Although eulogies are typically given by someone who was close to the deceased, every now and then it is impossible for friends and family members to request a eulogy from someone who was close to the person who has passed away. If you are asked to give a eulogy at the funeral for someone you didn’t know that well, be sure to tactfully explain to the family that you were not close to the deceased person. If they still want you to do the eulogy, it’s possible to perform this task in a way that is comforting to the bereaved and empowering to you as a speaker. Most importantly, you will be able to pay tribute to the person you’re eulogizing.
Speak to Those Who Were Close to the Deceased
Ask to speak to people who were close to the deceased. If those who were in the person’s inner circle are too deep in their grief to discuss the person openly with you, ask them to recommend someone you can talk to about the person. You really can’t properly eulogize someone until you know their unique individual qualities. When you do get the chance to talk to someone, ask the following types of questions:
- What’s your strongest memory of the person?
- Can you tell me about a funny moment that the two of you shared?
- Do you remember anything about the person’s likes or dislikes?
- Did the person ever talk about how they wanted to be remembered?
- What do you think the person held nearest and dearest to their heart?
- What would you say to the person if you could talk to them again?
- What do you think they would want said about them?
- Do you remember anything you particularly loved about the person?
Use Words of Comfort for Those Left Behind
No matter what your own relationship was to the deceased person, the people who are listening to your eulogy may be steeped in their own grief and experiencing a deep need for comfort. The words that you speak in a eulogy should be ones that can comfort these people. Say such things as:
- In talking to friends far and wide this week, I have learned how loved and loving this person was.
- What an incredible life was lived and what a remarkable legacy is left behind.
- I have learned a lot about love in hearing people speak about this person this week.
Keep the Focus on the Person
When writing a eulogy for someone you didn’t know well, it can be tempting to simply string together stories that you hear others tell about the deceased. However, resist the temptation to do that. Be sure the heart of the eulogy is about who the person was, not what they did. You may use stories and examples to showcase who the person was, but always bring it back around to the focus on the person.
Finally, keep in mind that there are no hard and fast etiquette rules for this potentially sensitive situation. Do the best you can with the resources that are available to you. Your eulogy may make all the difference for a family who is seeking comfort after the loss of a loved one.