The passing of a loved one is a difficult time for everyone, and as family members prepare funeral services to say goodbye, many find themselves pondering how to write an obituary or how to deliver a eulogy that is compelling.
Obituaries and eulogies are both intended to honor the deceased, but they have several differences. A eulogy is a speech given at a memorial service by family or friends in memory of the deceased, while an obituary is an announcement of a person’s death by a relative or funeral director that is published in a newspaper or online publication.
We’ve put together a guide covering several important steps on creating an obituary and giving a eulogy.
How to write a compelling obituary
The purpose of an obituary is to announce a person’s death with a brief summary of their life and to inform people about any planned funeral services. In a local newspaper, both in print and online, obituaries can be published for any local resident upon their death. While some prefer a somber and respectful announcement, others see obituaries as a way to celebrate the life of the person who has passed away with a short story to help keep their memory alive.
1. Check local newspaper in print and online
Before you start writing your obituary, check out the requirements for having it published in your local paper. Many news publications have specific guidelines on the style and length of the obituary, and it’s possible that they may only accept an obituary if it’s written by one of their editorial staff or submitted directly from a funeral home. Most funeral homes can provide obituary templates that you can use as a guideline, and they may even cover the cost of publishing the obituary as part of the funeral services.
2. Announcement of death/biographical information
Announcing the death of your loved one is the very first step in writing the obituary. Include their name, age, the city where they resided and the day and date of their death. You may also want to include the cause of death at the end of the announcement. Providing biographical information is an important part of the obituary and helps to make it a compelling tribute to their life. Try to be as compelling as possible when crafting your story about your loved one, and be sure to incorporate some personality into your writing. Cover details such as their place of birth, marital life (if applicable), education and employment background, as well as their passions, hobbies and lifetime achievements.
3. Mention surviving family members
It’s important to mention the deceased’s surviving family members along with any close family members who have preceded them in death. List the names and residences of their children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters and any other important family members that should be included, and be sure to list the name of their spouse if they had one. Many people are very attached to their pets, so you may consider adding their names to the list of surviving family members.
4. Memorial services
If there are memorial services planned, be sure to include this information in the last part of the obituary. Provide the date, time and location where the services will be held, and be sure to indicate if the services happen to be private. If you would like memorial contributions to be made toward your family or to a specific charity that the deceased supported, rather than sending flowers, be sure to include these necessary details as well.
5. Proofread and submit
Once you have finished writing your obituary, read it over a few times to make sure you like the tone and writing style, and check for any grammatical errors. It would also help to have another set of eyes proofread it as well for additional feedback or suggestions. Once you are satisfied with your obituary, the last step is to submit it to the funeral home or directly to the news publication.
How to create and deliver a great eulogy
The purpose of a eulogy is to honor and pay tribute to a person who has passed away. Taking on the task of giving the eulogy for your loved one can seem a bit difficult or daunting at first, but it’s likely to be a moving and memorable experience. You don’t have to be an excellent writer to give a great eulogy, as the best eulogies are simply very thoughtful, have a touch of humor if possible, and come straight from the heart.
1. Gather memories
The majority of your speech will be based on memories of your loved one. Write down all your favorite memories of them, and ask their friends, family members and co-workers if they have stories and favorite memories they can share with you. It also helps to pull out pictures to reminisce and find inspiration in things that rekindle old memories and feelings about your loved one.
2. Set the tone
Decide what the tone of your eulogy will be before you write it. Will it be a little lighthearted and humorous, sad and serious, or a bit of both? A combination of both seriousness and humor is generally the most popular way to celebrate the deceased’s life.
3. Create an outline
Write a brief outline of several key events that occurred in the person’s life that you would like to share, such as when they were married, had children, got a new job or reached a milestone. Be sure to also write out the things that were important to your loved one, what their favorite hobbies were, and any basic facts about their everyday life. Jot down anything and everything you can think of that will tell a story about their life, the person they were, and fond memories you may have had together. Every little piece will help in putting your eulogy together. An outline will also help you stay organized and make writing your speech much easier.
4. Stay organized when writing
The best way to stay organized when writing your eulogy is to summarize it in three main points by giving it a beginning, middle, and end. Start by writing a brief introduction about who you are so the audience will have an understanding of your relationship to your loved one. Then go back to your outline and expand on important details you have already written down, such as the basic info about their life and significant moments that occurred, and of course, share some of your own personal stories and memories too.
Practicing your speech out loud several times will give you a good idea of how it will sound when you are delivering it to an actual audience at the memorial service. Ask several people to listen to you give the eulogy so they can provide feedback, and make adjustments as needed to what you’ve written. Plus, the more you practice, the higher your confidence level will be when speaking to a crowd and the more likely you’ll be to memorize your speech—or at least most of it.
6. Delivering the eulogy
When it’s time to deliver the eulogy you may feel nervous and emotional, but there’s no need to be afraid—you have the support of everyone in attendance and no one will be judging you or critiquing your speaking skills. Bring a copy of your speech with you if you’re unable to recite it from memory, and go over it a few times before you deliver the eulogy—this will help your speech stay fresh in your mind. Just remember, it’s truly an honor to be assigned the task of giving the eulogy for someone who was important to you, and it’s sure to be a sincere and heartfelt moment that you’ll never forget.
Consider more ways to help
If you or someone you know has recently lost a loved one and is need of assistance with memorial and funeral expenses, you can create a free fundraiser in minutes and start raising money today. GoFundMe provides free fundraising and customer support for your questions. Learn more about how to use crowdfunding to raise funds for funerals.