How to Capture a Life in Words: Ten Secrets to Speaking at a Funeral

Giving a eulogy

Funerals are difficult for everyone but they can be especially challenging for those who have been asked to deliver a eulogy.


This speech serves as a personal tribute to the departed, summing up the key events of their life. Even more importantly, it should shed light on the attributes that made them so special. Sharing those unique qualities in a meaningful way is a great honor. If you have been asked to talk about the life of a departed loved one, here are ten secrets to delivering a remarkable eulogy.


Recognize the importance of the task.

Writing and delivering a eulogy isn’t easy. Even if you’re adept at public speaking, it may feel overwhelming when you are also dealing with grief. But remind yourself how lucky you are to be chosen to shoulder such an awesome responsibility. You get the last word in framing and sharing the life of your loved one. It is a wonderful gift that you will cherish for the rest of your days.


Keep it positive.

A eulogy is more than just a list of great qualities of the deceased. It’s also a chance to remember and share fond stories of their life with friends and family members. Don’t dwell on the negative. Stick to the happy and uplifting.


Incorporate a lesson.

Is there something you gleaned from your loved one that has changed you for the better? Something you’ve learned or will do differently? Maybe you’ll attack each day with greater enthusiasm, try to be more patient, or treat others with more compassion.


Be mindful of the clock.

A page or two will likely be enough to fit some good stories in, but it all depends on how close you were with the departed and how many accounts you wish to share. It also depends on how many speakers there are. There’s no specific time limit on a eulogy, but keep in mind that this it’s just one part of the funeral or memorial service. Three to five minutes is generally a good timeframe.


Practice makes perfect.

Read your speech aloud to yourself several times. Better yet, practice reading it in front of a few close friends or family members and ask for their feedback.


Bring your notes with you.

Have your talking points with you in case your mind goes momentarily blank. Print them out or write them in large type so you can refer to them quickly and easily. Your eulogy will come across as more genuine and heartfelt if you don’t read it word for word.


Introduce yourself.

Although you may know most of the people in the audience, it’s still a good idea and proper etiquette to remind everyone of your name and your relationship to the departed. For example, you might say something along the lines of, “For those of you whom I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting, I am Paul Doe, John’s youngest brother.” This is also an appropriate time to thank people for attending the service. You might make a special mention of anybody who traveled from far away to be there.  


Speak slowly and enunciate.

The funeral guests will probably be hanging on your every word. Although you may be nervous, try to speak slowly and enunciate so that those in attendance can hear and understand what you’re saying. This will allow them to join you in reflecting upon the cherished memories you’re sharing.


Make eye contact.

When speaking, try to look up at the audience occasionally. If you’re unable to look directly at any one person, pick a spot in the venue to glance at every now and then. Holding your head up rather than looking down at your notes will provide a better listening experience for those in attendance.


Above all, be yourself.

You were chosen to deliver the eulogy for a reason. You likely had a very special relationship with the person who passed away. Let that relationship shine through in your eulogy. And don’t worry about perfection. Talk to the audience like you would talk to your friends. Be yourself and your speech will come across as genuine, meaningful, and memorable.  When you’re ready to wrap up your talk, leave the guests with one final favorite memory or some words of encouragement.


If you’re honored with the task of writing and reading a eulogy for a loved one, think of it as an important part of your final goodbye. If you need more assistance, our compassionate funeral directors are here to help. Please reach out to us anytime.


About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit

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