her — holding her bird book or listening to her attempt bird noises to attract them our way.
I will never see birds the same way again. They will always be my wife. Soaring above the world's problems. Tuning in to tune out. I hope wherever she is now gives her that same peace.
Eulogy for a parent
Since I was a little girl I’ve emulated my mother. From wearing her high heels to creating fake lesson plans so I could teach my brother in my pseudo classroom in the kitchen. As I grew older my affection for her grew, only taking a brief pause during the angst of middle and high school.
After college, I began to find comfort in the same hobbies she tried to impart to me as a child. Things I used to hate like walking in the woods, snowshoeing on snow-filled bogs, and canoeing local rivers became my new happy place.
Now that she’s gone, I will return to those places that gave us both comfort. Always knowing that she’s there — watching over me and telling me to get back before dark.
Eulogy for a grandparent
Everyone here knows that my grandmother was an avid reader. When you walked into her home the floors and countertops were always filled with her latest novel or autobiography. I always wanted to impress her with a great book, but she knew what she liked and I rarely got it right.
One of my favorite memories was when I gifted her one of my own favorite books, The Overstory by Richard Powers. I was so nervous that she wouldn’t like it, but to my surprise she loved it and it became one of her staples — lining the countertops with her other favorites.
I will always think of my grandmother when I open a book these days. In all of her favorites, she underlined the words that meant something to her. Tracing my fingers over those very lines brings me closer to her even when she’s gone.
Eulogy for a sibling
When my parents first told me I’d be getting a baby brother I was less than thrilled. In fact, I believe my response was “You’re ruining my life!” As we got older my brother became my best friend, my backpacking buddy, and even my roommate a time or two.
Now I’m only left with our memories. Like the memory of him breaking his foot when we were jumping on our parent's bed and our trips around Europe once we got older. I also remember the bad memories, like when he forgot me in Amsterdam. Only something someone as forgetful as him would do.
My brother was my favorite person in the world. Saying goodbye to him was never the way things were meant to be, but here we are — and for him, we will go on.
Leave a beautiful legacy
If you’re beginning to think about your end-of-life options, Better Place Forests is here to guide you. Whether you’re interested in alternative burial options or want to know what it means to choose a memorial tree as your final resting place, you can book a free online tour with one of our advisors to learn more.