If you’ve been approached to write the eulogy for your cousin's funeral, you're might be wondering where to start.
Jump ahead to these sections:
Eulogies don’t always have to be sad. They can be happy, funny, sad, or any combination of feelings. The first so-called eulogies were given by classical Roman and Greek poets who spoke of love and hate. But it wasn’t until much later that the eulogy became a vehicle of sorrow and mournfulness.
Your eulogy should offer folks a chance to honor, remember, and pay tribute to your cousin. You’ll help remind them of who your cousin was, what they accomplished, and how they impacted others.
In short, it’s about remembering your cousin in unique, remarkable ways. Now that you have some basic knowledge about them, let’s get into how to write a eulogy.
If you'd like some help with all of the tasks you're facing after a loss, check out our post-loss checklist.
Steps for Writing a Eulogy for a Cousin
As you start on your cousin’s eulogy, get out your favorite note-taking device. Find a quiet spot to sort through your thoughts.
Step 1: Jog your memory
Below are some helpful hints on how to get the mental juices flowing. What works others may not work for you, so try one or two of them if you get stuck.
- Exercise: Apart from being great for your physical well-being, exercise can tire you out enough so that you can think clearly. So, whether you like hot yoga or weight-lifting, by the end of a good sweat, you’ll be equipped for concentration.
- Meditation: That means if you can find a quiet space in your home where you’ll be undisturbed, then the practice of meditation may help bring you to a place where you can think clearly.
- Rest: Plan to wake up and jot down your memories after a good night’s sleep. Our bodies and brains are wired to function better with rest. So, if you head to sleep with an intent for the morning, then once your alarm goes off, you’ll be ready to write.
- Look into the past: Here’s a chance to revisit old hangouts, go fishing, take a drive, or sit by a campfire. If this is something you and your cousin used to share, all those old memories come flooding back. When the memories come, don’t interrupt them until they’re over.
Step 2: Talk with others about their stories
After you’ve got some ideas written down, take some time to call up a few others who knew your cousin. These people may be able to add some fullness to your stories from a different perspective.
Here’s a shortlist of who you might want to call:
- Spouse or partner: Do you share the highlights of your day with your partner? Maybe your cousin’s partner can shed some light on their experiences with you.
- Siblings: Siblings know us equally at our best and worst. So, maybe they’ve got something heartwarming to share to add to the tribute.
- Friends: What about their friends? While you may have a head start on several recollections, friends have their own stories and thoughts to share.
Once you’ve spoken with a few people, you’ll have a few extra funny or heartwarming stories. Now you should be ready to compose the eulogy.
Step 3: Outline the eulogy
Even though it’s personal, writing a eulogy is easier with an outline, just like writing any other piece. You’ll need an introduction, body, and conclusion.
Whether it’s from a “Tale of Two Cities,” “Master and Commander,” or a magazine article, the first line is your hook. If that first sentence doesn’t grab the audience, then you’ll need to rework it. In this case, you may want to start with a funny memory of your cousin.
Here’s where all of those memories and conversations will come in. If you’re not sure of the order, try writing pieces on notecards and arranging their order in different ways.
Here are a few things you might try in the body:
- Identify your cousin. Who was your cousin? Define them as a member of the family, their community, their career.
- Identify your cousin’s traits through stories. Offer the audience several stories to show your cousin’s character. Heartwarming or funny, these stories will distinguish your cousin in both familiar and unfamiliar ways to all those listening.
- Involve the audience. Speak to the audience like you’re having a conversation at the table or sofa. When you retell a story, bring in those who were there. Allow them to be with you in that memory.
- Use humor. A eulogy marked by only sadness will not tell the full tale of your cousin. Try to break up the moments of tenderness with moments for laughter. It’s okay to offer joy in a eulogy because your cousin laughed, cried, and even got angry, too. Let others know what made them human.
- Remind the audience of their strength. Hope and strength go hand in hand during a eulogy. When you hear of how someone overcame adversity, trudged through hard times, or made the most out of a poor situation, it can reveal their fortitude.
Here’s your chance to include the sage advice your cousin offered, or something that just stuck with you about them throughout the years.
Maybe include a poem or song they quoted that seems appropriate for the tone. Finally, thank your audience for being present to honor your cousin.
Step 4: Practice ahead of time
Practicing the tribute ahead of time will ensure the right delivery. You can polish the rough spots, fix any continuity issues, and perfect how you want to convey your cousin’s life story.
If you don’t have anyone to help, then practice in front of a mirror.
Examples of Eulogy for Cousins
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 eulogy for a younger cousin
As you all know, I grew up the youngest of four children. When Melissa came along, I was excited that I finally got to be a big sister. Although we only saw each other on holidays, it never felt like there was any time between us.
I know the cancer was especially tough on her parents, Uncle Bob and Aunt Pat. No mom or dad wants to see so much hurt on their child's face. And like you all, I'm at a complete loss.
I know we'd all agree that we wanted more time. But when Melissa died, she didn't just leave sadness. She left us better people. And if you spent any time with her, you'd know that Melissa's quality wasn't something you could pinpoint. She had a fire.
You know, I often ask myself how someone with so much pain could smile so easily. And last night, when I was preparing for today, it dawned on me. Melissa's smile was about what she saw in all of us. She was a product of the good things we all have inside. All of you and your support gave us all the Melissa we loved.
Example eulogy for an older cousin
I'll never forget Matt's words the day grandma died. Even as a teenager, he was more of a listener than a talker, but that day, he told grandpa that he shouldn't be sad. He said, "Don't be sad, Grandpa. Grandma died with her shoes on." And as you all know, Grandma didn't want to die in a hospital bed surrounded by strangers. She wanted to be with all of us when it happened. That kind of insight followed Matt his whole life.
We've all been sharing stories recently, so I have realized how common it was that Matt could help anyone through anything. For whatever reason, Matt just had a way with words.
Example of a funny eulogy for a cousin
I only have a handful of people I think are dynamite human beings, and Trever is one of them. From the time we were kids, I always looked up to him. And like any kid sister, I followed him around like a puppy. There were times that I should have hated him. Like the time he shot me with a slingshot and told me it was a bee sting. Or, the time he kept driving the snowmobile even as the sled I was in had flipped over, and all I could do was eat snow. I guess you might ask why I admired him when he was such a pain.
But it boils down to who Trever was as a person, not all the antics he pulled. I didn’t care about the juvenile pranks because I pulled them too, and who he really was showed that summer when I lost my mom. I’ll never forget how he kept me going, dragging me along to every game, even when his friends gave him a hard time about it. Trever didn’t care what others said about him. But there was no way he would let them say anything wrong about me.
Speaking for a Loved One is a Great Honor
Giving your audience an opportunity to connect with your cousin through stories and memories from you and others is a gift to those who are attending the funeral service. But most importantly, as the family member who’s been chosen to speak, you’ve been given a great honor. One that also happens to be a treasure.