Final Parting Words

Microphone at a graveside funeral.

How a Eulogy Helps Heal

The dead live on in the stories their friends and family continue to tell about them. A eulogy is just that, a story about a life. Everyone deserves a great eulogy, final parting words that summarize an entire life in a small window of time. Everyone tasked with writing a eulogy wants it to be great too, perfect even. And that can feel like a daunting responsibility.

A great eulogy does more than tell about the life being honored at a funeral or memorial service. It authentically captures the soul of a person while connecting the audience together through emotion and story. Great eulogies move, comfort, and oftentimes, make people laugh.

What is a eulogy?

A eulogy, or “words of praise” is a speech given about a person. Most people think of eulogies as those given at a funeral or wake, but eulogies can also be given for the living, such as at retirement or to express love and gratitude to an elderly individual before they die.

A eulogy that takes place at a funeral or memorial service is traditionally given as a speech, telling about a person’s life, memories the speaker shared with the deceased, and the impact they had on the world. But eulogies can take other forms as well, such as poems, songs written about the honoree, or even a photo slideshow or home movie with commentary to accompany it.

Who should give the eulogy?

Traditionally, religious leaders give the eulogy if the deceased were a person of faith. Oftentimes, it is someone who was very close to the deceased. At French Funerals, we’ve also witnessed eulogies given by co-workers. A spouse can give a eulogy if they prefer, but it is not expected of them to. It can be very difficult for a life partner to stand before a group of people and talk about the person they loved and have just lost. A family member or close friend are commonly people who are asked to give the eulogy.

There is no rule that says there only has to be one eulogy at a person’s funeral. A life is made up of the stories of the people who love them, and multiple people can tell those stories through their own lens to the people with whom they share a common love and respect.

How do you give a good eulogy?

There’s a secret to giving an amazing eulogy: it doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t matter if you’re not the world’s greatest writer or orator, or you get nervous in front of a crowd or you cry while speaking. It doesn’t matter how long or short it is, or if your words are poetic or straight to the point. What matters most is authenticity. That you share the greatest parts of a person, and the not so great too. That your love for them shines through your words. That you are honoring a life that mattered. That their unique personality is shared, and that the people who are listening and mourning with you feel closer together in their tears of grief and laughter.

How can a eulogy help heal in grief?

A eulogy is an integral part of a service for those in attendance. It allows for a time of praise and focuses on how that individual’s unique life may have affected them, and assists in their grief. Eulogies provide a story of an individual that is rich and multifaceted, giving those in attendance a deeper glimpse into their life. They also meet the six needs of mourning, as outlined by grief expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt:

Eulogies

  1. Help us acknowledge the reality of death
  2. Help us embrace the pain of loss
  3. Give us the opportunity to remember the deceased through shared stories
  4. Help us reflect on our own lives and develop new self-identity
  5. Provide us with the opportunity to search for meaning by helping us explore our emotions
  6. Help us receive support from others through connection

Eulogies help heal the wound of loss by keeping a person’s memories alive, weaving their stories through the hearts of the people who love them.

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