If you’ve accepted the honor of giving the eulogy at your coworker’s funeral or memorial service, it probably means that you were more than just coworkers—you were friends.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Getting Started—Jogging Your 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 Coworker, Boss, Employee, or Client
But giving a eulogy is no minor responsibility. So, to get your mind wrapped around it, let’s start with some background.
- What is a eulogy? In short, a eulogy is a speech praising someone who has just passed, letting them live on in the words of another. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to give the most personal and intimate reflections on their life. While some eulogies are brief, others offer greater and more in-depth thoughts. Depending on how much time you’re allotted, you’ll be able to determine the appropriate length your speech needs to be.
- Why do we give eulogies? Eulogies act as reminders of why we grieve and an ode to the deceased. By giving insight into the impact someone had on their family, friends, and the world around them, mourners can pay respect to their character and accomplishments. After listening to a eulogy, people should be left with an impression or a feeling that uplifts them or brings some comfort in the mourning days ahead.
- Who gives the eulogy? Those who are asked to give eulogies are often closely connected with the decedent. If you have been asked, then you may be known for your ability to muster through tough situations with grace. Perhaps you have a way with words that people respect and admire. And likely, you’re the most obvious choice considering the depth of your relationship. But no matter what, it’s always an honor to speak for the deceased.
Now that you have some background, let’s get into how you’re going to go about writing a eulogy for your coworker.
Tip: For help with all of the complicated tasks you might be facing after losing a loved one, check out our post-loss checklist.
Step 1: Getting Started—Jogging Your Memory
Not knowing how to write a eulogy can stump you before you even get started, so here are a few ways to get the juices flowing. Find a quiet spot to expand on these memories and use a small notebook to take notes or a voice memo app to record your inspiration.
- Listen to some music that reminds you of your coworker.
- Revisit some places you frequented together and reminisce about the things and experiences you had together over the years.
- Scroll through your phone or flip through an old photo album to bring up some happy memories. Find the ones that bring up the most emotion or memories.
- Get some exercise. Sometimes when your mind is racing with ideas, the best way to curb the extra noise is to do something that makes you tired. So, if you love a good run, put on your shoes and hit the trail.
Step 2: Talk With Others About Their Stories
Now that you have some ideas about what stories you would like to use, make a list of people to chat with so that you can add some dimension to the eulogy. Some people to consider are:
- Colleagues. Here, you can find out about their accolades and accomplishments from another point of view, even how well-respected or admired they were by their peers.
- Spouse or partner. You may discover a character trait that was relentless, like always being the jokester, or always remembering people’s special days. Maybe this shone through at work in the most delightful ways.
- Other coworkers. In an office structure, there’s always some chitter-chatter. Take the good stuff you hear and tuck that away in your quiver to add some dimension to their character. You can learn a lot from how they treated people who weren’t in their circle.
Afterward, you’ll be able to find patterns so that you can add some more breadth not just to the eulogy, but to the decedent’s memory. Traveling through life, people can be many things to many people, but their character generally manifests similarly no matter where they are.
Step 3: Outline a Plan and Discover Your Structure
If you haven’t written a paper in a while, think back to your favorite English instructor’s advice. You’ll need an introduction, a body to develop your main points, and then a conclusion. Here are some pointers on the spots people generally get stuck.
The first sentence
You can fret about this for hours, or you can leave it blank to begin with. Oftentimes, once you’ve written everything down, the final sentence does such a great summary that it actually makes a much better choice for the opener.
Skip the first words for now if you like, they may be obvious later. You can also read our guide on how to start a eulogy for more tips.
Good stories don’t need to start anywhere specific, but they do need to flow. You could choose a seasonal time frame or talk about how life was year-round. You could take it from the top of when you first started working together.
Or, you can add flashbacks to the stories that act like ah-ha moments from where certain traits began.
Use humor and plan to pause
Use funny stories to suspend the urge to cry if only for a moment. If you offer humor upfront, but later feel the need to cry, you can reference the funny story from earlier for some comic relief.
If humor is not your forte, then write the word PAUSE where you think you’re going to need the reminder. Read our tips for funny eulogies to find the right balance of humor.
As much as possible, leave your audience on a high note. To do so, look for the perfect funeral poem, song quote, or summary that means as much to you as the people who need your words for comfort.
Here’s a chance to include the words of his spouse or child, or maybe the sage advice he always offered to you.
Step 4: Practice Ahead of Time
Now that you have your speech written, polish it by reading it aloud. If you have an audience, they can help you with the spots that are a little uneven. Alternatively, you may choose to stand in front of a mirror to see how you look while presenting.
Practice speaking slowly and articulately and use those pauses as needed. Once you’re secure with your words and delivery, you are certain to do well on the day of the funeral or memorial service.
Here’s a tip: don’t forget to look people in the eye, especially when the story relates to them. When you do this, you’ll see how words have the power and to help people in dark times.
Sample Eulogies for a Coworker, Boss, Employee, or Client
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.
For a coworker
I don’t think any of us could say that Kelly wasn’t ready to jump in the weeds with us when it got crazy in here. I
know of at least a dozen times when I was so overwhelmed by my workload and Kelly stayed late to help me catch up. If I can say this, I know there’s a few of you out there that can say the very same thing.
For a boss
John was tough. There’s no doubt about that. He expected the best from you each and every day because he knew you had it in you. Sometimes I think if more people believed in all of us like that along the way and throughout life, that we’d be better off as a society in so many ways.
Still, John was a good soul, who was more than just a boss. There was never a day where he didn’t stop you in the hall and ask you about how you were doing and really wanted to know. No, John was not that kind of boss.
There was a time when, as most of you know, my personal life found its way inside these walls. When your family is hurting, it’s impossible to show it on your face. So, when John found out what was going on, he made sure that I had ample time to take care of them.
Without that care and consideration, I don’t think we would have made it through what was going on. No, John was not the kind of boss who saw his employees hurting, and just let them suffer. In John, we had a friend and I know I will miss him greatly.
For an employee
I spoke to Julie’s partner recently, and I have to let you all know something. Julie never had an unkind word to say about any one of us. I know this is hard to believe because we all get on each other’s nerves from time to time—and that’s okay. But, in fact, Julie always said that we were family, albeit a work family.
But that because we all spent so much time here, Julie never wanted to dismiss how important that time was and how much all of our friendships meant. So, I just want to say thank you on behalf of Julie’s partner. You are all loved and appreciated.
For a client or associate
It’s no secret that Kurt was my favorite client. While there were those in the world who couldn’t get past Kurt’s sometimes gruff exterior, what no one ever questioned was Kurt’s nature or intent. Kurt was the kind of person where you get what you see, and for me, that meant a good joke or story, and a warm smile.
And given the sheer amount of inhumanity we see, I’ll take ten of Kurt any day, because he always gave me hope that there were better days ahead.
Writing and Giving a Eulogy for Your Coworker, Boss, Employee, or Client
Paying respect to the decedent is key to funeral etiquette. Eulogies are about paying homage to people, not airing petty work grievances. After all, everyone has transgressions or lapses in judgment sometimes.
And a good laugh or personal moment often overshadows the rest. That said if something pressing needs to be said so that people can grieve healthily, show wisdom in the wording, but not the event.