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How We Write a Eulogy
Why the need for a speech?
Delivering the Eulogy is a challenging role that can be both difficult and rewarding. Although you undoubtedly feel a great sense of grief, the Eulogy can bring a sense of relief and comfort as you and the audience take a journey of reflection. You have many great moments you wish to talk about and remember, and so do the audience. You have an opportunity to take family, friends, and the congregation as a whole on a journey that deepens their feelings of connection towards your loved one.
How we write a Eulogy
We generally follow a structure and process similar to that outlined below when creating a Eulogy. Eulogies may vary depending on the types of stories and information relevant to your loved one, but as long as you give some thought to these areas, you will create a Eulogy that honours your loved one and brings comfort to your audience.
The Eulogy should take those listening, including you, close family and friends, and other audience members, on a personal journey of reflection. Think about who will be hearing the Eulogy and what stories, information, and style of speaking will bring them comfort and joy. One way of achieving this is to include your loved one's style of speaking into your speech. If your loved one enjoyed a swear word or two and never held back an opinion, then you could include this within the Eulogy. Though - if your audience is quite conservative, you may wish to strike a balance.
What is the overall message you are trying to send with the Eulogy? We believe this question is particularly important for the Eulogy. You will wish to speak about your loved one's life, what he or she was like, and the things they did. But Pericles said, "What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." Think about what your loved one left behind and what he or she wove into the lives of others. Understanding this will ensure you send a clear message with the Eulogy, and it will help to get the creative juices flowing when the time comes to think of stories.
Example - Dad had reason to give up on life due to all the challenges he faced. Despite this, he worked hard and thrived. He lived a happy life, could be relied upon for support and advice during the tough times, and helped others to live a happy life.
The very first words in your speech. You could launch straight into a "hi everyone", but we consider making a comment or telling a story about your loved one that grabs the audience's attention straight away. Your audience will be immediately immersed in the memory of the life of your loved one.
Example - Dedication, respect, honour, strength: these are values that Mum practised every day. She was a disciplined and dependable woman, and yet she could light up the room whenever she entered. She always took the opportunity to spend time and have a laugh with family and friends. And right up until she became less able to get around, Mum was always eager to help out, no matter what the problem was; even – when it came to cleaning up after the terrors – me and my siblings!
The purpose of the biographical story is to help the congregation to better understand your loved one and to connect your knowledge of your loved one with their own. As an example, if you hope to illustrate your loved one’s strength in the Eulogy, this section is an opportunity for you to highlight how your loved one’s military background led to strength of character.
A biography has often been a traditional inclusion in the Eulogy. Some modern Eulogies choose to focus more on stories and characteristics rather than a timeline. We suggest two ways in which you could include a biography. Firstly, you could use a timeline of your loved one's life as the structure of the Eulogy, stopping at certain points to highlight specific characteristics or details. Secondly, you could briefly outline a timeline of your loved one's life, then spend the majority of the Eulogy on specific stories and information about your loved one. Choose what suits you.
Example - Dad came from good soil, and from this solid foundation, goodness took root. Dad’s parents were farmers from the south, but they sought something better in this city. My dad’s father worked shifts at a plant, and his mum cleaned other people’s homes. They became parents of four – preachers to a small flock. I remember Dad’s mother once telling me she prayed for me every day. I knew it was true, and I felt better for it. My grandparents were the proverbial salt of the earth, and they passed on that strength, grit, kindness, and faith to their son. As a boy, granddad made Dad shine his shoes and tie his tie, and they’d go to the airport – not to board the airplanes, but to watch others do it. I remember Dad telling me this story. Granddad would say, “I have not flown. We can’t afford it. I may never fly, but one day, you will.” My grandmother, and as grandmothers are, was a little more impatient with her advice. “Your daddy,” she said, “he’s been waiting and waiting for a better day. Don’t you wait.” But Dad did not wait. Against all odds, Dad earned his degrees. Dad became a lawyer to make sure that others had rights, and his commitment to justice and the rights of others would never, ever waver. He went on to have a family and live a life that everyone aims to have, a life filled with family, friendship, love, and happiness.
You have many insights into your loved one's life from behind the scene. Reflecting on these provides an opportunity to highlight your loved one’s qualities and what made him or her unique.
Example - My dad was a teacher, and he had an impact on the life of thousands of kids. He taught at the same school for more than 30 years and loved almost every minute of it. Plenty of great kids, but certainly heard about one or two ratbags. His passion for teaching remained the same from the first day taught until his last, and even beyond. Dad was one of the kids’ favourite teachers at school, and many of his former students kept in touch with him over the years. Though, Dad’s passion for teaching was maintained not only because he wanted to have an impact on school children’s upbringing and education, but also because he wanted the same for his children. Being a teacher gave Dad the holiday periods to spend with the family. It meant a lot to us that he was around to take us to swimming lessons, watch our sports games, or help us with our homework. We also took many family holidays in our younger years, which taught me more about the world and added richness to my life that I would otherwise not have had.
Holidays, sports, hobbies, time spent with family and friends. These loves are part of your loved one’s identity, so we like to acknowledge them. This will further describe the uniqueness of your loved one, and it will help your audience to understand and connect with his or her journey.
Example - Perhaps one of the keys to Dad’s happiness was his whimsical approach to life. He was always in pursuit of another experience, a little more fun or a new adventure, and I think it’s fair to say that his appreciation for red wine didn’t exactly hurt the creative thinking process. His decisions at nearly 80 years old to delight in home renovations and a new bright red kitchen, create new, weird, and wonderful dishes daily, and travel to strange and amazing locations reflected the child who still lived and breathed within Dad. Even until the end, Dad was always able to crack a joke and laugh at himself more than ever and in ways that had us in hysterics when we were around him.
Qualities, values, and characteristics
These elements differentiate your loved one from others. They are what have been "sown into the lives of others". Describing how these have helped you and the audience illustrates how his or her life has had an impact.
Example - My childhood involved dynamic and complicated relationships. Despite difficult circumstances, Mum raised us and held the family together. Understandably, she wanted her children to recognise that. But no kid wants to choose between his parents, and I resisted letting her hear what she wanted to hear. I always wanted to be more like my Dad. People often say that I looked just like him, and my mind works a lot like his too. But everything that comes from the heart – the real essence of me, and much of the knowledge I gained in my youth – I inherited that from Mum. Mum may have helped me in many ways, like ensuring we were always well fed and well dressed, spending hours sewing beautiful outfits for us to wear, or knitting jumpers in preparation for winter, and all despite having very little money. But what became more valuable to me was what she instilled within me. She’s the one who made sure I never went a day doubting the love or pride others felt for me. Her values formed the foundation of mine; most of them drilled into me with time-worn sayings such as, “honesty is the best policy” and “can’t never did anything.” To this day, we are held in good stead by Mum’s teaching – manners, respect, morals, and values. For this, I am very grateful. I don’t know if I ever expressed any of this to her as well as I could, but perhaps I didn’t understand all of this as well as I do now.
We like to mention any special points, such as the final times you spent with your loved one, to ensure all important stories and information are delivered.
Example - The last time I saw Mum was on June 4 at her house, when typically, she was not taking the time to rest but was busy cooking, cleaning, planning her day and the days following. It was a marvel to behold of course, but I would rather cherish the time I spent with her in April when she came to visit me and the family at our home for the weekend. I am proud of the fact that apart from taking time to be looked after for a change, we were able to put on a wonderful weekend for her, filled with fun, food, and frivolity. This meant a lot to her. These were days I will always treasure. It was as if we had been transported back to our younger years when we spent such a vast amount of time together. Fundamentally she has never changed at all from the Mum who was always cleaning up around me as a child, fought with me about the right ways to do things, and endured those long car rides with the family on weekends and on holidays. That weekend was nostalgic, and I am grateful that we spent that time together before the end.
Special circumstances warrant a thank you message. You may wish to include messages to those in the audience who deserve a special mention, such as palliative caretaking.
Example - I want to take the opportunity to say thank you to everyone present for being here today and having been a part of Mum’s life. I would also like to acknowledge those who were unable to attend and those joining us via streaming. I do not doubt that you would have loved to have been here in person today. Looking down, I’m sure Mum would be extremely grateful for everyone being part of this service today and for having shared time, love, and friendship with you.
Closing by summarising your theme, describing your lasting memory of your loved one, delivering a message to your loved one and/or telling a quote will effectively complete this journey of reflection.
Example - Dad has always been my pillar of support, strength, and comfort in tough times. Living without him leaves a giant hole in my life. But I will draw strength from the things he taught me and live by the words he quoted as if his own - “accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can.” It is an honour to speak with you and share precious memories and stories about Dad, of which there are many more. I am sure that I and others here will continue to reflect on them as time goes on. He will be missed, but his memory will forever live on in us all. I love you so much, Dad. We will miss you more than words can say.
Telling dramatic stories or other emotional points in your speech may benefit from the use of delivery techniques. These include using or changing tone, volume, and gestures. These tools will help to get maximum impact, so if this is appropriate and if you're comfortable exploring how to deliver the Eulogy, give this some thought when preparing your Eulogy. For more information, check out our Resources page.
During your writing journey, remember that the Eulogy is an opportunity to reflect on your loved one’s background, anecdotes, values, characteristics, and what sets him or her apart from others. These are the hallmarks of a great Eulogy. They honour your loved one's memory and will make an impact on your audience. And always ask yourself - what am I trying to achieve with this speech?
Leave a lasting impression that your audience will remember long after the Eulogy.