Eulogies | Funeral Etiquette
Giving a meaningful, moving eulogy can be nerve-wracking situation for even most accomplished public speaker, but it need not be. How can you summarize somebody’s life in a few short minutes, while being both somber and funny at the same time?
Writing and delivering a eulogy is a therapeutic tool to help with your grief and being chosen to give a eulogy is an honor and should be treated that way.
Here are some tips for writing and delivering an eloquent and memorable eulogy:
Gather information. Talk with family members, close friends and co-worker to get important information on the deceased. Some important information to include in the eulogy is the persons family and other close relationships, their education/career, hobbies or special interests, places the person lived or traveled to, and any special accomplishments they had.
Organize your thoughts. Jot down your ideas by whatever means are most comfortable and familiar to you. Create an outline of your speech and fill in the information that you gathered about the person.
Write it down. This is not a toast at a wedding where you can make off-the-cuff remarks, and you should not ab-lib a eulogy. Writing it all down allows you to include and remember every detail you wanted in your eulogy. When you bring a copy of your eulogy to the podium make sure it has every detail you wanted in your eulogy. Make sure it is easy to read, print it out in large font, or if it is handwritten leave a few spaces between the lines. Keep in mind your time constraints: it’s best to keep things on the short side, especially if there are other speakers
Review and revise. Your first draft will not be the last. When you think you are done, sleep on it and look it over in the morning when it is fresh again, that will be the time to make any necessary revisions.
Make them laugh but be respectable. A funeral is not a roast, however, there is room for humor in your eulogy. Fondly remember a story about the person that everyone can relate to. Keep it appropriate; there will be children and the elderly there that may not share the same sense of humor. Laughter is truly the best medicine, and some well-placed humor will help people cope, and will bring back fond memories of the decreased.
Don’t be afraid to show emotion. Funerals are an extremely emotional event; nobody expects you not to shed a few tears. However, if you feel that you will too strongly overcome by your emotions, have a back-up plan in place where someone you trust can deliver the eulogy for you. Give them a copy well in advance if you feel this could be an issue. Have a glass of water as well as tissues handy.
Like everything in society, funeral etiquette and what is expected of you has evolved over time. As always common sense and good discretion is the best guide to proper funeral etiquette
Express your condolences.
It’s not easy to come up with words to offer sympathy to someone who has just lost a loved one. You don’t need to be a poet, simply saying something like “I am sorry for your loss, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family” is enough. If you can’t be at a funeral service in person, sending a card or leaving a message on a memorial website is a perfect way to express your sympathy.
Gone are the days of dressing up in all black for a funeral, but jeans and a t-shirt isn’t exactly acceptable either. You should still dress to impress and avoid any bright or flashy colors. Wearing what you would wear for a wedding or a job interview would be the most appropriate.
Sign the register book.
The family will keep the register book as a member for years. Be sure to include your full name and relationship to the deceased.
Give a gift.
You don’t need to go overboard with your gift, after all it is the thought that counts. Suitable gift includes: flowers, a donation to the charity of the family’s choice, or you can make a commitment of service to the family at a later date. A commitment of service can be something as simple as cooking them dinner, or offering to clean up their house, any of the “little” things that may be neglected while a family deals with death. Make sure you provide a signed card so the family knows who gave the gift.
Keep in touch.
You may feel that the family needs their space and time to grieve, but a simple phone call or note after the funeral lets the family know you care. With social networking leaving a quick note is as simple as a click of a mouse. The months following a death is when grieving friends and family need the most support.
Bring your cell phone.
Your phone ringing will be highly inappropriate and will cause a disturbance, so turn any ringers or notifications off. Even better, leave your phone at home or in your car, a funeral is not the time to be texting or checking your messages.
Allow your children to be a distraction.
From a very young age children are aware of death, and if the funeral is for someone that was close to them (grandparents, aunt, uncle) they should be given the option to attend. However, if it is not appropriate for your child to be there, and if you feel they will cause a commotion, leave them with a babysitter.
Be afraid to remember the good times.
Funerals are obviously a time of grieving and mourning but remembering the good times helps with the healing process. Sharing a funny and appropriate story is acceptable, and in some cases exactly what the deceased would have wanted.
If food or drink is served, do not over do it. Have a bite to eat before you go to the service, you do not want to be the guy parked at the snack table. If alcohol is served, limit yourself to one or two, do not become inebriated and risk doing something inappropriate.