Eulogizing someone isn’t a mysterious gift. Public speaking—and eulogizing—both follow simple rules.
(For more help with all of the complicated tasks you might be facing after losing a loved one, check out our post-loss checklist.)
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Pick Your Eulogy Type
- Step 2: Write It Out
- Step 3: Avoid Listing Character Traits
- Step 4: Be Okay with Being Nervous
- Step 5: Don’t Be Negative
- Step 6: Give Your Memories A Theme
- Step 7: Don’t Rush Your Reading
- Step 8: Consider Your Audience
- Step 9: Focus on You
- Short Example Eulogies for a Sister
Below, we’ve outlined tips so you can give your sister the memorial she deserves. From eulogy writing to public speaking tips, we’ve got you covered.
COVID-19 tip: If you're hosting a Zoom funeral using a service like GatheringUs, make sure to test your audio before the service, so both online and in-person guests can hear you clearly.
Step 1: Pick Your Eulogy Type
There are two types of eulogies. One reads like an obituary. These are often dry, fact-oriented, and read like a detached newspaper article. They do have benefits, though. Obituary-oriented eulogies give the audience guideposts via unknown details.
Many people couldn’t recite the date of birth or number of siblings of their twice-removed aunt. That’s where you come in. Fill in the blanks and give a rough sketch of their life.
Since you’re eulogizing your sister, though, you can try to go deeper. It might be painful to do and may result in unwanted emotions on stage. Even if that’s true, you can try authentic. Pick guideposts in the obituary-style eulogy.
For instance, what if she graduated from an all-girls Catholic high school? Tell the audience a funny memory about a senior prank she pulled off. What if you went on blind double dates and met your spouses? Tell the audience about it. These anecdotes will help your audience connect to what you’re saying.
Step 2: Write It Out
If you have public speaking experience, you know advice varies. Some people say to memorize your entire speech. Others suggest notecards. Some say that a bare-bones outline is the best idea.
The best approach is different for everyone. Before you try anything else, though, try writing it out. Type out every single word you plan to say. You can use this version to rehearse your speech. In a best-case scenario, you’ll use the typed-out version as a guide. You can speak from the heart, of course, but use it as a map to get to the end of your eulogy.
In a worst-case scenario, it’ll keep you on stage if you get nervous. If you can’t remember what you wanted to say next, look down at your paper. If you’re too emotional to wing the rest of your speech, read it aloud. It’s better than jumping ship.
There’s a third convincing reason to write out your speech. Loved ones and friends may want it as a memento—you can’t give them the version memorized in your head. Being able to print out physical copies as a gift is a great thing to do.
If you're having trouble coming up with an opening line, check out our steps on how to start a eulogy.
Step 3: Avoid Listing Character Traits
“Maggie loved baking, drawing, poetry, and action movies. She was kind, intelligent, lighthearted, and brave.” While those are great hobbies and character traits, those are boring sentences. Why? They’re reminiscent of a grocery list. No one wants to listen to a list of qualities that could belong to anyone.
The time for lists is in your brainstorming notes. Write out a list of your sister’s best traits. Then think of anecdotes that pay homage. Showing a story is always better than telling one.
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Step 4: Be Okay with Being Nervous
For most people, public speaking is a nightmare at the best of times. Delivering a eulogy for your sister is a painful, emotional experience. It’s natural to be nervous beforehand. Most advice for public speakers boils down to the same thing: it’s expected.
Even the best public speakers get nervous. They cope with it through experience, rehearsal, and reframing. You can’t rack up public speaking experience on short notice, though. And chances are, you’ve already rehearsed your speech a million times. To cope with nervousness, then, try reframing. This is the act of changing the way you think about your feelings.
Imagine the scenario. You’re about to go on stage. Your hands are sweaty and leaving marks on your notecards. Maybe everything you wanted to say feels like a blank. You might recognize these feelings as nervousness.
You don’t have to stop there, though. Think of it as excitement. Even during this tragic time, you’re excited to tell everyone how great your sister was.
For more tips, head over to our article on how to speak confidently at a funeral.
Step 5: Don’t Be Negative
If everyone had a storybook relationship with their sister, the world would be lovely. If you had a complicated or outright difficult relationship, though, don’t despair. You can still deliver a eulogy.
A wise approach is to not focus on the negative. For instance, what if your sister was an addict? Chances are, most people in the audience already knew that. Bringing it up on such a painful day might not do anyone any good.
If you can, focus on the positive instead. Was she creative? Did she love little kids? Did she volunteer sometimes? Even if it feels difficult, try to find some positive traits to center your eulogy around. If you can’t, or if your relationship was too complicated, pass the eulogy baton to someone else.
Step 6: Give Your Memories a Theme
Tie your memories together under a few headings. This way, your eulogy won’t feel disjointed. If your sister was brave, share a memory about her cross-country motorcycle competition.
Then, tell us about how she moved to Europe at 18. With a theme, your eulogy will feel cohesive.
Step 7: Don’t Rush Your Reading
Charging headlong through your speech is a good way to lose your audience’s attention. Speak slowly, and let your audience hear what you’re saying.
Try slowing down your speech even more than you would in a casual conversation. This way, your audience can register what you’re trying to communicate.
Step 8: Consider Your Audience
Who are you speaking to? If the people at the funeral are very strict, an anecdote about a crazy night with your sister might not go over well. Being true to the deceased and their personality is essential.
Their loved ones and those at the funeral are equally so. Try to cater to your audience whenever possible. That way, you don’t run the risk of offending anyone.
Step 9: Focus on You
One of the biggest pitfalls of a standard eulogy is overgeneralization. Making blanket statements to talk about how much your sister meant ‘to everyone’ might not have a huge impact.
What did she mean to you? A eulogy is a celebration of your relationship with your sister. It’s nothing more, nothing less. With that in mind, don’t try to speak for the audience. Only speak for you.
Short Example Eulogies for a Sister
Many people have written touching, heartfelt eulogies. There’s no mysterious secret, though. They wrote from the heart and followed a simple template. Take a look at the examples below. These sample eulogy excerpts may be what you need to brainstorm your own.
“Hello. Thank you to everyone who is gathered here tonight. I appreciate everyone showing up to memorialize my sister, Maggie. My name is May, and I am her younger sister. Maggie would have loved to see so many loved ones together to celebrate her life. She loved family gatherings and always hosted as many as she could fit into a year. At each one, she’d throw herself into making homemade decor and trying out new recipes. No matter how much work it took, Maggie loved hosting. For Maggie, she was happiest when her family was around her…”
“My sister, Samantha, was the most talkative person I knew. No matter how quiet someone was, she could bring them into the conversation. She knew an icebreaker for every situation and could talk nonstop. That was why she was the better public speaker! Samantha didn’t just talk, though. She always looked out for lonely or awkward people to include. As her little sister, she never forgot me, either. Whether she invited me to a party or brought me along with her group of friends, Samantha helped me fit in effortlessly. She never made a big deal out of including me or anyone else… “
“With a large age gap between us, I wasn’t close to Halley as a kid. She was well into elementary school when I started kindergarten. I always looked up to her, because she knew so much more. At least, she seemed to! I didn’t realize how much Halley meant in my life until she moved away to college. When she did, my life seemed much emptier. In a few years, I ended up going to the same college as her. While there, we connected more than we ever had before. Even with that age gap, and years of arguments behind us, we became close sisters. One of my favorite memories is the prank she helped me with during my senior year… “
Your Eulogy Matters
Writing a eulogy for your sister may be one of the most painful experiences in your life. But your pain—and effort to deliver the eulogy—matters. It’s a gift to your sister and your family. By commemorating your relationship, you can keep her legacy alive for others.
Have you considered how you want to remember your sister after her funeral? You can get creative, even turning her ashes into memorial diamonds or creating a custom urn shaped like her favorite items.