Keep Your Eulogy Brief
This is not the time to write the great American novel, so keep telling yourself that “less is more.” The truth is that the longer you speak, the more likely you will ramble and make listeners feel awkward, bored, or uncomfortable. Instead, you should create a eulogy that you can deliver in around five minutes. If possible, ask the funeral director, clergy member, celebrant, or other officiants beforehand how much time you will have during the service, but five minutes is a good rule of thumb.
To help keep your remembrance speech brief, you should focus your eulogy on a specific quality or two about the deceased that you admire, or share a story about the deceased that expresses a significant personality trait or formative moment in his or her life. Ideally, try to relate something that you witnessed firsthand or that personally involved you, but if you’re having trouble thinking of something, then it’s okay to ask a close loved one for some ideas.
By limiting the scope of your remarks in this way, you should find it easier to write your eulogy. A eulogy outline can also help. In addition, you will more likely give your listeners some meaningful insight into the deceased that they will cherish, rather than fill them with the desire to glance at their watches or stifle their yawns.
Keep Your Eulogy Personal
Listeners will not find your eulogy moving if you merely recite a list of dry facts, such as those found in most obituaries. And avoid simply rattling off a long list of character traits, such as “Uncle Ben loved hunting, motorcycles, the Green Bay Packers, woodworking, etc.” This approach will prove about as interesting as listening to someone read a grocery list out loud.
Instead, share a story that illustrates something your loved one enjoyed—especially if you were also part of that story. For example, imagine that you and “Uncle Ben” once took a road trip on his motorcycle to see the Packers play football. Not only would this convey a deeper sense of his love of motorcycles and the Green Bay Packers, but you would also find it much easier to share other insights that listeners will find meaningful. Again, if you can’t think of a firsthand story to share, then talk to a close family member or friend and borrow one from them.
Keep Your Eulogy Positive
Many movies and T.V. comedies have focused on the main character struggling to write/deliver a eulogy about a person he or she despised, such as an overbearing boss or unfaithful ex-spouse. Assuming you’re not tasked with eulogizing somebody like Ebenezer Scrooge, you shouldn’t have a problem finding enough words to focus on the positive things.
But if you do struggle, then just remember that listeners will not be there to judge you on the thoroughness of your remarks. If the deceased was a difficult person or led a troubled life, then just trust that those in the audience already know that and it’s not your job to break the news to them.
In some cases, you might feel it’s impossible not to reference something negative or unflattering about the deceased, even though you’re trying to focus on the positive. If you find yourself in this situation, then you should resort to a euphemism to help get you past the awkward point in your eulogy and to avoid adding greater pain to those mourning.