Your Aunt Edith has died, and the family has asked you to deliver the eulogy at her funeral. You know this is a great honour, but you only have a few days to prepare and you have no idea how to begin. These five tips will see you through from preparation to your final speech, so you can deliver a moving and appropriate eulogy.
Start immediately by asking friends and family to contribute anecdotes and memories. This not only provides you with great sources of material, it also gives other grieving relatives and friends an opportunity to express themselves and contribute to the service.
Write a brief biography
Put together a simple outline of Aunt Edith’s life – where she was born, her education, career and family. In your draft, you can combine these biographical facts with relevant anecdotes to keep your speech engaging.
Check your draft for ABCD
Does your draft have the four elements a eulogy needs?
A is for Appreciation: You should start your speech by thanking everybody for attending, and acknowledge everyone’s grief. You can also express your appreciation for the honour of being asked to deliver the eulogy.
B is for Background: This is the biographical information that you want to include in your speech. Also, for your own general knowledge, make sure you are clear about Aunt Edith’s immediate relatives, particularly her children and siblings. For example, it would be important to know if one of Aunt Edith’s children has already died, or if she hasn’t spoken to her own sister for the last 40 years. You might not intend to mention it in your speech, but it would protect you from saying something inappropriate.
C is for Character: There will be people in the audience who never met Aunt Edith and you want to give them a sense of who she was. The anecdotes you’ve gathered from Aunt Edith’s friends and family will give a rich image of her as a person.
D is for Details: If you are giving the eulogy, you will probably also be responsible for communicating important information about the wake or whether the family would like people to donate to a certain charity. Check carefully that you have the correct details, and whether the family expects you to share this information at the end of your eulogy.
Choose a Suitable Theme
The theme, or tone of your eulogy should be appropriate for Aunt Edith’s life and death. If she was deeply religious, her eulogy should reflect this. If she had a wicked sense of humour, you can celebrate her wit in your speech. The tone of your eulogy should also reflect the mourners’ reaction to Aunt Edith’s death, whether they are thankful she has finally been released from a long and painful illness, or whether they are struggling with questions after a sudden tragedy.
The Underline Strategy
The final challenge is the toughest – after working so hard preparing your eulogy, you want to deliver it without becoming overwhelmed by emotion. Try the Underline Strategy – as you practice your speech, underline any phrases which make you emotional. This way, the next time you read through the speech, you will see the underlined section and be prepared. Take a breath or pause if you have to. You will be able to find your place again, because it is marked by the underlining.
With a strong personal message geared to your audience, and plenty of practice, you will be well prepared to pay tribute to Aunt Edith.