Writing a eulogy is no easy feat—especially when you’re grieving the loss of a loved one. While you should try to speak from the heart, it’s okay to accept some outside help.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Brainstorm
- Step 2: Choose a Theme
- Step 3: Know Your Time Limit
- Step 4: Choose an Outline Style
- Eulogy Outline Examples
Many people find it easier to speak openly and honestly in a eulogy if they work with an outline. An outline also lets you organize your eulogy in a way that’s easy for listeners to follow. When you give your eulogy, you should feel confident that you’ve said everything you wanted to say, and that the funeral attendees resonated with your message.
If you’re writing a eulogy, creating an outline with the steps below will help the process go more smoothly and successfully. We’ll even provide some example eulogy outlines for inspiration and reference.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Before you start getting organized with a tidy outline, it can help to brainstorm everything you want to say in the eulogy. You won’t include everything from the brainstorm in the final eulogy, or in your outline. But the brainstorming process will help you visualize the type of statement you’d like to give.
If you find yourself facing writer’s block when you’re brainstorming, you can start by jotting down your answers to these questions:
- What immediately comes to mind when you hear the name of your deceased loved one?
- Describe your loved one in just three words.
- What’s one moment you shared with your loved one that shows exactly what they were like?
- How would you describe your relationship with the person?
- How did the person touch the lives of others?
- What did you and your loved one spend time doing together?
- What’s one thing that will always remind you of your loved one?
Pro-tip: You can organize your brainstorm however you’d like: word storm, mind mapping, or just journaling. But the key is to let the words and ideas flow freely without holding back.
Step 2: Choose a Theme
Once you’ve brainstormed ideas for your eulogy and identified some topics you might want to touch on, it’s time to decide on a theme.
The “theme” of your eulogy doesn’t have to be extremely specific at this point. You’ll refine it more as you work on your outline. But you can determine what you’d like the overarching tone of your eulogy to be by reviewing your brainstorm.
Looking back over your notes, choose the items that speak to you the most, and that you think will speak to your audience. Then, make a (tentative) decision about the theme of your eulogy. Here are some ideas:
- Precious moments. Share several of your most cherished moments with your loved one, in chronological order.
- Key traits. Focus on the traits your loved one had that made them who they were. You can share anecdotes that back up those traits, too.
- Your relationship. Share with everyone how your loved one shaped your life, and what your relationship meant to you.
- Family. Focus on the many relationships your loved one had in your family, as well as relationships with close friends.
- Accomplishments. You might want to reflect on how much your loved one accomplished in life, and the changes they made in the world.
- Humor. Make your audience laugh by sharing your loved one’s funniest moments, jokes, or “isms.”
Pro-tip: You can choose two of the options above (or even three), and weave them together to create your own unique theme.
For example, your theme might be, “how my loved one changed the world with humor,” or, “how my loved one struck an incredible balance between family and career accomplishments.”
Step 3: Know Your Time Limit
Some eulogies are short and sweet, while others tell a longer story. Before you start your eulogy outline, make sure to find out if there’s a time limit for your speech.
Reach out to the family member organizing the funeral to ask how many people they expect to give eulogies and whether they’d like you to limit your eulogy to any amount of time. They might say you have as long as you want, or they might ask you to keep your talk relatively short.
Pro-tip: The average length of a eulogy is three to five minutes. That usually translates to about 500 words.
Step 4: Choose an Outline Style
Based on your brainstorming process, the theme you chose, and your time limit, you’ll decide on the type of outline that works best for your eulogy.
Like most speeches, a eulogy typically consists of an intro, body, and conclusion. But the way you outline each section will depend on the factors mentioned. Take a look at the example eulogy outlines below for ideas.
Pro-tip: Writing your intro and conclusion first, before you work on outlining the body of the eulogy, is often a helpful step. Doing so can help you get more focused on the message of your eulogy and how you want to open and close the speech. Here are some resources to help you with how to start a eulogy and how to end a eulogy.
Eulogy Outline Examples
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when you’re outlining and writing a eulogy. Your eulogy will be personalized and heartfelt, and its content will be based on the person you’ve lost.
But you can also rely on example outlines, like the ones below, to help you organize your ideas and get started with the writing process.
Short eulogy example
Maybe you found out you have a limited amount of time to give your eulogy, or you’d just rather speak for as little time as possible. If that’s the case, you’ll need to compose a short eulogy. Here’s an example outline for a eulogy that’s short and sweet.
- My grandmother’s favorite line of poetry.
- Introduce myself and thank everyone in attendance.
- Explain what that line of poetry meant to her and why I wanted to share it with everyone.
- Body (main section)
- How my grandmother impacted the lives of others.
- How she specifically affected my life.
- Tell a short story that demonstrates how she affected my life and/or the lives of others.
- What was most important to my grandmother.
- Summary of the theme—tie everything back to the poetry recited at the beginning.
- End with my grandmother’s favorite joke.
Eulogy outline about family
If your loved one has a large extended family, you can use family and ancestry as the theme. Here’s a eulogy outline example presenting one way to base a eulogy around family.
- There are no words to explain the loss we’re all feeling today. But I find comfort in the fact that we’re going through this loss together.
- Mention family origins and ancestry, where the family is from and a little history about it.
- Our family today is just as colorful...
- Body (main section)
- I’ll never forget the time when my Aunt (Name), and Grandma...
- Additional stories about experiences Grandma shared with members of the family who are present.
- Tell a story about a time I shared with Grandma that’s the most meaningful to me.
- Share what all of these stories say about Grandma and her personality, traits, accomplishments, and love for her family.
- Tie the stories I told back to our family origins; find a way in which they’re all similar and relate back to our ancestry.
- Thank everyone for coming and for letting me share their stories and experiences.
Long eulogy outline example
If you’re the main eulogizer at the funeral--or the only one--you might be asked to speak for a longer period of time. If that’s the case, you might choose to discuss more aspects of your loved one’s life. One way to do that is chronologically, as demonstrated in the example below.
- Introduce myself and thank everyone for coming.
- Body (main section)
- Talk about Grandma’s early years: where she was from, what life was like when she was young.
- Grandma’s accomplishments in young adulthood, where she went to school, how hard she worked, and what she was able to achieve.
- Her marriage and children, how she met Grandpa, and where they traveled or lived throughout their marriage.
- Grandma’s proudest achievements: what was it she always talked about the most?
- How Grandma handled retirement/illness, and her final years.
- Share what I’ve learned from everything Grandma told me over the years. What she taught me about work, love, and life.
- Thank everyone again, and ask whether anyone else would like to share a few short words.
Outlining a Eulogy
Putting your thoughts together in an organized fashion is never the easiest task, and it’s even more difficult when you’re overwhelmed by grief and loss. Whether you’re writing a eulogy for a grandmother or grandfather, a eulogy for a friend, or a eulogy for anyone else you’ve loved and cared for, the process can be emotionally draining.
When you’re creating an outline for your eulogy, remember to take breaks often to replenish your energy. Sometimes, stepping away from the page is the best thing you can do to overcome writer’s block.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you’re not alone in writing a eulogy. There are plenty of online resources to help, and it’s always a good idea to seek feedback from family and friends. Visit this page if you’re ready to move onto writing your eulogy.