One day you get the call. It’s a call no one wants but almost everyone gets at some point: your friend has died. And while you’re in the midst of processing the loss and dealing with your grief, there’s a request – can you write the eulogy?
What is a Eulogy?
What is a eulogy and will you be able to write one correctly? A quick search on Google will tell you that a eulogy is a speech that is usually given at a memorial service for someone who has died. It’s a tribute to their life and how they have touched the lives of people close to them.
When someone asks you to write a eulogy, you’re being asked to capture the life and legacy of your friend. Especially when you’re already reeling from grief, you might feel anxious and overwhelmed. That’s natural. It’s a daunting task.
The Importance of a Eulogy
It can help to understand why eulogies are done and why they are important. You will be writing what is usually the last public words spoken about the deceased – the final words of remembrance for their grieving friends and family members.
While eulogies are about the deceased, they are given to help those left behind. They are a way to remember the deceased and bring them closer to their grieving family and friends, as well as to provide closure to their loved ones and help them let go of the one who has passed away.
Therefore, a eulogy should not read like an obituary or elegy. It should not be too long, typically around three to five minutes, as longer can be emotionally draining on those who are grieving. It should be personal, conversational, and positive as it recalls the special qualities of the deceased and increases the listener’s appreciation of the life that was lost.
How to Write a Eulogy for a Friend
Only someone who truly loved the deceased will be able to do it correctly. Only a loved one will be able to highlight the best qualities of the deceased, to capture their essence rather than list a bunch of facts. Only a loved one will be able to deliver a powerful eulogy that describes the person the deceased was and why they mattered to those who knew them.
That the loved one is you is a privilege. And it’s a privilege many have shared. Some may come to it with some experience, while others have never written a eulogy before. But it’s not easy for anyone, especially when they’re dealing with grief. It can help to break the process of writing a eulogy down into five steps, just like the grieving process itself. Breaking a task like this down into manageable steps makes it seem more possible and less daunting.
1. Recall Your Memories
You already have what you need to get you started – your memories. Begin by recalling them. Some memories will make you laugh and others will make you cry. Choose the most powerful.
When choosing the memories to write about, think about:
- Where and how you first met your friend, as well as the things you did together.
- Funny or touching moments you would like to share
- What you loved most about your friend, as well as what you will miss the most about them.
- What mattered the most to your friend, the things they believed in and what they liked to do.
- Any difficulties they faced and how they overcame them.
After you recall all the stories that highlight your friend’s special qualities, consider asking others to do the same, and write those down as well.
2. Do Your Research
Talk to others who knew your friend. You may not have time to interview six or seven people, but try to talk to at least two or three who were close to your friend. As you do so, a pattern might emerge. You may discover the theme and tone you would like to use for your friend’s eulogy.
Also, do a Google search on your friend. You may discover others who have touching stories to share about your friend. Perhaps your friend also left his or her own words behind – on a blog, or on a social media site.
It’s a difficult task, summing up an entire life in a few minutes. But doing your research and listening to others’ perspective will help you discover a pattern to your friend’s life.
When interviewing others, consider asking such questions as:
- What were some of the things that were important to him or her?
- What is your favorite memory of the person?
- What will you miss the most about the person?
- What are some of the things he or she felt strongly about?
- How did he or she impact your life?
As you talk to different people, other questions may emerge. Still, everyone is grieving and some may not be able to talk for very long, so you can limit the questions to the ones you feel would best capture the type of person your friend was. And when you ask, be sure to let them know you’re looking for examples that would help illustrate your friend’s character.
3. Organize Your Information and Begin Writing
Now that you have the information you need, it’s time to organize them by creating a basic outline. On paper or a word processing document, write “Introduction,” “Body,” and “Conclusion.”
Begin where you prefer. If you already have an idea of how you want to end it, write the conclusion. If you already know what you want in the body of the eulogy, begin there. Otherwise, simply start at the introduction. Generally speaking, most people find it easiest to start with the body, but there’s no “right” or “wrong” answer.
Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to make the speech perfect. Just think of your friend and write from your heart. Write your speech in your own voice, so that those in attendance will feel like you’re talking to them and that you’re sharing a journey together.
Don’t get bogged down by facts. Remember this is not an obituary or biography. You’re sharing memories that describe the type of person your friend was and how important they were to the people who knew them. Include stories that best capture these points by highlighting specific qualities that made the person stand out. If the qualities you choose to highlight are loyalty and sincerity, then you can use these two points to create subheadings in the body of the eulogy, like:
- How your friend was always there through difficult times.
- How your friend pushed others to be better.
- How your friend made friendship a priority.
- How your friend made others feel special.
Starting with those points, pick stories that highlight these special qualities about your friend.
4. Keep it Positive, Keep it Honest, and Make it Memorable
Since this eulogy is for your friend, it should be easy to keep it positive, right? After all, there was a reason you chose this person to be your friend.
But perhaps your friend wasn’t always there. Perhaps he or she was distant, temperamental, moody and always getting into trouble. If you find yourself struggling with challenging details, remember most everyone attending the services probably already knows them, so you don’t have to point them out. Try using a euphemism to help get past any awkward points that might further upset those in mourning.
A eulogy should be positive. It should also be touching and memorable. A good eulogy will usually be brief, yet specific. The best eulogies are thoughtful, sometimes with a touch of humor.
Bear in mind that you don't have to be a great writer to produce a heartfelt and meaningful eulogy. It’s always a good idea to borrow from the best writers and begin as well as end your eulogy on a memorable note. It can be a line from a popular writer, from a song, or a summary of something your friend did that will leave a lasting impression.
Still, many eulogists often end with a personal goodbye to the deceased. And you can do the same.
5. Rehearse, and Get Help If You Need it
Now that you have finished writing, put it aside and do something else for a while. Then return and read it through. Make sure the stories you chose include vivid details and some humor, and expound on the theme of the eulogy. Check that it flows and that the words you used evoke the correct tone.
Add anything you feel is missing and cut anything that takes away from the message you want to convey. You also might want to send a copy of the eulogy to a family member to get their input.
Once you have the final draft, read it out loud to make sure it sounds natural. Rehearse it a few times by yourself, and then strongly consider rehearsing it in front of somebody else. It’s fine (and perfectly understandable) to get emotional when you give it, but the more you’ve practiced, the less likely you are to get overwhelmed.
A Few Examples
Finding the right words to summarize your friend’s life in a short speech might seem impossible. It can sometimes help to read samples of how other people have written eulogies.
Below are two examples of eulogies for a friend. Bear in mind that there is no right or wrong way to write a eulogy. What’s important are your heartfelt words as you pay tribute to your friend’s life.
An Example of a Eulogy for a Friend
This first eulogy focuses on the friend's life’s story, and his belief in hard work and following his own path. The beginning showed where he obtained the foundations of his belief and how he carried those beliefs throughout his life. The ending is the classic, personal farewell used in many eulogies.
My Friend's Heroes
Hi, everyone. I want to thank you for being here today. For those of you who don't know me, I'm Christopher, and I've known Kyle for many years. I know we all miss him, and I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about how we're going to remember him now that he's gone. He was someone who was a hero to a lot of people, including me, and so I'd like to start by talking a little bit about his heroes.
There were two real heroes in my friend’s life: his mother and uncle.
Kyle’s mom was a nurse who pressed home the importance of education. She told him only by having a good education would he be able to be and do whatever he wanted. She also taught him to always stand up for himself, to be honest and speak his mind – even if it meant he would be standing alone.
Kyle never got tired of telling me about his mom and the influence she had on his life. They lived in a neighborhood that stole the young and his mom did her best to keep him safe. But after his first fight in school, she was afraid that he was heading down the wrong path, and had him go to his uncle’s barbershop where he could keep an eye on him after school.
Finding His Own Path
His mom wanted him to be a lawyer or a teacher. But her decision would send Kyle down a different path.
Kyle told me more times than I can remember how fascinated he was by the energy of the barbershop and how much he enjoyed spending time with his uncle there. When there were no customers, his uncle taught him how to cut hair and encouraged him to work hard. Soon, my friend was cutting his own hair and the hair of other boys in his neighborhood. So it wasn’t a surprise that years later after moving away from home and graduating from college, he decided to open his own barbershop.
His shop had been open for about six months when a kid from the neighborhood spray painted the glass doors on a dare. But Kyle arrived early and caught him in the middle of it.
“You have two choices,” he told the boy. “Either I call the cops, or you clean up the mess you made.”
It took the boy two hours to clean it properly. When he was finished, Kyle brought him a plate of food and sat him down and talked to him.
As some of you already know, the boy was me. I was there every day after school. Though he was 12 years older than me, we became friends. He was the first person who believed in me. He told me to be true to myself and I’d discover my own path. He also encouraged me to go to college.
I came back a few years later and nothing had changed, except he had gotten married and had two children. He continued to hire younger boys from the neighborhood to help clean up the store. I know many of them are here today, and I'm sure they'd all agree that Kyle was like an older brother to them.
Summarizing a Life
Kyle was a warm, welcoming, and kind person with a positive outlook on life and a fundamental faith in humanity. He could always put you at ease with his stories. Some I had heard more than a dozen times, but never got tired of hearing.
There was one he told me about a little boy who was afraid of getting his hair cut. Kyle was the only one who realized what was bothering him: it was the clippers’ buzzing noise. My friend had his mom cover the boy’s ears while he cut his hair.
Kyle was a friend, mentor, and father figure to many. And his place was more than just a barbershop. It was a sanctuary filled with laughter. Now that he’s gone, it’ll be hard to find someone I can talk to about everything, someone who will have my back no matter what.
Goodbye, my friend. We'll all miss you a lot. Thank you for everything.
An Example of a Eulogy for a Best Friend
This example of a eulogy for a best friend includes details of how the eulogist and the friend met and the impact she had on her friend’s life and others. In this example, it’s clear the eulogist spoke to others to get their stories about how the friend made a difference in their lives.
A Rocky Start
I want to thank everyone for coming out today to celebrate Lisa's life. I'm Kate, and Lisa and I have been friends since we were in elementary school together. Lisa was an amazing person who touched the lives of a lot of people, and I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about what her friendship meant to me.
When I first met Lisa, my parents were on the verge of getting a divorce and I was angry and always getting into fights. Even as a child, Lisa was quiet and calm, seeming unphased by the world around her.
I wish I could say I found this to be a wonderful quality, but at the time, I didn’t. I found it irritating, and I picked on her. But she brushed it off and kept going. She always went out of her way to be nice to me. Eventually, we started talking and realized we had a lot in common.
We started hanging out after school and on weekends. We talked about everything. Soon, we were inseparable and, by always being there, she helped me let go of my anger.
But my best friend didn’t just have an impact on my life. She touched the lives of many around her. After we graduated from college, she decided to become a teacher. I have to admit that at the time, I didn’t approve. I thought she was meant for other things. But as you all know, once Lisa made up her mind, she refused to budge. And after listening to the stories of some of her students, I realized she had made the right decision.
Impact on Others
As a teacher, she went above and beyond to help her students. Some didn’t know how to read or write properly and had been passed on. And then there were others. One boy’s story stayed with me.
The boy always kept to himself and no matter what she did, he refused to open up. He had never done well in class and always seemed nervous and anxious. Lisa stayed with him after class every day, helping him with his homework and encouraging him to talk, until he started to get more comfortable in school. By the end of the year, he was a straight-A student.
Lisa was always busy helping others. She made everyone feel special. That was her gift.
Looking Out For Me
We were roommates for years after college, and when we started our own families, we became neighbors. Our lives were always connected. She knew all my secrets, and I knew all of hers. But I found out recently there was one secret she had kept from me.
Once, when we were children, I was trying to knock down an apple with a rock; instead, I accidentally broke one of our neighbor’s windows. I was sure they saw me, but I ran, expecting to get yelled at when my mom found out. But she never said anything. It turned out Lisa had seen what happened and taken the blame.
Thank you, Lisa, for always looking out for me and for letting me know I'm never alone. You taught me to strive each day to be a better person and I’ll continue to do my best, knowing that you are always with me.
Some Help With the Writing
If you take these tips and examples into consideration, you will do great at writing a eulogy that pays tribute to your friend and celebrates their life.
Still, perhaps you feel too overwhelmed and disoriented to write the eulogy. Or perhaps you don’t feel like you have enough time to do it right. If so, that’s okay – under the circumstances, it’s more than understandable.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Compose.ly provides professional writers who have the experience and knowledge to create a eulogy that will honor your friend. They are expert writers who will take the time to learn about your friend and memorialize them in the way they deserve.
This post was written by Compose.ly writer Kimathi Lewis.