Five Tips For Writing A Memorable Eulogy

Rose laid across grave marker | How to Write a Eulogy : Centrepiece Writing Studio

"It would have been good if someone had spoken that day.
A few words... And then it would have been alright to be silent.
It would have been just fine."
-Eve Joseph, In The Slender Margin

If you’ve been asked to deliver a eulogy at a loved one’s funeral, memorial or celebration of life, it can be difficult to know where to begin. You’ve got decisions to make, details to arrange, and maybe even guests coming in from out of town… not to mention all these big emotions.

Not the best time to be creative, is it?

Yet, sharing memories and stories of the departed can be a powerful way to work through our complex feelings of loss and grief.

As difficult as public speaking may be at this difficult time, many people report a feeling of closure – or at least the beginning of closure – from having delivered a meaningful tribute that authentically honours a life well lived.

Here are five tips to help you get started, along with some practical prompts to help you focus.


1. Collect Your Memories And Stories In Advance

Think of this stage as the brainstorming phase.

Before you even start writing, take some time to reflect on what memories and stories you’d like to share. Reminisce with family and friends if possible. Make notes, but don’t worry too much about the writing.

This exercise is intended to help you see what you’re working with, without spending too much time on how it all sounds.

Once you’ve gathered your stories, you can review each of them briefly to ensure they’re a good fit for the final message.

Centrepiece Prompts
  • Who was this person to you? 
  • What was important to them? 
  • What did they enjoy?


2. Create A Deliberate Time And Space To Write

One of the biggest challenges of writing is actually sitting down to do it (No judgment – this happens to me too!)

It sounds simple, but scheduling time in your calendar, and ensuring you have what you need to enjoy the writing process will go a long way to ensuring you actually get it done.  If you’re motivated by goals, you may wish to make one, large or small.

Even though you have a deadline, try not to think of your eulogy as “homework.” Approaching this activity as an opportunity to reflect and prepare will make the process much kinder.

For inspiration, it may help you to have a photo of your loved one nearby and/or to light a candle in their memory.

Make yourself a coffee or pour a glass of wine, grab a snack.

Kleenex? Good.

Now, hang out the do-not-disturb sign and get writing!

Centrepiece Prompts
  • Where and when is it quiet enough for me to write undisturbed?
  • What do I need with me?
  • What inspires me?


3. Write Quickly

The trick to writing a first draft is to focus on getting your thoughts down on the page… without overthinking.

Don’t get tangled in perfectionism.

You can worry about organizing, refining, rearranging and smoothing everything out once you’ve got it all written down.

Write your stories in your own voice. Preparing a speech is very different from preparing a report – you want your speech to be conversational, as though you were talking with a friend.

And if writing is a struggle, be gentle on yourself.

I’m not a fan of the sit-there-til-it’s-done style of discipline.  We’re writers, not drill sergeants.

If the words aren’t flowing, set your work aside and let it percolate. Jot notes as ideas occur to you. If you’re working on a computer, consider switching to old-fashioned pen and paper… or vice-versa.

Schedule another session in a day or two.

Believe it will get done!

Decorative: Fairy saying: "I believe in you" | How to Write a Eulogy : Centrepiece Writing Studio

Centrepiece Prompts
  • If I was telling this story to a friend, what would I say?
  • How sloppy can I make this rough draft?
  • If I get stuck, how can I clear my head?


4.  Think About Your Eulogy’s Structure

Often, the difference between a good speech and a great one depends on how your speech is organized.

Whether you start thinking about structure before you’ve written your first draft or after… that’s up to you.  But it is important to consider.

While many people like to lay out their stories chronologically – from childhood to adulthood – you could also consider grouping memories thematically.

I once structured a client’s eulogy around the deceased’s favourite book. By laying out the speech using a similar style to the book’s unique chapter titles, my client was able to focus on the areas of her father’s life that mattered most to the family, without having to revisit his entire life from start to finish. It was a big hit with the audience, and added a uniquely personal touch to the event.

Another thematic option is to organize your speech based on the two or three most important aspects of your loved one’s life. Maybe: family, work, hobbies.

Or how ‘bout: Hell raisin’, family raisin’, California raisin… hey, for the right person, it could work!

It’s okay to have a little fun.

Centrepiece Prompts
  • Do my stories revolve around a common theme?
  • Do my memories flow chronologically or do they jump around?
  • Was my loved one passionate about something that could be used as a theme?


5. Practice Out Loud

Once you’ve sorted your notes the way you want, and worked them into a final draft,  it’s important to practice speaking out loud.

This will help make sure you’re comfortable with your pacing, timing and even volume.

Plus, if your loved one’s second cousin, Mrs. Fuchs, is attending, you’ll want to make sure you know how to pronounce her name correctly.

Most importantly, practicing gives you confidence. You want to walk up to that podium knowing you’re ready.

Because you know what?  You are ready!

Centrepiece Prompts
  • How is my pacing? When I’m nervous, do I tend to speak too fast or too slowly?
  • Do I know how to correctly pronounce everyone’s name?
  • If there’s any humour in my speech, have I practiced my timing?


Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy, and some will tell you the eulogy is the most difficult speech of all.

I would tell you it’s the most meaningful speech of all.  This is your opportunity to commemorate the life, love and stories of the one you hold dear.

By celebrating your loved one and their contributions to the world, you not only give them a heartfelt send-off in the best possible light, but you also allow yourself and your audience to find the closure needed to carry on.

Speaking is powerful stuff.

So let’s make sure you ace it.



PS – If you’re looking for one-on-one care and support in preparing your own customized eulogy, look no further.  Centrepiece Writing Studio is here to help. 💗  Send me a message, and we’ll chat (for free) about where you’re stuck and how I can assist.

Photo by dragana991, Getty Images Pro

Leaf - Centrepiece Writing Studio - Shannon Marshall - Victoria, BC

Shannon Marshall

Hi - I’m Shannon, a speechwriter for all occasions, and owner of Centrepiece Writing Studio. I write heartfelt speeches, handcrafted just for you.

If you need a hand finding just the right words for your toast, eulogy or milestone celebration, I've got you covered. I'll help you tell your story.

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Shannon Marshall - Centrepiece Writing Studio - Shannon Marshall - Victoria, BC

Centrepiece Writing Studio is grateful to operate on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen people, now represented by the Songhees and Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) nations...
The glorious land commonly known as Victoria, BC.

With great respect for the earliest residents of our shared coastal home, CWS strives to uphold our mutual values of storytelling and environmental stewardship.

Flower - Centrepiece Writing Studio - Shannon Marshall - Victoria, BC