Delivering a eulogy could rank as one of the toughest, and most dreaded speaking challenges there is.
Have you ever been asked to say a few words about a loved one or a close friend who has died?
If you decided not to do it, it’s perfectly understandable. It’s a sad and emotional event for those left behind. Sometimes it’s easier, and even necessary, to leave it to someone else.
If you did decide to speak, how did it go?
Yesterday I attended a memorial service honoring my Aunt Mickey. My cousin Paul delivered a beautiful eulogy. While there’s no one way to do it right, he gave us all a great example of an approach that works really well. Here's how he structured his remarks:
Open strong and create a little suspense. The first thing Paul did was to honor the room. He welcomed us all and acknowledged the sadness of the day. Then, he promised that at end of his remarks he had a little surprise planned for his siblings. You could feel the energy shift as we anticipated what that could be.
Share a short biography. He didn’t cover everything, but he started at the beginning - when and where Mickey was born, a little about her parents, her siblings and schools. Paul recounted the various parts of her life, up until her last days, highlighting her long and successful marriage, her five wonderful children, their children, and the great grandchildren.
Be funny, sad and personal. It's so important that a eulogy is personal. Paul included happy stories and memories from across the years. He threw in a few "I'll always remember the time when..." to make us smile, and even laugh. Laughter is a balm for grief; it's a good thing, especially when we are sad.
Make sure the room feels included. Each of us was listening for the intersection between Mickey's life and ours. After all, everyone there was a part of her story. My cousin made sure to acknowledge that.
Finish strong. At the end of the eulogy, Paul surprised his siblings with a sweet poem that my Aunt had written about her family. He cried a little at the end, and that was absolutely fine. Never let the fear of tears stop you. If you practice enough you’ll get most of the tears out, anyway.
Speaking at a funeral or memorial service is a great honor. It’s also an opportunity to do something good for yourself, and everyone in attendance.
If you're at all considering giving a eulogy, follow the lead of my cousin Paul. Take heart and be bold. You can do it.