The term¬†eulogy¬†sounds formal, but eulogies can include simple reminiscences, stories, or relevant jokes. Although often hard to write, and to deliver, we’ve come up with some tips that we hope may help.

1. Gather Information about the departed

First, collect the biographical details: age, marriage dates, places lived, children, and so on. Now think about the stories you remember or the turn of phrase or typical behaviour that captures your loved one’s character so well. Talk with the surviving family and friends, so the picture you present will include their ideas as well.

2. Produce a theme

A theme gives unity to the eulogy, helping your listeners to see the rich patterns of this life. For example, let’s say you are giving the eulogy for your late mother.

Using this theme, you describe her childhood in New Zealand, her eager arrival in Melbourne as a shy, young bride, and then how she made a warm and welcoming home for her family and friends.

Another example: When speaking of a friend, you might mention the various roles your friend successfully played: John the Accountant, John the Family Man, and John the Football Coach.

Get advice from the family or clergy if you’re unsure. Otherwise, speak about what you know-just like any other speech. Choosing a story that will help remember the deceased in a positive light is good. Adding a very short poem or piece of music is fine, too, as long as you don’t become self-indulgent. Remember that it’s about sharing memories with everyone there.

Also ask the family if there’s anything they’d prefer you not to mention. Plan your speech carefully enough so that you don’t accidentally make a joke that in any other context would be fine, but during a funeral would be in bad taste.

3. Organise the material

Write your notes in point form on sheets of paper or on small cards – one idea to a card and organise them in sequential order.

4. Draft your speech

Write out the first draft. (If you have access to a computer, use it to make your editing job easier.) Use linking sentences to make each topic flow easily into the next. Pay most attention to your beginning and ending.

As you write and polish, keep “celebration” in your mind. If it is appropriate, include a few moments of humour or light heartedness.

Keep it short unless the family members want you to speak for a certain amount of time. It could be a couple of minutes; it might be 10-12 minutes. Be aware of how long your speech is. Ask the celebrant and the funeral director about the available time.

5. Practice your delivery

If you are not used to speaking in public, borrow a book on this topic from the library and quickly skim it to pick up some tips. Read the speech into a tape recorder and then play it back. You’ll be able to practice and refine the delivery. Now stand in front of a mirror and imagine you are talking to your audience.

Above all, remember to breathe. If you are afraid you might break down while reading the eulogy, ask someone ahead of time to be ready to take over at a signal from you. Just knowing you have a backup speaker will probably be all you need to stay calm.

It’s important to practice a eulogy if it’s more than a few minutes long. One of the reasons to do so is to keep you from meandering while you’re giving the speech so that you can truly share your positive feelings with the family and friends.

6.What happens if I cry when delivering the Eulogy?

Allow yourself to feel your natural emotions while you’re giving the speech and try to go on as best as you can. If you’re unable to finish then someone else can assist you through it if you have your eulogy written out.