A funeral speech is the most difficult form of writing in the world. Even professional writers often choke when asked to write the eulogy for father, mother, grandma or brother. It is very difficult, when the pain is so fresh, to simply walk up to the podium and speak about this type of loss. What can one say to ease of the hurt for other friends and family members?
Dealing with Emotions
The most difficult part of writing and presenting a eulogy is the emotion involved. In presentation, avoiding that cold stare at the back of the room during the entire speech is half the battle. The other half is to refrain from collapsing into unintelligible sobs.
Finding the right words to reflect the range of emotions encompassed in grief can be overwhelming. No two people experience grief the same way. There is a tremendous spectrum of emotion that eulogizers might encounter in their audience and in themselves. Some of the emotions might include:
• Anger – It’s perfectly natural to feel angry when we loose someone. It’s not often talked about, but the rage can be overwhelming and it can cause us to lash out unreasonably at almost anyone or anything. It is important to vent rage in some harmless exercise before writing the eulogy. While many mourners may feel like shaking their fist at the sky right now, over the long run, eulogizers may regret making a funeral speech in that voice.
• Sorrow – This is the most common reaction, and the emotion other mourners will expect. You will want to express sorrow, especially at the beginning of your eulogy in order to get your audience to identify with you. If you don’t start here, they will not be able to follow your thoughts. Still sorrow isn’t all that helpful in writing or speaking, so you’ll need to tone it down a bit to get through.
• Remorse – What if the eulogizer’s relationship with the deceased was not perfect? Perhaps things were left unsaid, birthday’s forgotten or visits missed. The eulogy is not the time for self recriminations, or accusations toward the deceased or family members. It is important however, to acknowledge these feelings within so that we can begin to move on.
• Exhaustion – Often when death comes, it leaves some family members completely depleted. They feel numb, worn out and on the verge of physical and emotional collapse. It is so hard to speak when this happens that perhaps family members experiencing this should pass the duty of eulogizing on to someone else.
• Relief – When death follows an extended illness, the most natural reaction is a sense of relief or at least release. Unfortunately, this perfectly natural feeling is followed by guilt. We feel awful for being grateful that the ordeal of horrific sickness is over. The truth is though; relief is a common and acceptable reaction to grief. It is permissible to point out that the deceased is no longer suffering.
• Fear – Death can leave family members fearful on many levels. There are often practical or financial fears as well as the fear of facing life without the deceased. There is no shame in admitting that facing life without dad is absolutely terrifying. What will the family do, without his guiding hand? Questions like this are asked in the beginning of the eulogy and answered in a hopeful way near the end.
• Admiration – The eulogy should, above all, extol the deceased. The pride of having known this wonderful person should be the main feature of any eulogy. Thus, the emotion of admiration, pride and a sense of a life well lived is the eulogy writer’s bread and butter. Stick with this focus and you are well on your way to a great eulogy. A good eulogy should end in a crescendo of admiration, warmth and love. It should also include some ray of hope and inspiration for mourners.
You Are Not Alone
Even when surrounded by friends, family and loved ones, it is hard to feel anything but alone after the loss. The eulogy writer should reach out to others though, to find out what they are feeling. It is important to speak to your fellow mourners and give them each a mention in the speech.
Seeking Help Online
In the 21st Century you have a new advocate in your grief. As in all other circumstances, we can always turn to the Internet for grief counseling, eulogy examples and specialized websites to help us through these trying times. There is even a course in eulogy writing available on line. It explains how to write a eulogy, and comes complete with well written examples of eulogies. Eulogy samples can be rewritten and customized to fit the specific situation.
Eulogizers should never copy a eulogy example in its entirety. Rather, they should select points and phrases that fit the situation and mix them with personal memories and anecdotes. Finding the right voice to use, not just grammatically, but emotionally is another key to a good eulogy. By reading the samples first, eulogy writers get a feel for the range of emotions that can be expressed and dealt with in a Eulogy.
Religion and Funerals
Many people find it comforting to hear religious statements during eulogies, while others do not. Those planning to speak at a funeral should inquire about the faith of the deceased and the overall feeling of the family. It is important to note that cliché religious phrases about death might not be well received, even by the religious. Be sure to ask what the family wants in regard to any discussion about belief in the afterlife. Become familiar with the religious beliefs espoused by the deceased and their family, to avoid directly contradicting their beliefs during the eulogy.
A Good Eulogy Formula
Step 1. Identify with the audience by starting out on the common central emotion everyone is feeling. In this case, start by speaking of the sorrow that everyone feels at the loss. Reflect the overall mood of the closest family members in speaking about the sense of loss. Cover other emotions that others are likely feeling. This need not be a long portion of the eulogy, but it should be heartfelt and entirely homogeneous with the overall mood.
Step 2. Mention the family and close friends of the deceased. Discuss the need for the community to support them in their time of loss. Evoke empathy for the family and encourage the audience to be supportive in their time of need.
Step 3. Transition the mood to pride in the deceased. Point out accomplishments and achievements. Talk about the lives he or she touched and the many ways that this person left the world a bit better than they found it. This is a good time to speak of career accomplishments, charity work and community work the deceased accomplished in life.
Step 4. Include a brief life history of the deceased, including all major milestones and life changes. Find as many little known facts as possible. Now is the time to find out about the little things your loved one did to help people, as well as their major accomplishments.
Step 5. Talk about the love the deceased shared with family and friends. Include references to holidays and other memorable occasions when the family was together. Emphasis should be on the relationships between friends, family and co-workers. For this portion the eulogy writer should contact people and inquire about what they remember most.
Step 6. Always end on some triumphant note. While hope may not be a prevailing emotion at this time, it is important to give family members comfort, hope and a sense of eternal existence. This may be borrowed from their religious beliefs, from genetic continuation through children and grand children, from the contributions they made to society, or by the cherished memories they created in people’s hearts and minds.
While there is no quick solution to the pain of grief, a good eulogy can in fact ease the suffering of mourners. The Eulogy course and samples can really help grieving family members and friends convert a flood of emotion into a recipe for the perfect funeral speech.