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What is a eulogy? And how do I write a great one?

Like many aspects of the funeral industry, even the language used by traditional funeral homes can feel shrouded in mystery. Terms and words like: internment, unattended cremation, double service, mortuary crypt, vault and mausoleum can feel confusing and overwhelming to a person who is dealing with the loss of a loved one for the first time.

At Tomorrow Funerals, we aim to use clear, modern language that our clients can easily understand. There is enough confusion and anxiety after someone close as died already.

Definition: eulogy

noun

  1. a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly, especially a tribute to someone who has just died.

At Tomorrow we prefer the term: ‘Life Story’.

In fact, we’re all about the stories! We believe a well told story should be entertaining and feel like a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, with ups as well as downs, laughter as well as tears.

We’ve even created a fun card game to get you sharing your life memories.

Below you’ll find our comprehensive kit on how to write a brilliant Life Story or eulogy! OR, try this one if you’re writing your own life story.

We also believe that a person’s life story can be presented in any number of ways… For one family that might mean having a great celebrant share a colourful tale with a beginning middle and end, including all the interesting characters and history involved. It might also highlight their proudest achievements and most important relationships.

But a good eulogy could also be told by friends and family members in an ‘off the cuff’ style, sharing their funny memories, favourite recipes or recollecting a particular thing they learned from the person whose life is being celebrated. Jokes, poems or even songs that sum up the life lived are all good!

How to write a fantastic eulogy or Life Story

INSTRUCTIONS ON OUR WRITING GUIDE:

We have included a number of questions you could use as a guide.

  1. Answer ONLY the ones that stand out for you and are easy for you to write up – the questions that resonate with you. (Start with just a few from each section.)
  2. Insert your person’s name for “NAME.”
  3. Once you’ve completed questions from each section, you will have some rich material to write up the Life Story.

Life Story: The beginning…

Setting up the story well is important. A simple approach could be to begin with their early years, their family situation or what their life was like back then… Or you might to start with a favourite saying or joke that sums them up to start with a bang.

  1. What was NAME’S dates of birth?                             
  2. When and where was NAME born?
  3. NAME’S parent’s names, if you would like these included?
  4. Can you describe the family NAME was born into?
  5. (For example, “Josephine was the youngest of three siblings. Her older brothers were Peter and Joseph, not to forget their much loved family dog, Bob.)
  6. Where / How was NAME educated?
  7. Is there a family home that was well remembered? Explain
  8. In a few sentences, can you describe the area or the times in which NAME was brought up? 
  9. (For example, “Jimmy grew up in Greece after World War II. His family were very poor but felt fortunate to arrive in Melbourne as immigrants in the 1950’s. Jimmy was 10 when they arrived and quickly learned English and made friends at school.)
  10. What are some notable things that changed over the course of their lifetime, that NAME may have mentioned?
  11. Are there any stories or memories about NAME’S early years that come to mind? 
  12. Are there any characters, friends or teachers in NAME’S early years that were memorable or inspiring? 

How to write a great eulogy or Life story – The middle…

A brilliant eulogy doesn’t just tell the facts of where a person was born and what they did for a living. It brings a person to life in the imagination of the listener – reminding them of their good traits and possibly gets them laughing too at some of their more annoying or funny ones.

A good thing to think about is telling a few significant stories. Perhaps that means sharing some unusual things that happened, which sum up their life. Talking about their enduring qualities and strengths, will help you build a picture for the audience with your words.

NAME’S MAIN FAMILY, FRIENDS AND RELATIONSHIPS

  1. NAME’S partner’s name if they had one: 
  2. Can you describe how and when they met? (You might like to explain this in a few sentences or more.)
  3. Are there any memories of this day?
  4. How would you describe their relationship?
  5. What did they love doing together?
  6. Are there any other anecdotes or stories about their relationship you could share?
  7. Are there any (funny, sweet) things they found annoying about each other, or argued about? (You could use a more humorous angle here)

FAMILY AND CLOSE FRIENDS

  1. Briefly describe NAME’S family circumstances:
  2. If NAME had children what are (or were) their names:
  3. If NAME had grandchildren what are (or were) their names:
  4. Who were the people closest to NAME that should be mentioned? (partner, children, partners of children, grandchildren, pets? Friends?)
  5. Describe NAME’S most important family relationships:
  6. Describe NAME’S most important friendships:
  7. What words would you use to describe NAME as a family member?
  8. Are there important friends who should be mentioned in detail? Explain
  9. Are there any other memories stories about NAME’S family and friends you would like to share?

NAME’S CHARACTER

  1. What 3-5 words best describe NAME?
  2. How would you describe NAME’s personality? 
  3. What was NAME’S greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses (if there are any you would like to share)
  4. What talents did NAME have?
  5. What was NAME passionate about?
  6. In what ways did NAME drive you crazy? (Usually a funny, or commonly known trait – for example, always late, last standing at any party, the worst cook!)

NAME’S WORKLIFE

  1. If NAME had an occupation, what was it and can you describe? 
  2. What personality traits made them good at what they did?
  3. Are there any anecdotes or stories about their work life you could share?
  4. Are there any work-related achievements that you would like to include here?

LATER YEARS

  1. Where has NAME been living until recently?
  2. What activities have they enjoyed as they got older?
  3. What relationships have been most important as NAME got older?
  4. Is there anything else you would like to include about NAME’s later years?

OTHER THINGS ABOUT NAME

  1. Describe NAME’s hobbies or interests.
  2. Did NAME follow a sports team? Explain
  3. What are some of NAME’S Likes OR Dislikes?
  4. What were NAME’S good and bad habits
  5. What was NAME known for?
  6. Did NAME have a favourite book, TV show, movie or other?
  7. Are there any special trips or holidays they took that should be mentioned? Why were they important?
  8. Did NAME have a favourite joke or saying?
  9. What was NAME most proud of?
  10. How would you describe NAME’S personal style and appearance?
  11. What was NAME’s favourite food or drink? Why?

How to write a memorable eulogy or Life story – The end!

Finally, think about what you wish to sum up with. A good conclusion could end with a quote that sums up their life or perhaps their own way of saying farewell! You might also begin the conclusion with the circumstances of their death.

  1. Are there any other stories or memories that you wish to share?
  2. Would you like to share any details about the way in which NAME died?
  3. Who (if any) should be mentioned as the closest family / friends of NAME in terms of people who will miss NAME most?
  4. What will you most miss about NAME?
  5. How will NAME be remembered?
  6. Regarding NAME, what are you most proud of?
  7. What lessons will family members hope to take from NAME’S life?
  8. What family traits do you hope will be passed down from NAME? And to whom?

Good Luck writing a memorable, interesting life story, or eulogy.

If you need professional help, remember we work with the most experienced celebrants who write for a living and could help you prepare a truly remarkable memorial event that shines a light on the life of loved one, turning your memories into family stories.

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We’re always here to help

Call us 24-hours / 7 days on 1800 574 824
Our Journal contains our entire list of resources for creating personal memorials.
Or visit our funerals page, for more information on our unique memorial style funeral package.