Writing a Eulogy & Obituary


How to write a eulogy

The writing and reading of a eulogy is, above all, the simple and elegant search for small truths. This can be surprisingly hard, to take notice of the smallest, most unpolished details of a life and set them up for us to stare at in the wonder of recognition.

Tom Chiarella, "How to Give a Eulogy"


How do you begin writing a eulogy?
Editor Carol DeChant explains, "Obituaries are usually mini-biographies, focused on what a person did, but the eulogy is much deeper, more about who the person was...It's meant for the select group of people who knew and cared for that person, or who care for the survivors."  

Christina Ianzito, in "How to Write a Eulogy," offers these suggestions; many of them come from Garry Schaeffer's book, A Labor of Love: How to Write a Eulogy:


1. Outline the eulogy: In addition to helping you stay focused, an outline will keep your eulogy organized and effectively break down the task of writing into manageable pieces.

Ask for the input of other family members and friends. They may be able to provide you with some great stories to share.


2. Always try to share examples of the statements you make about your loved one. If you want to say, "she was generous with her time," tell a story that supports the statement.


3. Do not focus too much on yourself. After all, this isn't a eulogy for you; keep your writing focused on your loved one. You may even want to ask others to read your first draft to make sure the focus is in the right place.


4. Go for the humor. Shared laughter is a very healing experience so don't be afraid to make people laugh.


5. Write the first draft. Don't fuss over every word; just get your ideas on paper.


6. Put it aside for a while. This has, no doubt, been an emotional experience. Take some time away from the writing desk to get perspective and release stress or sorrow.


7. Come back to edit and polish. This is the time to refine the eulogy into its final form.


8. Print a legible copy of the eulogy, in a large font, to assist in the delivery of your well-chosen words. There's nothing worse than not being able to read your handwriting when you're standing in front of a crowd of people.


Delivering a eulogy

Unless you're a seasoned public speaker, delivering a eulogy can be a scary, emotionally-trying time. It is recommended that you:

  • Take your time with the delivery
  • Breath deeply
  • Stay relaxed
  • Take regular sips of water

If you have any doubts about your ability to perform in front of an audience, consider appointing a back-up person to fill in for you. Or, you may ask someone else to take over the duty of reading the eulogy aloud on your behalf.

"Giving a eulogy is good for you. Period," says author, Tom Chiarella. "It may hurt to write it. And reading it? For some, that's the worst part. The world might spin a little, and everything familiar to you might fade for a few minutes. But remember, remind yourself as you stand there, you are the lucky one. And that's not because you aren't dead. You were selected. You get to stand, face the group, the family, the world, and add it up. You're being asked to do something at the very moment when nothing can be done. You get the last word in the attempt to define the outlines of a life."


How to write an obituary

What's involved in writing a good obituary? That's really the first thing you have to think about when sitting down to write one for a spouse, other family members, or a close friend. Exactly what factual information should it include and how can you find a balance between dry facts and engaging storytelling? We have the answers to those questions and hope you will find this information about how to write an obituary helpful.

What's the difference between an obituary and a death notice?

The obituary is a longer, more detailed look at the life of the deceased and the death notice is merely a compilation of relevant facts. The obituary also includes those essential details but it expands on them to provide a more complete look at the deceased's life experiences. 

The first of the details would, of course, be their name. If she was a married woman, you'll want to include her maiden name and if he or she was commonly known by a nickname, you may want to add that as well.

Other essential details to include when writing either a death notice or an obituary are:

  • Their age upon death
  • Birthday
  • Birthplace
  • A list of the surviving relatives
  • The date of death
  • The location (city/state) where they died
  • Details about the funeral service: date, time, place
  • Full name
  • Date of death
  • Where the person lived

We think it benefits the families we serve when we remind them of the simple truth: in writing an obituary for your loved one, you have the opportunity to serve future generations – not only of your immediate family but of the society as a whole. You are, in effect, recording history on an individual scale. It's a humbling yet inspiring thought; at least we think so.


Well-written Obituaries

It's very easy to find examples of obituaries that are worthy of attention. There are interesting obituaries for everyday folks that inspire us; maybe even make us cry or laugh. Obituaries which, when we're done reading them, we say to ourselves, "I wish I'd had a chance to get to know that person." Obituaries are scattered in cyberspace, acting as digital records of a life, a time, and a place; and recently, some very funny obituaries have been written.

Will writing our own obituaries become a trend? Maybe. We know many more people are writing their own obituaries today as it's often given as an assignment in certain college and university courses.

How you document your loved one's life story is up to you. With that said, we recommend that in addition to the facts of a death notice listed above, the enhanced death notice, known as an obituary, could also include these details:

  • Parents' names
  • Information about the spouse and children
  • Church affiliations
  • Job or career information
  • Personal and professional accomplishments
  • Personal character and interests
  • Influence on his or her community

It's now time to push the facts aside. Sit back and think about the anecdotes and memories you could share to shed some light on your loved one's character and personal interests. Bring factual details into play whenever you can to help the reader clearly see who your loved one was, how they lived, what they did, who and what they loved. The more rich in detail, the more memorable the obituary becomes.


Double Check Spelling and Grammar. Before you give a copy of the final draft of your loved one's obituary, be sure to read it through twice or even three times or better, have a friend or relative proof read it for you. You're looking for errors in spelling and grammar but you also want to make sure your facts are straight. 


Request to receive a proof from the newspaper before your obituary is printed if you're worried about mistakes. You probably don't have the time or energy to worry about it at this point, but if you're concerned about errors, ask if you can see a proof before it goes to press. Most newspapers won't allow you to look at a final copy, but if you put up a big enough fuss, many papers, especially small-town papers, will honor your request (we did). You may have to come into the newspaper office or have a copy faxed to you. 

Submit the obituary to other newspapers. If there are other towns where your loved one lived and had a number of family or friends, you may want to submit the obit to those newspapers. Just check those newspapers' guidelines and modify the style of the obit as necessary.


Check the obit when it prints in the paper. If there are errors, call your newspaper to let them know. Again, if you put up enough of a fuss, they should reprint it the next day for free.


Sources:

Chiarella, Tom, "How to Give a Eulogy"

Ianzito, Christina, "How to Write a Eulogy"

http://howtowrite.weebly.com/how-to-write-an-obituary.html

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