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How to Avoid Becoming Emotional When Delivering a Eulogy

Funerals are a trying time for everyone, particularly if it involves the death of a close family member or friend. If you have been blessed with the task of writing and delivering a eulogy for the deceased, then it may seem like an excessive amount of stress has been placed squarely on your shoulders, so much so that it may not feel like a blessing at all, but rather a curse. This is grief and the fear of public speaking that is getting to you. Don’t let that happen. 

Being chosen to eulogize the recently departed is indeed a wonderful honour for which you should be proud. Your family and friends completely trust you to send your loved one off with the love and respect that they deserve, so have the same amount of trust in yourself that they have in you. With all of the difficult emotions that you are probably experiencing at such a hard time in your life, it is common for people to fear that they will not be able to get through the delivery of the eulogy without breaking down. This is a completely normal fear, but you can get through this. Below are some tips to help you get through the delivery of your speech while keeping your emotions in check. Check out our extensive list of Melbourne Funeral Services to help you arrange a funeral for your loved one.

  • Practice First: While it is possible to stand up and share your story on the fly, you might not feel comfortable winging it in front of an audience. Practice what you want to say aloud (in front of a mirror, with a recording device, or in front of a friend). You will feel more confident after rehearsing a few times.
  • Make it Personal: Most people in attendance at a funeral already know the facts: the deceased’s name, birthdate, hobbies, etc. They do not want a list of accolades or reminders of all he or she accomplished. They want a personal connection, a chance to feel how your life was changed for the better because of the deceased. Make the story as personal as you are comfortable with, and do not fear showing emotion.
  • Crying is Okay: You might break down in the middle. You might start crying in front of hundreds of people. You might not even be able to finish. All of these are perfectly okay. No one is expecting perfection—just honesty.
  • Write it Down: You should feel free to prepare your speech or thoughts ahead of time. If you are more comfortable with the written word than the spoken one, offer to write the obituary or tell your story on paper. You can then read it aloud or even ask someone else to do the honours for you.
  • Avoid the Front of the Room: Most eulogies occur at the podium or front of the church, but no rule says you must get upfront and give a formal speech. There will often be a microphone passed around or a chance for people to stand where they are and share. If this is the case, you can avoid the all-eyes-on-you fear.
  • Think Smaller: You do not have to give a speech in front of a crowd for your words to matter. If you cannot handle the thought of speaking in front of everyone, tell your story to a family member later. An intimate one-on-one conversation can often be just as healing in the end.

6 Tips to Help You Deliver the Eulogy Without Crying

Tip #1: Practice

Practice does not necessarily make perfect, but it does make better. Practising your eulogy in front of a trusted friend or family member, a mirror, or even just yourself can make all the difference when it comes to nerves.

Tip #2: Have a support person

Having a support person picked out is a wonderful idea, but not one that you necessarily think of right away. So I’m here to recommend it!

Choose a good friend or family member to sit close to you in the room where you will be giving your eulogy. If you feel yourself arriving at a breaking point at any time while speaking, look at this person. Take a deep breath and make eye contact with them. This should bring you a bit of comfort if the going gets tough.

Tip #3: Eat before you speak

No one can do anything to the best of their ability on an empty stomach—especially while under the emotional stress of giving the eulogy at a funeral. Remember to eat a good meal before you head out.

If you do not feel up to eating a lot (which is very understandable!), a small, healthy snack should do the trick. Any sustenance will provide you with the energy you need to get through not only your eulogy but the entire service. Trying to do that on an empty stomach will leave you feeling more than drained and can cause you to feel weepier.

Tip #4: Remember to breathe

We usually don’t even have to think about breathing; it’s something our body does automatically for us.

But for some reason, when placed under stress, the body sometimes forgets to breathe properly. If you know that you will be nervous while speaking, take a few deep breaths just beforehand. This will help to clear your mind and keep you from speaking too fast.

So remember to take a deep breath or two during your eulogy. If you get to a point where you feel like crying, this can be refreshing enough to keep tears at bay.

Meditating or doing deep breathing exercises in the days leading up to the service may also help calm your nerves.

Tip #5: Remember who the eulogy is for

This tip may seem counter-productive. You may be thinking, “That will just make me cry more!”

What I mean is, remember why you are giving the eulogy. It’s to honour the life and legacy of your loved one. Remember that they had many joyful moments in their life. Making it a point to highlight these happy times in your eulogy can help you get through it more easily.

Tip #6: Keep things funny, if appropriate

What helps to keep the blues away? Laughter! Of course, whether or not it is appropriate to include humour in your eulogy will largely depend on a) your audience and b) who your loved one was and how they passed. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide religious and traditional funeral services.

But it’s usually just fine to include a little humour in a eulogy. Do you have a funny memory of your loved one you want to share? Did something hilarious happen to them that no one ever let them live down?

THE DO’S AND DON’TS WHEN WRITING A EULOGY

The sense of responsibility associated with writing and presenting a eulogy can feel overwhelming. The thought of having to find the words to summarise a life and then deliver those words as a speech in front of friends and family is understandably daunting.

At Bethel, people often ask us to explain the do’s and don’ts of eulogy writing. In response, we have composed this summary of funeral speech do’s and don’ts. We hope this guide will help you feel more confident in yourself and ensure you avoid making some of the most common eulogy mistakes.

The 4 Do’s of Eulogy Writing

Do be prepared

It is most important that you thoroughly prepare your remembrance speech. Take the time to redraft your words until you are satisfied that the meaning is clear and the sequence is logical.

Set a timer and read the speech aloud. Speak slowly and rehearse carefully the pronunciation of unfamiliar names and places. We find that most eulogies are between five and ten minutes in duration. If you are sharing the eulogy with others, aim for around three minutes each. Adjust the content of your remembrance speech to ensure it is not too brief or too lengthy.

Print the speech for ease of reading by choosing a large font with double spacing and single-sided printing. If your eulogy goes over a page, be sure to print the page numbers at the bottom, so they don’t become muddled. Hold the pages together with a paperclip and keep them flat as you take them to the service – this will help them sit well on the lectern.

For further advice on structuring a eulogy and what to include, please refer to our How to Write a Eulogy article.

Do be yourself

It is highly likely that the family and friends gathered before you at the funeral know you very well. As an audience, they will be supportive and appreciative of the notable gesture you are making to the remembrance process.

There is no need to suddenly adopt a formal persona or to try to be a comedian. Be true to yourself and the way you are. Speak in an audible and clear voice, but allow your personality to shine through. You have been chosen to present the eulogy because of your personal qualities. Let this be a comfort and a source of confidence.

Do be positive

As far as possible, let the emphasis of your speech fall on positive and uplifting memories. Most lives have sorrowful chapters. A brief mention of anything significant is appropriate, but try to avoid dwelling on negative experiences.

Be honest and truthful about the positive impact your loved one has had on the lives of family and friends. Include mention of their achievements and describe any contributions they have made towards improving, and supporting, the lives of others.

Do be a storyteller

Sharing stories about the deceased is an important part of the healing process. Include a couple of anecdotes in your speech. Try to choose stories that serve to encapsulate the true character of your loved one.

People love to connect through storytelling. Your shared recollections are likely to stimulate fond and welcome memories in the hearts and minds of your audience. By being a storyteller, you are helping others through their grief journey.

The 4 Don’ts of Eulogy Writing

Don’t be isolated

Consult with family and friends throughout the process of preparing the eulogy. Gather information and stories from relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Use their ideas to help structure your thoughts.

Ask your loved ones to read through the draft of your speech. Invite them to identify any errors, clarify the flow of the content and offer suggestions on further material to include.

Read your funeral speech aloud to a close friend or family member. You can do this in person, over the phone or through Skype. Sharing this task with others will help you feel less isolated and may serve to reduce any nervous feelings you have about delivering the eulogy.

Don’t be indiscreet

In presenting the eulogy, your role is not to judge or measure the life of the deceased. A remembrance speech is not the platform through which to refer to inappropriate memories or to tell tales.

Leave out any mentions of questionable behaviour or long-held grudges. A eulogy is not an opportunity to “roast” the deceased. There is certainly a place for humour and warmth, but the content of a remembrance speech should always remain respectful.

Don’t be a list-maker

The task of summarising the events of a whole life into one single speech is almost impossible. You cannot include everything; some stories and events will be shared in less formal moments with friends and family.

When writing a eulogy, it is easy to fall into the trap of composing a chronological list of events to illustrate the deceased's life. Try to avoid your speech sounding like a CV. Instead, focus on telling the stories that illuminate the life of your loved one. Need help in planning a funeral service? Check out Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals in Melbourne.

Don’t be self-conscious.

Delivering a eulogy can be an emotional task. If you need to pause and compose yourself:

  1. Don’t be self-conscious.
  2. Take a few deep breaths, have tissues and a glass of water close by.
  3. Slow down and take your time.
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