Now that you’ve accepted the honor of giving the eulogy at your brother-in-law’s funeral or memorial service, you’re probably wondering how to get started.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Getting Started—Jogging the Memory
- Step 2: Talk With Others About Their Stories
- Step 3: Outline a Plan and Discover Your Structure
- Step 4: Practice Ahead of Time
- Sample Eulogies for a Brother-in-Law
Now, let's get into how you’ll write the eulogy for your brother. And if you need some guidance through your other responsibilities following the death of a brother-in-law, check out our post-loss checklist.
Step 1: Getting Started—Jogging the Memory
The first step when considering how to write a eulogy is to make sure you have a pen and paper, or a notepad on your phone so that you can jot down ideas.
After that, there are some mnemonic devices you could try which I have listed below, including a trick I learned back in school.
- Music: Music has a way of bringing out emotions. So, if you have some go-to music to help you process thoughts or get through tough times, put on your playlist and see what happens. If that doesn’t work, there are other ways to help you get started.
- Revisit old memories: Memory triggers sometimes work by physically experiencing a time, place, or meal. Maybe head out and go fishing for the day if that was your getaway. Or, if there was a local pub you both hung out at, go have a beer. Otherwise, try making some food he always raved about.
- Photos: See if you can jog some good memories by browsing through some photo albums or flipping through the photos on your phone. Sometimes getting a visual reminder will also cue up some old memories.
- Exercise: The easiest way to calm down a racing mind is to tire out your body. So, choose your favorite type of exercise and sweat out the anxiety before you sit down to do your writing. Whether you like to bike or hike, the chance to clear your head will make a huge difference.
If writing a eulogy is just one of the unfamiliar tasks you're undertaking after the death of your brother-in-law, our post-loss checklist may be able to help you sort it all out.
Step 2: Talk With Others About Their Stories
Now that you’ve come up with a few ideas, it’s time to layer your stories with those from people who will add some more dimension to the eulogy. The list is not exhaustive, but it might be a good start:
- Spouse or partner: You’ve probably been in contact daily with their spouse or partner since your brother-in-law passed away. Ask for some particulars to help out with the speech.
- Siblings: It may be hard to imagine smiling about the good times so soon, but there’s nothing wrong with angling for some good stories from siblings. Especially if you plan on injecting a story to help others smile.
- Friends: Consider talking with his best friends, too. If you know someone who has known your brother-in-law since grade school, then there’s probably a wealth of information just waiting to be tapped.
After this, compile your stories and try to find some patterns in their character. Chances are, your brother-in-law maintained the same traits with everyone.
Step 3: Outline a Plan and Discover Your Structure
The structure of a speech is the easy part. You have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The hardest part is getting past the hang-ups and hurdles to put a compelling story together.
The first sentence
If you let it, the first sentence will stump you. The trick, however, is to start writing with a complete understanding that it will be polished later.
In fact, you might even find that you can come up with a much better one after you have written your speech.
There are several ways to approach a timeline. But in this case, the easiest one starts with your first meeting or impression.
After this, then you can build on how you became friends, adding in the things that impressed you along the way, or how you and everyone else he met all felt the same way about him.
Use humor and plan to pause
The purpose of humor in a eulogy is to elevate people’s spirits in a time of grief. Giving people permission to smile or laugh during a loss is a gift that they can take with them, and later recall when the days get too heavy.
Apart from this, you’ll also want to add in specific places to pause when your own emotions get the best of you up there. It’s normal to cry, so give yourself some help along the way.
If at all possible, you want to leave the audience uplifted at the end of your speech. Ways to do this include adding a prophetic funeral poem, song quote, or the words of his spouse or child, or maybe the clever advice offered along the way.
Whatever you choose, just know that there is no wrong choice.
Step 4: Practice Ahead of Time
Practicing your speech is key to a good delivery. Not only will this allow you an opportunity to polish out the rough spots, but you’ll be able to fix some problems with conveying the message when you can hear it outside of your own head. If you have an audience to help you, then read it aloud to them. Otherwise, practice in front of a mirror.
Here’s a tip: when you’re up there, find someone in the audience with a warm smile to help with the frog in your throat. This will help you deliver the emotional parts to your story a little more easily.
Sample Eulogies for a Brother-in-Law
Listed below are a few short eulogy examples to get you started. Every experience is going to be different, so feel free to use these as beginner templates and then go from there.
Example for a brother-in-law
Johnny left too soon, but he taught his family to be strong, so they'd be prepared for times like this. He helped make the world a better place, so we'd all remember life's beauty in dark days.
Johnny always offered a helping hand to strangers, because in strangers you find friends. And Johnny was always in good spirits because when you're humble and kind, the world always repays you with joy.
Example for a brother-in-law and dear friend
I wasn’t entirely sure what to think of when I met Kevin back in 2006. My sister invited us out to go have some drinks one night, and in walks this beast of a man, with very little to say to start out. That all changed with a few shots of whiskey, and the man would not shut up. I knew right then and there that we’d be lifelong friends.
I don’t think a week went by where we didn’t talk. There wasn’t a summer that passed where we didn’t go fishing up at the cabin. He was even there for the birth of our first kid. I could always count on Kevin to answer the phone, no matter what he was doing.
Example for a brother-in-law who battled a serious illness
Most of you would never know that my brother, Albert, battled with chronic pneumonia after he returned from the Middle East. Even fewer of you knew that after a blast, he had such a severe brain injury that any trauma to his neck or head would have been instantly lethal. You wouldn’t know it, because he never complained. He had survived war, earned a purple heart, sacrificed for his country, and then fought cancer.
Through it all, the only things Albert thought about were his wife and son. He was going to get better for them. He wanted the time back so he could experience all the things he had missed out on after being gone so many years with the military. It just wasn’t fair, but you never heard him say that.
The only thing that he said time and again was that he wasn’t afraid of dying; he was afraid to leave his family alone. So, we’re all going to continue to be here for Jess and Julia, because that’s what Albert would have done for any one of us.
Example for a brother-in-law who died young
Ralph left us way too soon. He has left behind a deep, dark crevice in all of our lives where his joy used to live.
But in time, and as we all take moments to recall the innumerable good deeds, words of kindness, and offers to pitch in, soon that crevice will fill up with the same sunshine he held in his big, beautiful heart for each and every one of us.
Paying Your Respect Through a Eulogy
Showing kindness and compassion while giving a eulogy is all part of good funeral etiquette.
When you offer up what mattered most to you, you’re also giving the audience an opportunity to know him a little bit better. And what a gift that it is.