The thought of preparing and delivering a eulogy is an intimidating proposition for even the most seasoned public speaker. We want to make sure that we do and say all of the right things in order to properly pay tribute to the deceased and honor his or her surviving family members. Keep in mind, though, that knowing what not to do is just as important. Here are six things that you should avoid when writing and delivering a eulogy at a funeral.
Avoid these pitfalls when Delivering a Eulogy at a Funeral
When statements are made such as “at least he lived a long, happy life”, “it was God’s will”, and “it was for the best”, they don’t do any good for the grieving family. In fact, in the heightened emotions of the moment, when the only thing they feel is a deep loss, those types of statements may leave the family feeling as if you’re diminishing the decedent’s death and their own grief.
Inappropriate Religious References
Religion is a touchy subject in general, and when emotions are intensified, such as they are during a funeral, it can be an even more sensitive subject. It’s a good idea overall to keep statements about heaven and hell out of the eulogy unless you’re certain of the family’s beliefs on the subject. If you feel strongly that references related to specific religious beliefs should be included, but aren’t sure of the family’s belief system, ask first.
While it is appropriate to include an anecdote or two, a eulogy should be honest and complimentary while steering clear of any attempt at humor that could be misconstrued as inappropriate by the grieving family. If you are unsure whether or not to include the story about your infamous fishing trip, then you should probably leave it out. Always err on the side of caution, particularly considering that children, as well as older family members, will be in attendance. Additionally, don’t turn the eulogy into a roast of the deceased, regardless of how funny he or she may have been in life. This will be viewed as insulting and lacking in the reverence and respect required of the situation.
Naturally, your grief will leave you wanting to share everything about your relationship with the decedent and what he or she meant to you. Keep in mind that, though you should open the eulogy by identifying yourself and your relationship to the decedent, you should limit your personal storytelling to one or two short stories that include you, but highlight the deceased person’s best qualities. Keep the focus on the decedent, and don’t forget to ask family and close friends if there are any stories or quotes they would like you to include in the eulogy.
The delivery of a eulogy is one of the most significant things you will ever do, so it’s important that you treat it as such. Arrive a minimum of 15 minutes early, especially if it is your first time at the location. You’ll need to become familiar with the layout, where you will sit, the path to the podium, and at what point you will be introduced. Additionally, by arriving early, you will eliminate one stress-er on the grieving family because they will feel confident and relieved seeing that you’ve arrived.
It is critical that you prepare a solid outline, practice it and have it with you during the delivery. Even if you’re the most confident speaker in the world, you may have unexpected feelings of nervousness and anxiety brought on by your personal grief or that of the family. Also, consider the loved ones who will be in attendance. It will be obvious and hurtful to them if it is clear that you didn’t show enough respect to prepare.
The delivery of a eulogy can promote the healing process for everyone involved, including yourself. By avoiding these common pitfalls, you will be honoring the deceased, showing the family members the respect they need and deserve, and making the process easier on yourself.
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