For a lot of people, their greatest fear involves getting up in front of a crowd and speaking. So it can be even more difficult when the words you have to say involve a deceased loved one. However, if you have the opportunity to give a eulogy, it’s worth doing so. Many people may not want to because of their feat, but end up regretting not doing so later on. Let’s look at some ways to make this experience a bit easier so you don’t end up in this boat.
Take Time to Collect Yourself
One of the hardest parts about giving a eulogy is that you already have so much on your mind. This is perfectly understandable. So take all the time you have to collect your thoughts and think about what you want to say. This is not something you want to rush at all.
Choose Which Kind You’ll Give
Broadly speaking, there are two types of eulogies you can give. There’s the kind where you essentially provide a biography of the person’s life. The other is just a slice of the person’s life from your personal perspective.
For this version, you’re not going to give every detail, obviously. But you’ll start with their childhood and progress from there, highlighting important events that happened along the way. Talk about meaningful moments and accomplishments in the person’s life. By doing this, you give a full perspective of the person and may even say some things their loved ones didn’t know. To do this correctly, be sure to speak to plenty of people in their life so you can be sure you’re not leaving anything important out.
Slice of Life
This version is more like a collection of snapshots. Often this is just you talking about different stories that involved the two of you. However, you can involve the memories of others as well, if it will help flesh out their profile. Many people prefer to do this method by talking to the deceased. “You were always…” Although it can be deeply personal to do so, it’s also a very touching eulogy to give too and something many in the crowd will probably be able to relate to.
Combined the Two
Keep in mind there are no hard and fast rules here. So you can also combine the two by starting with a short biography and then moving on to your own perspective.
Many people might think that humour is inappropriate at such a serious moment. However, there are just as many—if not more—people who will appreciate a little levity during such a sad event. So long as you keep the humour appropriate for the person and the crowd, it’s worth thinking about. If you’re nervous about it, try asking for some feedback from a select few. The more diverse the selection, the more sure you’ll be that the humour will be well-received.
Telling simple jokes isn’t the right idea though. Instead, think of a humorous anecdote from the person’s life. Also, don’t use too much humour. This isn’t stand-up, it’s a eulogy. A couple laughs spread throughout or just one funny story will be more than enough. Otherwise, stay on target in memorialising the deceased.
You’ll definitely want to rehearse the eulogy a number of times over the course of a few days. What seemed like a good idea on one day may not come across like the right way to go the next day.
It’s fine to write the eulogy down too or print it out if you don’t like your handwriting. While it’s good to be able to look up from the writing to address the crowd, no one will think less of you for not doing so. You may also want to think about highlighting certain areas, though, so if you do look up, you’ll be able to find your place immediately.
If you feel comfortable doing so, it will help to rehearse this speech in front of your spouse or other friends or family members whom you trust to give you quality feedback while being sensitive.
No one handles funerals well, even if they’re the one giving the eulogy. Actually, those giving their eulogy are especially susceptible to their emotions. This is fine. No one expects that you’ll get through a whole eulogy for a loved one without pausing to collect yourself or even crying. Have a handkerchief at the ready and take your time.
Giving the Eulogy
As much as possible, remember to speak up and annunciate. This can be difficult to remember, so think about writing this reminder out on the top of your speech. While you’ll no doubt have a microphone, if you’re in a large church or other building, people will have a hard time hearing you if you don’t keep these pointers in mind.
Other than that—and this is another reminder to write down—breathe throughout the entire eulogy. Nice, slow, intentional breaths are not only good for you, they’ll help keep you calm and collected too (as much as one can be at a funeral). People who don’t control their breathing when they’re under pressure encourage their hearts to beat too fast, which can make matters worse.
At the end of the day, eulogies are never easy. Take this advice as best you can and speak from the heart. You’ll do just fine.