How to Write an Outstanding Eulogy

The eulogy is one of the most important and touching readings at a funeral. It's a verbal snapshot of not only who a loved one was but also the role they played in the lives of others. Some gentle questions, some thoughtful reflection and, yes, even some laughter at memories made can help create a eulogy that not only embodies the life of the deceased but also celebrates the role they played in the lives of their family and friends.

Step 1 - Collect the Basics of a Eulogy

 

Whom to include / Milestones

Include family. Parents, siblings, grandparents and cousins. A particular pet they were close to. Good friends, partners in crime. Take a moment to reflect on those that played a role in the life of the deceased. Because those are the people that are grieving and they need to hear that they mattered, that their love was reciprocated.

A eulogy can be a timeline of a life. That's not saying to hit every event but choose some of the bigger milestones and make those a part of the eulogy. Graduations, marriages, births of children are some of the more common but don't be afraid to use others. Maybe a major moment was a championship basketball game, the first car they bought, involvement in a program or group that impacted the lives of others. Those milestones were a part of what made them unique and will help the eulogy connect with the hearts of family and friends.

Share a memory

Don't be afraid to share a memory. Tell a story, relive a moment, let the audience share in laughter. Not only is this a wonderful way to capture the spirit and personality of the deceased, it helps to bring comfort in sharing something special. A reminder on a sad day of happier times, of a moment or a day well lived.

Celebrate their life

Allow the eulogy to be a celebration of their life, of all the good they brought to so many others. Whether it was their gift of always seeing the positive, their love a good bargain, the smile that brightened up a room - celebrate their gifts.

Listen

So where do you find all the information? How do you get the stories? Whether with family or with friends,listeningis the most important part of gathering information, stories, facts for the eulogy. Family will share memories, friends will talk about 'remember when' and this is a great time to sit back and just listen. When a memory sparks laughter or some comfort or even some tears, those are the moments you can add to your eulogy to bring life to make that connection with family and friends. Because they were a part of that memory.

Ask questions - gently

Gentle probing questions are okay. Asking the family if there is anything that they want included or not included is important. And realize that it may take a day or two or three before the family is ready for those questions or has answers. Be patient.

Step 2 - Create your Outline

 

Now that we've given you an idea as to what type of information a eulogy can be constructed from, we've created an example outline of what is should look like after you have collected the basic information.

Eulogy Outline Example

The deceased: 27 year old Jennifer Marie Parker of Boston, MA

Whom to Include / Milestones

Family

  • Parents: Ed and Julie (Olson) Parker, Malden, MA
  • Siblings: Brother, John Parker, Utica, NY and Sister Emily (Parker) McKinley, Exeter, NH
  • Grandparents: Donald and Patsy Parker, Malden, MA; Conway and Susan Olson, Lincoln, ME
  • Cousins: Emma Rae and Theodore
  • Pets: Dog, Otis

Work/School

  • Graduated Malden High School: 1990
  • Attended Bentley College. Graduated 1994 BS Computer Science
  • Worked for IBM since 1995

Interests

  • High school track star
  • Editor of school newspaper
  • Volunteering at local animal shelter
  • Passion for animals

Memories

  • Passion for animals turned house into a proverbial zoo.
  • One summer she rescued several diff animals and then managed to find homes for most.
  • Sat vigil outside her house until father agreed to let the rest stay.

Celebration

  • Loved practical jokes
  • Would drop anything for a friend
  • Would make playlists for those that needed a pick me up
  • Hugged everyone she met.

Family wants included

  • Her dog. Where she went he went. Spent hours at the dog park, hiking, swimming. Had his own pillow next to hers on the bed.
  • Her niece and nephew. She never missed a Sunday at their house, bringing donuts and hot chocolate. Made every holiday special for them in her own way.
  • Her love of her friends and family. She loved with her whole heart and never took a day for granted.

Step 3 - Turn the Outline into a Eulogy

 

Once you've gathered all of the information, take a moment to simply reflect. It's a lot to take in emotionally and mentally and sometimes, taking a break can serve to refresh the mind and prepare you to write. Find a place to write that works for you - a quiet space, a kitchen table, wherever you feel most comfortable. Jot down some words and adjectives you'd like to use to describe the person and review your notes as you go along. If you aren't sure as you're writing if something 'sounds right' on paper - stop and read it out loud. Save a hard copy when you're finished as there will most likely be tweaks and changes. Be prepared to share the eulogy with someone that will give honest feedback and critique and don't hesitate to ask the family if they would like to hear the eulogy beforehand. Often times, families will have small details they want added or reworded and those changes are often easily accommodated.

Tips for once you've written the eulogy:

  • Proofread

    And then proofread again. Grammatical errors that will impact the reading of the eulogy can be distracting from what the eulogy is all about. Take the time to proofread and then have someone else proofread for you.

  • Get Feedback

    Ask the family if they would like to read or hear the eulogy beforehand. Some families will and some families won't. The benefit to hearing the eulogy before it is read to the audience is it gives families the opportunity to change things, add things, take things out. Be receptive and willing to make whatever changes the family asks for.

  • Practice Reading It Out Loud

    If you are delivering the eulogy, practice beforehand. A funeral is an emotional event and practicing the eulogy ahead of time can help ensure that you give a beautiful and from the heart recollection of a life that all have come to celebrate.

  • Be Patient, Focus on the End Result

    Writing the eulogy for a loved one should be considered an honor. Listen to the needs of the family, have patience with gathering the necessary facts and memories and tell a magnificent story of the life of a loved one.

We've created a sample eulogy based off of the information from the eulogy writing steps we gave above.

The Eulogy of Jennifer Marie Parker

Today we've all come to celebrate the life of Jennifer Marie Parker. She is the cherished daughter to Ed and Julie, an adored sister to John and Emily, loving granddaughter to Don and Patsy and Conway and Suzi, a beloved auntie to Emma and Theo, a precious mom to Otis, her adored silver lab and a dear friend to so many. As I look around the room, it is evident the impact that Jenn had on all of our lives and today, we remember and honor how much we love her and, more importantly, how loved she made us all feel.

Jenn was a fireball from an early age. Being the youngest of three siblings, her life revolved around keeping up with her older brother and sister. And like most siblings, they 'tolerated' Jenn by keeping her busy. See, Jenn was willing to do just about anything in order to be one of the big kids. That being said, Jenn spent a great deal of her childhood doing chores. Everyone's chores. That led to major incentive to John and Emily to let Jennifer tag along most of the time.

In high school Jenn turned her attention to burning off her excess energy and pouring it into running. She lettered as a high school freshman yet was very humble about her achievement. In fact, she often times would credit her teammates with pulling her through to victory, running a faster leg in the relay or even wearing her lucky socks before taking the credit herself. To this day her parents can't figure out which socks were her “lucky” ones…in true Jenn fashion, she rarely, if ever, wore any that matched.

Jenn was also the editor for the school newspaper and was infamous for pitching out of the box ideas to their advisor. There was the time that Jenn wanted to do an expose on the interesting items pulled out of the pool drain at the end of the season. Or the time that she pitched having the teachers jello wrestle for the best classroom location the following school year. Jenn brought light and laughter to all of her endeavors and accepted her defeats with the same humor and good nature that she accepted her successes. A life lesson that she continued to use far beyond her high school years.

Jenn attended Bentley College and went on to graduate with a degree in computer science. College life suited Jenn to a T and she was a leader on campus. In fact, she was such a leader that her dad wondered how in the heck she even graduated with all of her many 'leadership' activities such as organizing tailgate food for the annual Patriots game they attended and the many beer pong tournaments she judged. But Jenn being Jenn, she managed beautifully and made a lot of friends and a lot of memories along the way. She started her career at IBM in 1995 after traveling abroad for six months and has enjoyed her work and her colleagues. She was an IT manager in software and services. She was dedicated to her job, enjoyed the travel and meeting clients and was am asset to the company and her department.

There was one thing in life that Jenn was truly passionate about and that was animals. She volunteered at the age of 14 at her local animal shelter and kept her volunteer position all through high school. It didn't matter if it walked, crawled, swam, slithered or climbed - if it was part of the animal species it had a place in Jenn's heart. And if it needed a home, well the three bedroom Parker 'hotel' was open and accepting. I mention the hotel was open and accepting - not necessarily Jenn's dad. There was a summer where Jenn had rescued four turtles, a host of field mice, two garden snakes, a lost rabbit and six goldfish she won at a fair. Not to mention that she would take home the occasional kitten or stray from the shelter that didn't have a home. After much negotiating with dad, Jenn begrudgingly agreed to find homes for as many as she could. As the Parker zoo whittled down to two dogs, three cats and a turtle named George, dad finally agreed they could stay…after Jenn sat vigil in the front yard for three hours. With the animals surrounding her. Holding a sign that read, “My Daddy doesn't like my animals”. Did I mention the Parker's live on main street…That was a good summer in the Parker house for sure.

Most of you here have probably at one point in time or another been a victim of Jenn and her practical jokes. Probably on multiple occasions. Jenn would come up with these elaborate plans, detailed practical jokes that often times were epic fails. But Jenn would laugh and laugh as if it were just televised on Bloopers as the funniest practical joke of all time. And the thing about Jenn - she could take it as good as she gave it. John spent a large part of his high school years hiding and scaring Jenn to the point where she refused to walk in the house until every light had been turned on, every door opened and Emily gave her the go ahead to come in. Jenn learned a lot from those experiences - most importantly, don't believe Emily.

Her friends were an important part of Jenn's life. If she loved you, you knew it. And Jenn, well she pretty much loved everyone she met. She always saw the good in people and if you needed her then she was there. She was famous for making a playlist for those that were down in the dumps and was probably the best hugger I've ever met. Jenn was not just loving; she was the very definition of love.

And her Otis. Her lab is without question her best friend - peas and carrots she used to call the two of them. Whether it was hiking, going for ice cream, swimming, the park - if you got one you most certainly had a good chance of getting the both of them. For Christmas this past year Jenn got him an embroidered pillow case with his name and a paw print on it. For the pillow that he sleeps on. Right next to her on the bed. And Otis knew how very much he was loved by Jenn and returned the love to her tenfold. Yet again a beautiful example of how it felt to be loved by Jennifer Parker. Unconditionally.

She loved her Emma Rae and Theo to pieces. She never missed a school show, a soccer game, a chance to spend time with them. She went above and beyond every holiday to make them feel the magic of the occasion and know just how special they were to her. Rain, shine, blizzard - didn't matter the weather. Jenn came over every Sunday with a dozen donuts from Dunks for Emma Rae and Theo. Well, maybe more like 10 donuts because Jenn could never wait until she got there - but you get the idea. She has dressed as the Easter Bunny, tie dyed Fourth of July t-shirts, decorated cookies and so much more. Halloween was a major event and she would plan for weeks on choosing a costume they would love as she walked along with them from door to door. She was never too tired to spend time with them - she loved them too much to ever say no. And Emma and Theo returned the love to Jenn as they would an adored older sister and the bond they shared was special.

At her core, Jenn was special. She approached each day, every day, as if it were a gift. She loved her life, lived her life to the fullest and she never took a day for granted. She simply didn't. If you were having a problem or a bad day, probably most of us called Jenn. Not only would she carry the weight of our problems on her shoulders but she always managed to find the positive in the problem. She loved with her whole heart and put her whole heart into all she did.

So as we come together today to celebrate the life of Jennifer Marie Parker, our beloved and quirky Jenn, let's make it a celebration. Let's find the silver lining and remember how much she brought to all of our lives, how much she made us laugh, how much she helped us love. Jenn lived a life that embraced what each day brought and she loved each of us for our individual gifts and what we brought to her life. We are all better for having been a part of her and her gift to each of us - in addition memories that we made with her - is a magnificent example of a life lived to the fullest.