Writing a eulogy is no easy task. It’s even more difficult when you’ve just experienced the loss of a beloved friend. Creating a heartfelt tribute for a friend presents two unique challenges: expressing complicated feelings of grief in just a few short words, and offering those words to an audience.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- 1. Find Out What’s Expected
- 2. Start as Soon as Possible
- 3. Understand the Meaning and Tone of Eulogies
- 4. Journal About Your Time Together
- 5. Picture Your Audience
- 6. Brainstorm Using These Questions
- 7. Find the Theme
- 8. Draft an Outline
- 9. Write Your Eulogy
- 10. Edit Your Eulogy
- 11. Memorize Your Speech
- Example Eulogies for a Friend
The best thing you can do is write your eulogy from the heart. Start composing your speech as soon as you can, and make sure your words are genuine. Below, we’ve created a complete list of steps to follow when you’re writing a eulogy for a friend.
If you're writing a eulogy for a friend, you might also want to check out our post-loss checklist, which can help you navigate all of the difficult tasks you might be facing.
1. Find Out What’s Expected
Writing a eulogy for another loved one may be a bit different than writing one for a friend. Before you start composing a eulogy for a friend, it’s a good idea to check in with the family or funeral director. Ask whether they’ll request eulogies from friends, in general, and if they’d like you to give a speech, specifically.
Often, the family will reach out to family members and friends ahead of the funeral to ask if they would like to speak.
Also, ask the family or the funeral director how much time you’ll have to give a eulogy. Generally, a eulogy should be between three and five minutes (about 500-1000 words). However, if more than a few people are giving eulogies, you may be asked to keep it shorter. If only one or two people are speaking, they might give you more time.
Do you know how you want to be remembered?
Let your loved ones know. Create a free Cake end-of-life planning profile and share your funeral, legacy, legal, and health choices instantly.
2. Start as Soon as Possible
Don’t put off writing your eulogy for a friend until the last minute. The sooner you get to work on your tribute, the better. Of course, this is often easier said than done.
When a friend passes away, you might have just a few days to prepare for the funeral.
During that time, you’ll be struggling with feelings of grief that might make the task of preparing a eulogy seem insurmountable. However, expressing your emotions on paper can help you cope in those early days of grieving.
3. Understand the Meaning and Tone of Eulogies
It’s essential to understand the purpose and tone of a eulogy. Eulogies differ from other pieces of funerary writing--obituaries and elegies--in crucial ways.
A eulogy should be personal in tone, and its purpose is to commemorate the deceased. It shouldn’t be similar to an obituary, which is straightforward and journalistic in mood.
A eulogy also differs from an elegy, which is a piece of poetry or lyrics dedicated to the departed. However, you might choose to include a short piece of poetry in your eulogy.
The tone of a eulogy should be relatively casual and conversational. It’s okay to share feelings of grief, but overall, the tone should be positive.
4. Journal About Your Time Together
Next, sit down with a pen and paper, and just let the words flow naturally. Don’t attempt to edit yourself at this stage.
Think back to the last time you saw your friend, and to the first day the two of you met. Think about the best times you spent together, and the worst. What were your inside jokes, and how did they start? What was something only your friend knew about you and vice-versa?
This is an important starting step for composing a eulogy, but it’s also a helpful tool in the grieving process.
5. Picture Your Audience
In this step, you’ll start taking the things you wrote in your journaling session and forming them into a eulogy. When you give any speech, including a eulogy, one of the most important factors to consider is your audience.
Try to picture who will be in attendance at your friend’s funeral. The eulogy you give at the funeral is as much for them as it is for the friend you’ve lost.
Knowing your audience will help you think of even more anecdotes and tidbits about your friend that you’d like to share. It will also help guide your tone and steer clear of anything that doesn’t suit the audience.
6. Brainstorm Using These Questions
Now, you can start brainstorming some added ideas for the eulogy for your friend. If you followed Step 4, then you may have already answered some of the questions below. Going over these concepts might stir up even more ideas for things you want to include in your eulogy:
- What was something that made your friend different from everyone else?
- What sights, smells, or sounds remind you of your friend the most?
- What influence did your friend have on the world and the people around her?
- How did you and your friend first meet?
- What was something about your friend that always made you laugh?
- Do you wish you could say something to your friend? If so, what do you want to tell them?
7. Find the Theme
When you look back on all of the notes you have so far, you might notice a running theme. Maybe, in all of your stories and descriptions, it’s your friend’s sense of humor that shines through. Maybe your friend always showed strength in times of hardship. Maybe he was kind to everyone he met.
Going through what you’ve written, find the common thread that ties it all (or most of it) together. You can then center your eulogy around that theme. You can shine a light on the traits in your friend that shone the brightest, and those that you admired most.
8. Draft an Outline
A beautiful and well-crafted eulogy needs an organized and detailed outline. In your outline, include the following sections. For each part, jot down the talking points you want to hit.
Introduce yourself and how you know the departed. Then, conversationally provide context for your speech.
You don’t need to summarize your points in the style of a thesis statement, but present the primary purpose of your eulogy. For example, if your speech focuses on a particular personality trait, introduce that idea. Check out our tips on how to start a eulogy if you need extra help.
Here is where you’ll give the majority of your eulogy. Include talking points for everything you want to convey and organize the items in a logical order.
Consider the chronology of events so that the audience can easily follow along. Include transitional phrases so that it’s clear when you’re moving from one topic to another.
You’ll draw your speech to a close by summing up what you’ve discussed, or by giving a final piece of insight that ties everything together. Read our guide on how to end a eulogy for more ideas.
9. Write Your Eulogy
Next, you’ll fill in the points you wrote down for your outline. When you write your eulogy, you don’t need to write out exactly what you’ll say at the funeral (unless you plan on reading your tribute from the page). But get as close as possible to what you want to convey, word-for-word, to your audience.
This will help determine whether the speech is complete or whether it needs more work. It will also help you edit your eulogy to meet the time limit.
10. Edit Your Eulogy
Now that you’ve composed your speech, it’s time to go back and edit. Check that your eulogy is an appropriate tone, and that it suits the audience.
Make sure you can deliver your tribute in the allotted time. Most of all, make sure your eulogy conveys everything you want to say at your friend’s funeral.
11. Memorize Your Speech
For memorization, you have two options: you can attempt to memorize your written eulogy word-for-word, or you can remember a set of speaking points. If you choose to memorize the speech word-for-word, you’ll need to practice the speech more, which requires more time.
If you choose to use speaking points instead, you can write those points down on a notecard, which you can bring with you to the funeral. When it’s time to give your eulogy, those key points will remind you what you want to say.
If neither of those options sounds ideal, you may choose to bring the written speech with you and read it nearly word-for-word.
Whichever route you choose, practice your speech several times before the funeral using that method. You can also read more tips for speaking at a funeral if you need more help.
Example Eulogies for a Friend
Writing a eulogy for a friend can be easier if you have a few examples. Below are some examples of excerpts from eulogies for friends who have passed.
For a friend who died of cancer or another terminal illness
- "January 25th is a day I’ll always remember. That will always be the day that I lost a lifelong friend, and one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. Even though we knew it would happen someday soon, it still came as a shock."
- "Through his own suffering, Ted Kennedy became more alive to the plight and the suffering of others." - Barack Obama
- "I vow to be a little stronger every day for her because that's what she would have wanted, I vow to be stronger for anyone who's lost somebody to cancer." - Lady Gaga
For a friend who died suddenly
- "Today is our chance to say thank you for the way you brightened our lives, even though God granted you but half a life." - Earl Spencer for Princess Diana
- "I’m here today to honor Christine, my closest friend, who left us so suddenly. The memories we shared will always bring joy to my heart, and I’d like to share some of those with you today.
- "I’m still struggling to believe that Fred is truly gone. It seems like just yesterday that he was speaking as best man at my wedding, cracking up the audience with his dry sense of humor."
For a friend who died too young
- "I would like to talk about James and the life he lived. His was a life cut too short, but it isn’t one that will quickly fade away."
- "Kris was only here for 25 short years. But in that time, she changed the world for the better, enough for a thousand lifetimes."
- "Today, we’ve gathered to remember Gina’s joyful spirit, which we were lucky to have in our lives for even a short time."
Honoring Your Friend's Legacy
Crafting a eulogy isn’t easy, but it’s important. Your eulogy will help guide the tone of the funeral and bring comfort to those who are mourning your friend. The words you speak will help everyone in the audience look back fondly on the time they shared with that person.
When you’re composing a eulogy for a friend, keep in mind the person who you’re writing about, and let that guide the direction of your speech.