How to write a eulogy

There is no set way to write a eulogy. A eulogy is written from the heart, therefore there is no template you need to follow and no length you need to adhere to. However, there are a number of characteristics that every eulogy has. Let us explain more below.

What is a eulogy?

A eulogy is a speech at a funeral or wake which praises the recently deceased.

A eulogy can be delivered at any type of funeral service whether that's a traditional funeral or a simple funeral.

They are often delivered by a close family member or friend, but can also be delivered by a religious leader, celebrant or chapel attendant.

A eulogy can come in many forms. Often, they are a biography of a person's life written with a very personal outlook. A eulogy usually takes in memories, impressions and highlights of the deceased's life.

A person can also write a self-eulogy before they die which is then read at their funeral.

Eulogy examples

Giulia McDonough

Site Manager at Gedling Crematorium

"Since I began working at Gedling Crematorium in 2021, I've heard a countless number of eulogies delivered by family members and friends. The ones that resonate most make you feel like you really knew the person and they celebrate what made the deceased so special. They can make you laugh, cry and sometimes even both. The best eulogy examples I've seen over the past few years show how someone's life, with all its ups and downs, can leave a lasting impression on everyone around them. And they not only remember the person who passed away, but also remind us of the love and connections that make life so meaningful."

To provide you with a little inspiration before you start to pen your eulogy, here are a few excerpts from famous eulogies from each corner of the world that have stood the test of time.

Earl Spencer's eulogy for Princess Diana

Princess Diana

"William and Harry, we all cared desperately for you today. We are all chewed up with the sadness at the loss of a woman who was not even our mother. How great your suffering is, we cannot even imagine.

"I would like to end by thanking God for the small mercies he has shown us at this dreadful time. For taking Diana at her most beautiful and radiant and when she had joy in her private life. Above all we give thanks for the life of a woman I am so proud to be able to call my sister, the unique, the complex, the extraordinary and irreplaceable Diana whose beauty, both internal and external, will never be extinguished from our minds."

Michael Duffy’s eulogy for Father Mychal Judge

Father Michael Judge

"Mychal Judge's body was the first one released from Ground Zero. His death certificate has the number '1' on the top. Of the thousands of people who perished in that terrible holocaust, why was Mychal Judge number one? And I think I know the reason. Mychal's goal and purpose in life was to bring the firemen to the point of death so they would be ready to meet their maker. Mychal Judge could not have ministered to them all. It was physically impossible — in this life.

"In the next few weeks, we're going to have name after name of people who are being brought out of that rubble. And Mychal Judge is going to be on the other side of death — to greet them, instead of send them there.

"And so, this morning we come to bury Myke Judge's body, but not his spirit. We come to bury his voice, but not his message. We come to bury his hands, but not his good works. We come to bury his heart, but not his love. Never his love."

Helen Clark's eulogy for Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary

"Sir Ed lent his prestige as patron to so many good causes. Schools and other institutions, organisations and facilities bear his name with great pride.

"And Sir Ed also served our country with distinction as High Commissioner to India, based in New Delhi with accreditation to his much-loved Nepal.

"Sir Ed described himself as a person of modest abilities. In reality he was a colossus. He was our hero. He brought fame to our country. We admired his achievements and the great international respect in which he was held.

"But above all, we loved Sir Ed for what he represented – a determination to succeed against the odds, humility, an innate sense of fair play, and a tremendous sense of service to the community, at home and abroad."

John Cleese's eulogy for Graham Chapman

Graham Chapman

"He has ceased to be, bereft of life, he rests in peace, he has kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the Great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky, and I guess that we’re all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, such capability and kindness, of such intelligence should now be so suddenly spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he’d achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he’d had enough fun.

"Well, I feel that I should say, “Nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries.”

"And the reason I think I should say this is, he would never forgive me if I didn’t, if I threw away this opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him but mindless good taste."

Barack Obama's eulogy for John McCain

John McCain

"Others this week and this morning have spoken to the depths of his torment and the depths of his courage there in the cells of Hanoi when day after day, year after year that youthful iron was tempered into steel. And it brings to mind something that Hemingway wrote, a book that Meghan referred to, his favorite book. "Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today."

"In captivity John learned in ways that few of us ever will the meaning of those words, how each moment, each day, each choice is a test. And John McCain passed that test again and again and again. And that's why when John spoke of virtues like service and valor they weren't just words to him, it was a truth that he had lived and for which he was prepared to die.

"And it forced even the most cynical to consider what were we doing for our country? What might we risk everything for?"

Mona Simpson’s eulogy for Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

"But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.

"Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

"Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

"Steve’s final words were:

"OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW."

How long should a eulogy be?

There is no set time for the length of a eulogy - most eulogies are between three and seven minutes, but some eulogies have been known to last as long as 20 minutes.

When writing a eulogy, it's to best consider how long the funeral service or wake is so as not to overstep. A traditional funeral service takes about 45 minutes, though you can have funerals that last around 20 minutes.

Consult the organiser of the funeral so you can weigh up exactly how long your eulogy should be.

Writing a eulogy

It can be difficult to know where to begin when writing a eulogy. How do you start when you have so much to say? Where do you start when you have so much emotion to express?

Writer's block affects us all in so many different scenarios, but never is that more apparent than when writing a eulogy. But as those who suffer from writer's block will tell you, the best thing you can do is just write something down. Write anything down.

It might be best to just start jotting some things down that you'd like to include: memories, places, stories and people. Then from there just let the words flow from your heart. No matter what comes out, whether it's good, great or terrible, you can always revise, tweak and change until you're happy.

Then run it through someone close to you once it's done so they can give their opinion and maybe provide some additional insight. A eulogy can often be a team effort.

Here are a few other tips to help you write a eulogy that makes the heart flutter.

Make it personal

Wooden heart ornament left resting against a tree in remembrance of a loved one buried nearby

Though you can find eulogy templates online, you can't put someone's life into a template. Instead, write something that's truly personal to the deceased which incorporates memories, stories and their personality.

Open your memory bank

Funeral memorial book

The best eulogies incorporate touching stories and funny anecdotes. So cast your mind back to time you spent with the deceased and recount some moments that made the deceased so special.

Speak to family & friends

Two women on a sofa looking at old photographs in a photo album together to remember their deceased loved one

Family and friends of the deceased will be full of their own stories. So ask around their nearest and dearest and see what gold you can mine from the depths of their memory banks and the depths of their hearts.

Include anecdotes or stories

Families celebrating new year

Everyone loves a good story whether it's funny, touching or even sad, so bring out your storytelling side to illustrate just how great your loved one was.

Don't be afraid to make jokes

Celebrate your life

Eulogies don't have to be downbeat. If your loved one was the life of the party, maybe making a cheery eulogy is the best way to remember them.

Write and speak from the heart

care for loved one

But most importantly, write from the heart. No matter what you include, make sure it comes from a place that's deep within you and authentic.

How to write a eulogy for a mother

Everyone's mother will be different, but everyone's mother would have had an immense impact on their life.

So pick out your favourite memories and pick up on the influence she had on your life and the lives of others. Maybe these are special things, maybe these aren't so special.

But a eulogy is a chance to look at the humanity of someone and celebrate their innate goodness.

Funeral hymns for Mum

How to write a eulogy for a father

Dad eulogy

For many of us, our father is our hero. They shape the way we look at the world and inspire us to do right.

So pick out a few things that made your dad so great, talk about his childhood, his hobbies and some stories that made him so special to you and those around him.

What was he like? What did he get up to? What was his impact like on you? Answering all those questions will make a great eulogy for your father.

How to write a eulogy for any family member or friend

No matter what family member or friend you are writing a eulogy for, be sure to make it personal and talk about the things that made that person so special.

It isn't always easy to write from the heart, especially when remembering a loved one who has just passed, so if you can, reach out to those around you and get some help from your nearest and dearest.

They'll likely only be happy to help.

Friends eulogy

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Other helpful articles

Looking for more? Below are a few further articles that you may be interested in.

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Many of us know what music we want to have at our funerals. But if you or your loved ones are stuck for ideas, this article may help.

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You don't have to be religious to enjoy a hymn. Hymns have a special place in many of our hearts and can fit a funeral perfectly.

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Funeral poems

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Not everyone likes to have a poem at their funeral, but a poem can unlock the heart in a way few things can. Here are a few ideas.

Funeral poem ideas

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