The Key Elements of a Eulogy Outline
Need some help creating a eulogy outline?
Wonder what should be included in a great eulogy?
Worried you’ll leave something out when you write a eulogy?
We understand that you are grieving. And writing a eulogy during a stressful and mournful time can be difficult. Whether you are writing a eulogy for someone who has just passed away or will pass away soon, you undoubtedly are experiencing a variety of emotions. That’s why we want to help you as much as possible by providing a eulogy outline to help guide you through this important and honorable task.
In short, a eulogy is a speech about a family member or a close friend or loved one who has died. The purpose of a eulogy is to memorialize your loved one in a way that both honors their memory and provides some comfort and possible humorous relief to those attending the services. A eulogy is typically read at a funeral or memorial service with immediate and extended family as well as close friends, co-workers, and even acquaintances in attendance.
Why Create an Outline for a Eulogy?
When you are in a time crunch to create an important speech, such as a eulogy, you’ll want all of the possible organization tips you can get because when planning a funeral service, the eulogy is an important element. One tip is to create an outline for the eulogy. You may start with the outline before you do anything else. Or the outline may grow from your research about your loved one or through talking to other relatives and friends about him/her.
An outline will help you with the eulogy writing process. You’re less likely to experience writer’s block if you know what’s coming next. And by taking the time to create an outline, you’re also reducing the likelihood of experiencing high stress levels while writing.
A good eulogy outline will also help keep you focused on the theme or direction of the story you are telling. Keep in mind that some people may want to document the memorial service, so your speech may also be recorded. Without a eulogy template, you can end up being too verbose, too short or wander into a tangent here and there. A eulogy outline will help keep you on task during the writing process.
How to Create a Eulogy Outline
The sections of your eulogy will depend on the person you are memorializing. Whether you are writing a eulogy for a mother or writing a eulogy for a father or someone else, you’ll want to make it personal. There may be specific parts of their life that you want to highlight, and other parts you may want to leave out or just touch on briefly. When considering the following eulogy outline, you may want to include additional sections while leaving others out. That’s perfectly okay. No two people are alike, so no two eulogies are alike.
Overall, your funeral eulogy should last no longer than 10 minutes. A short speech may give the impression that you didn’t put much thought or effort into writing the speech. If your funeral speech is much longer than 10 minutes, you’ll start to lose your audience’s attention. So, six to 10 minutes is usually a comfortable length for a eulogy.
There is room for variation when creating your outline. However, there are some basic elements—especially in the opening and the closing—that you’ll want to retain. And while you can move and alter the middle sections of your eulogy, you should retain a certain order to allow for a better, more impactful eulogy speech for your audience.
Once you’ve created your eulogy outline, you can begin to write each section. You don’t have to write each section in order. For example, you may want to write the middle section first. Then once a theme naturally rises, you’ll be able to write a stronger introduction and conclusion to your speech.
Let’s get started…
The First Section of a Eulogy
The opening section of your outline will be shorter than the main section, and it should cover several basics. First, you may want to start with a quote, poem, scripture or song lyric that was meaningful to your loved one. This opening can set the tone or theme for your speech. You may or may not know right away how you want to open your speech. If you don’t know what your opening will be yet, you will likely discover it during the research and writing process.
After your opening, you’ll want to specifically say who you are eulogizing. Give their full name along with any nicknames, maiden names, or other names they may have been known to those in attendance. Although most people will know how your loved one died, some may not. So, you may want to make a quick mention of how they passed away. If this is not a comfortable thing for you or if it is a sensitive subject, you may opt to skip it. Just be sure that the omission of this information won’t be more awkward than its inclusion.
Next, take a moment to mention who you are in relation to the deceased. Most people will probably know who you are. However, there are bound to be people in attendance whom you have never met, such as co-workers, distant relatives or people from his/her past. Then you will want to acknowledge those guests who were most important to the deceased: close family members, friends, co-workers, etc., as well as those who may have traveled to the funeral or memorial services from a great distance.
That’s it! That’s your introduction. You’re already part way there!
The Middle Section of the Eulogy
The middle section of the eulogy is the meat of your speech. And it’s where you’ll describe your loved one best, including stories, events, and accomplishments—just to name a few. This section will also be the longest section of your speech. You’ll want to be more detailed here by telling a few short stories about the life and experiences of the deceased as well as their effect on others (friends, family, co-workers, etc.).
Your stories can be serious and/or funny, or they may fall somewhere in between. There really aren’t any rules, except that you want to be tasteful when delivering a eulogy. This isn’t the time to reveal something shocking or less than desirable to a mixed crowd of people who are already dealing with their own grief. In addition, you don’t want to say anything that would embarrass the deceased (if they were sitting in the audience) or any other family members.
You’ve probably been asked or volunteered to write the eulogy because you may have been the closest person to your loved one. So, start by sharing some of your personal thoughts about the deceased and your experiences with him/her. You can talk about things that the deceased loved. And you can mention some fond memories and stories. These memories and stories can certainly be yours, but you may want to consider including the stories of others. Each person in attendance will have had different experiences with your loved one. So, their stories may depict different parts of your loved one and their personality.
You don’t have to follow a particular order in this section. But you may want to stick with a theme. So, if you are telling a chronological story, you’ll want to stay in the order of occurrences in his/her life. If you are highlighting parts of their life, you’ll want to group those stories together rather than bouncing from one subject to the next (e.g., childhood, marriage, family, work life, military, retirement, religion, volunteering, etc.).
The End Section of a Eulogy
The end section of your eulogy will probably be the shortest—usually a paragraph or two that sums up your speech and the person’s life. This is the best place to reiterate your theme and recall what you most want your loved one to be remembered for, or how your loved one wants to be remembered.
Thank those who attended. Be sure to say the deceased’s name again in the end section. And finally, you may want to close with a scripture passage, quote, song lyric or something else that was meaningful to your loved one.
Here are some tips for performing a eulogy and public speaking.
- Quote, saying, scripture, song lyric, etc.
- Name of deceased (include maiden names, nicknames, etc.)
- How they died (optional)
- Your relation to the deceased
- Address to the family members
- Acknowledgement of those who have traveled a long distance
- Main Section
- Your thoughts and experiences with your loved one
- How your loved on affected others
- Things the deceased loved/enjoyed
- Stories/fond memories of others with the deceased
- Childhood/growing up years
- Career/work life
- Volunteer work
- Anything important to your loved one
- Summary of theme
- What you want him/her to be best remembered for
- What the deceased would want to be remembered for
- Thank those in attendance
- Quote, saying, scripture, song lyric, etc.
3 Famous Eulogies
Before creating your eulogy outline and writing your eulogy speech, you may want to read a few sample eulogies for inspiration. Here are a few famous eulogies that we found interesting.
Rosa Parks’ Eulogy
Presented by Oprah Winfrey
Reverend Braxton, family, friends, admirers, and this amazing choir:
I feel it an honor to be here to come and say a final goodbye. I grew up in the South, and Rosa Parks was a hero to me long before I recognized and understood the power and impact that her life embodied. I remember my father telling me about this colored woman who had refused to give up her seat. And in my child’s mind, I thought, “She must be really big.” I thought she must be at least a hundred feet tall. I imagined her being stalwart and strong and carrying a shield to hold back the white folks. And then I grew up and had the esteemed honor of meeting her. And wasn’t that a surprise. Here was this petite, almost delicate lady who was the personification of grace and goodness. And I thanked her then. I said, “Thank you,” for myself and for every colored girl, every colored boy, who didn’t have heroes who were celebrated. I thanked her then.
And after our first meeting I realized that God uses good people to do great things. And I’m here today to say a final thank you, Sister Rosa, for being a great woman who used your life to serve, to serve us all. That day that you refused to give up your seat on the bus, you, Sister Rosa, changed the trajectory of my life and the lives of so many other people in the world. I would not be standing here today nor standing where I stand every day had she not chosen to sit down. I know that. I know that. I know that. I know that, and I honor that. Had she not chosen to say we shall not — we shall not be moved.
So, I thank you again, Sister Rosa, for not only confronting the one white man who[se] seat you took, not only confronting the bus driver, not only for confronting the law, but for confronting history, a history that for 400 years said that you were not even worthy of a glance, certainly no consideration. I thank you for not moving.
And in that moment when you resolved to stay in that seat, you reclaimed your humanity and you gave us all back a piece of our own. I thank you for that. I thank you for acting without concern. I often thought about what that took, knowing the climate of the times and what could have happened to you, what it took to stay seated. You acted without concern for yourself and made life better for us all. We shall not be moved. I marvel at your will. I celebrate your strength to this day. And I am forever grateful, Sister Rosa, for your courage, your conviction. I owe you to succeed. I will not be moved.
Marilyn Monroe’s Eulogy
Presented by Lee Strasberg
Marilyn Monroe was a legend. In her own lifetime, she created a myth of what a poor girl from a deprived background could attain. For the entire world she became a symbol of the eternal feminine.
But I have no words to describe the myth and the legend. I did not know this Marilyn Monroe. We gathered here today, knew only Marilyn – a warm human being, impulsive and shy, sensitive and in fear of rejection, yet ever avid for life and reaching out for fulfillment.
I will not insult the privacy of your memory of her – a privacy she sought and treasured – by trying to describe her whom you knew to you who knew her. In our memories of her, she remains alive and not only a shadow on the screen or a glamorous personality.
For us, Marilyn was a devoted and loyal friend, a colleague constantly reaching for perfection. We shared her pain and difficulties and some of her joys. She was a member of our family. It is difficult to accept the fact that her zest for life has been ended by this dreadful accident.
Despite the heights and brilliance she attained on the screen, she was planning for the future; she was looking forward to participating in the many exciting things which she planned. In her eyes and in mine, her career was just beginning. The dream of her talent, which she had nurtured as a child, was not a mirage.
When she first came to me, I was amazed at the startling sensitivity which she possessed and which had remained fresh and undimmed, struggling to express itself despite the life to which she had been subjected. Others were as physically beautiful as she was, but there was obviously something more in her, something that people saw and recognized in her performances and with which they identified.
She had a luminous quality – a combination of wistfulness, radiance, yearning – to set her apart and yet make everyone wish to be a part of it, to share in the childish naivete which was so shy and yet so vibrant.
This quality was even more evident when she was on the stage. I am truly sorry that the public who loved her did not have the opportunity to see her as we did, in many of the roles that foreshadowed what she would have become. Without a doubt, she would have been one of the really great actresses of the stage. Now it is at an end. I hope her death will stir sympathy and understanding for a sensitive artist and a woman who brought joy and pleasure to the world.
I cannot say goodbye. Marilyn never liked goodbyes, but in the peculiar way she had of turning things around so that they faced reality – I will say au revoire. For the country to which she has gone, we must all someday visit.
Steve Irwin’s Eulogy
Presented by his daughter, Bindi Irwin
My Daddy was my hero – he was always there for me when I needed him. He listened to me and taught me so many things, but most of all he was fun. I know that Daddy had an important job. He was working to change the world so everyone would love wildlife like he did. He built a hospital to help animals and he bought lots of land to give animals a safe place to live.
He took me and my brother and my Mum with him all the time.
We filmed together, caught crocodiles together and loved being in the bush together. I don’t want Daddy’s passion to ever end. I want to help endangered wildlife just like he did.
I have the best Daddy in the whole world and I will miss him every day. When I see a crocodile, I will always think of him. And I know that Daddy made this zoo so everyone could come and learn to love all the animals. Daddy made this place his whole life and now it’s our turn to help Daddy.
Hopefully this article has helped inspire your preparation and at least given you some ideas and structure for your outline. If you are also writing an obituary for a loved one, we can help there, too. Review some of these obituary writing articles at your leisure.
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