Seven Steps to Writing a Eulogy Speech – Executor Duties 101

“Seven Steps to Writing a Eulogy Speech” is part of Executor Duties 101, a series by Executor.org that highlights steps in the process of settling an estate.

When someone dies, it is natural to reflect on their lives and the role they played in yours.

If you are named as an executor, you likely had a close, trusting relationship with the deceased and plenty of memories. As a result, you might wish to give a eulogy speech or read a eulogy poem at their funeral or memorial service.

Since writing a eulogy speech can be an intimidating task, we here at Executor.org offer the following seven tips to help you write a powerful one.

1. Reflect.

Take some time to consider the deceased’s life and the moments that really stand out as special memories. A eulogy is not going to tell a whole life story, rather just highlight slices of that life. The eulogy should be designed to honor the deceased and provide comfort to their loved ones. Consider what stands out about the person. Ask family and friends who knew the deceased for input. Ask about things like major accomplishments, times when they really made a difference, or funny moments that showed who they were as a person.

2. Consider the audience.

It is important to remember that you are speaking to a group that will likely include people who knew the deceased in many different ways, such as a family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, coach, etc. Make sure the eulogy speech is appropriate and of interest to the majority of the people attending the service. Things that do not seem appropriate to this larger group can be kept for sharing with the immediate family at a later point in time.

3. Be brief.

A eulogy should be between three and five minutes in length.

4. Stay positive.

Share a story that demonstrates the deceased’s generosity, spirit or positive characteristics. Discuss the impact the person made and share some of their passions and values. We all have flaws and make mistakes. The eulogy is not the time to focus on those.

5. Use humor, where appropriate.

Don’t hesitate to share a funny story about the deceased. A warm, funny story can be a great way to buoy the spirits of those grieving. Just make sure it’s not an inside joke, inappropriate, or potentially hurtful.

6. Prepare.

Practice the eulogy before the event. Ask someone to listen and time it to make sure you stay under five minutes. Ask for feedback from a member of the family if you aren’t sure about your remarks. Print a copy to take with you rather than rely on memory. Consider using a large font and double spacing between typed lines so you can easily scan it while speaking if you lose your train of thought.

7. Try to relax.

People will understand if you are emotional or nervous. They will forgive you if you stumble over some words or cry. As long as you speak from the heart, they will remember only that you said kind, meaningful things about their loved one.

Things to Avoid In a Eulogy Speech

A eulogy is not a time to toast or roast the deceased. You should avoid saying things such as “it was for the best,” as this comment can be viewed as minimizing the loss. It’s also not the time to bemoan the unfairness of death or wonder aloud how you will go on without the person.

A great eulogy is a celebration of the deceased’s life – not a discussion of their death or the process of dying, unless there are stories that speak to their strength, resilience, kindness, etc. It is okay to say the person will be missed, but don’t make it about you.

As with many decisions regarding the funeral, remember there is no rule that states a eulogy must be given. And many funerals and memorials do not include a eulogy. It is a personal choice and should be discussed with the deceased’s loved ones. No one should feel pressured to give a eulogy speech and often it can simply be too much for those who are grieving to do.

That said, a eulogy can be as powerful as words of sympathy when it comes to comfort those who are grieving. And it also lets them know their loved one made a positive, lasting impact on the world.

Serving as an executor can be a difficult, time-consuming job. We here at Executor.org can help. Click here to create a step-by-step plan to guide you through each step in the process of settling an estate.