Writing a eulogy
A speech at a funeral is known as a eulogy. It’s a way to say goodbye and let everyone remember their loved one. There are no rules as to what you should say yet we found that over two thirds of bereaved UK adults are often lost for words.
Funerals make connections bringing family and friends together. You may often find it difficult to give a eulogy as there is a big sense of responsibility whilst also having to cope with your own strong feelings. We’ve created a guide to help you find the right words and some advice below to get you started.
Where to start
- If you could say only three things about them, what would you say? This can really help focus your speech. Think about everything that they were to you, and how they impacted your life.
- What made them special? Any favourite pastimes, interests, likes and dislikes?
- What are the highlights of their life story? Draw on memories of their life, including having children or scoring a winning goal – anything that made them truly happy.
- Ask siblings, friends and family about times they shared and times they would have been proud of.
Structuring a eulogy
- Decide on the tone. Do you want it to be light hearted or formal? A letter, a poem or a simple few words?
- Divide it in to three parts, beginning with their childhood and working through the highlights of their life. Or beginning with the recent past, then working backwards.
- Alternatively, you can write it as a letter to them.
Delivering the eulogy
- Think about who you will be speaking to. You can speak to those at the funeral using words such as he/she/they or you could choose to speak to the deceased – “I remember when you…”.
- Practice aloud first so that you are familiar with the words, you understand how long it will take and where to put in pauses if necessary.
- If you change your mind about delivering the eulogy, it’s okay to ask someone else to give the speech on your behalf.
Download our guide on how to write a eulogy to help you find the right words, with a foreword by Sir Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate.
You may choose to read a poem at the funeral, whether it be one that was personal to the person who has died, or one that is special to you.
See some of the most popular choices of poems for funerals below:
The Parting Glass - Irish Traditional
Oh all the time that e'er I spent, I spent it in good company;
And any harm that e'er I've done, I trust it was to none but me;
May those I've loved through all the years. Have memories now they'll e'er recall; So fill me to the parting glass,
Goodnight, and joy be with you all.
Oh all the comrades that e'er I had, Are sorry for my going away;
And all the loved ones that e'er I had. Would wish me one more day to stay.
But since it falls unto my lot. That I should leave and you should not, I'll gently rise and I'll softly call
Goodnight, and joy be with you all.
Of all good times that e'er we shared, I leave to you fond memory;
And for all the friendship that e'er we had. I ask you to remember me;
And when you sit and stories tell, I'll be with you and help recall;
So fill to me the parting glass,
God bless, and joy be with you all.
If I Should Go Tomorrow - Author Unknown
If I should go tomorrow
It would never be goodbye,
For I have left my heart with you,
So don't you ever cry.
The love that's deep within me,
Shall reach you from the stars,
You'll feel it from the heavens,
And it will heal the scars.
Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep - Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
Life Goes On - Joyce Grenfell
If I should die before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice.
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must.
Parting is hell.
But life goes on.
So sing as well.
Feel No Guilt In Laughter, He'd Know How Much You Care - Unknown Author
Feel no guilt in laughter, he’d know how much you care.
Feel no sorrow in a smile that he is not here to share.
You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to.
He’d hope that you could carry on the way you always do.
So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared,
The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared.
Let memories surround you, a word someone may say
Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour, a day,
That brings him back as clearly as though he were still here,
And fills you with the feeling that he is always near.
For if you keep those moments, you will never be apart
And he will live forever locked safely within your heart.
To Sleep - John Keats
O soft embalmer of the still midnight!
Shutting with careful fingers and benign
Our gloom-pleased eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine;
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close,
In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes,
Or wait the amen, ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities;
Then save me, or the passèd day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes;
Save me from curious conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oilèd wards,
And seal the hushèd casket of my soul.
Song - Christina Rossetti
When I am dead, my dearest
When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.
Remember - Christina Rossetti
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Death is Nothing at all - Henry Scott Holland
Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away to the next room. I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name. Speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effect. Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same that it ever was. There is absolute unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you. For an interval. Somewhere. Very near. Just around the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before only better, infinitely happier and forever we will all be one together with Christ.
Remember Me - David Harkins
Do not shed tears when I have gone but smile instead because I have lived. Do not shut your eyes and pray to God that I'll come back but open your eyes and see all that I have left behind.
I know your heart will be empty because you cannot see me but still I want you to be full of the love we shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live only for yesterday or you can be happy for tomorrow because of what happened between us yesterday.
You can remember me and grieve that I have gone or you can cherish my memory and let it live on.
You can cry and lose yourself, become distraught and turn your back on the world or you can do what I want - smile, wipe away the tears, learn to love again and go on.