Eulogies & Tributes
A eulogy is a speech given at a memorial service in memory of the deceased. It is usually delivered by someone who knew the deceased person well. A tribute is a very brief anecdote or two about the deceased, usually delivered after the eulogy by friends or family members.
If you’ve been to a few funerals, you will probably have noticed that there are several different types of eulogies. Some work well and others not so well. The overly detailed eulogy often causes the mourners’ attention to drift especially if it is delivered in a monotone and is serious and lengthy. A eulogy that is inappropriately funny can be distressing for those attending. If you experienced these styles of eulogies you are likely to be left with the inescapable conclusion that the person who died had not been served well by the speaker.
The type of eulogy that, in our experience, works well is brief while being specific. It covers the important bits about the person who died, but doesn’t focus on their entire family tree and every relationship they ever had. It’s heartfelt. We listeners don’t mind if the speaker gets a little teary eyed, as long as we can understand what they’re saying. Do think carefully about whether you include all the details about how they died and whether it was a difficult death. This may be painful and distressing to hear, and is not usually necessary.
We like it when the speaker makes us smile. We may be sad but we want to smile because we liked the person being eulogised. We want to share their happy memories. That’s why we’re at their funeral.
We like it even better if the speaker makes us laugh, but not too much because we’ll start feeling uncomfortable and disrespectful. Don’t tell us very private inside jokes or stories. You know, the kind where you had to have been there in order to get the joke. We don’t like it when most of the audience doesn’t ‘get it’. It feels exclusionary.
We want to hear good things about the deceased. We also like it if they were a little naughty. What was it about them that endeared them to us? What were their most special qualities?
Most of all, we want to hear THEIR story, their truth. We want to be reminded of all that we liked about them. All that made them the special individual we cared about.
If you’ve been asked to write and/or deliver a eulogy, you may want to check out our “Eulogy ‘Tip Sheet”.