You may feel comfortable with the writing process. Maybe you do a lot of public speaking for your job. But nothing really prepares you to write a eulogy.
If you’re given the task to write a eulogy, that means you’ve lost someone dear to you. Even if the death was expected, the process isn’t any easier.
(For help with all of the complicated tasks you might be facing after losing a loved one, check out our post-loss checklist.)
That's why we are here to help with some tips and examples on how to start a eulogy. Some of the first lines will be poignant, and others will be funny. Regardless of the tone you take, just make sure you write the tribute from the heart.
Here are some ideas for how to start a eulogy:
- Talk with the Family Members
- Start with an Introduction
- Offer Condolences
- Start with a Quote
- Establish a Theme
- Start with a Funny Story
- Start with a Reading of the Obituary
Also check out the Example Opening Lines for a Eulogy we have listed below.
1. Talk with the Family Members
We know what to expect at a funeral. We understand that a well-written eulogy celebrates the life of one who passed. If you’re not an immediate relative of the person who died, talk with the family members to get their opinions on how to start the eulogy.
The family probably knows plenty of stories or background material to help you get started. If they’re in a reflective mood, they’ll be able to list their loved one’s traits and characteristics that will develop the eulogy’s theme.
Before you give the eulogy, make sure you have members of the family read through it, too.
2. Start with an Introduction
One of the most appropriate ways to start a eulogy is to introduce yourself. Of course, this is only done if the officiant doesn’t introduce you to the crowd.
Even if you think that everyone should know who you are, you may be mistaken. Perhaps the attendees know that you are “one of the daughters,” but they don’t know which one. Maybe your looks have changed since the last time people saw you.
Regardless, tell the audience your name and your relationship with the deceased.
3. Offer Condolences
If you aren’t a member of the immediate family, it is proper to begin a eulogy by offering condolences or expressions of sympathy to those in the family. Even if you are hurting too, know that the immediate family would appreciate hearing these sentiments.
Avoid speaking about your own pain. The eulogy should not be about you and your suffering.
4. Start with a Quote
Perhaps it would be appropriate to start with a quote from a song or a poem. Maybe you would like to start with a passage from the Bible or Koran. There are plenty of lists of funeral quotes for a eulogy online, but a quote is always more meaningful if it was important to the family and the deceased.
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5. Establish a Theme
As you begin your eulogy, think about the overall theme you want to establish for your listeners. Your audience doesn’t want to hear a series of disjointed memories and lists of accolades. Figure out what tone you want to take from the start, and make sure each point backs up that central idea.
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6. Start with a Funny Story
As you begin your eulogy, this isn’t the time to tell your favorite joke. But, if the deceased was known for having a particularly good sense of humor, it may be appropriate to start with his or her favorite story.
Funerals are often celebrations of life. Ask the family members of the deceased if they’re okay with you starting with a funny story about the deceased. Make sure the tale puts their loved one in a positive light.
7. Start with a Reading of the Obituary
An obituary is not the same as a eulogy. An obituary reads more like a news article. It often lists the names of the family members, the deceased’s place of employment, military service, and memberships in religious and civic organizations.
Even though your eulogy should be about your loved one’s personality, reading his or her obituary may be an excellent way to lead into that discussion.
Although the above tips may give you food for thought, we have also decided to provide you with a few opening lines to help you get started with the writing process. Here are some sample lines to begin a eulogy for a friend, a family member, or a spouse/partner.
Starting a eulogy for a friend
Speaking at a friend’s funeral may be one of the hardest things you ever do. Not only are you feeling grief at losing someone close to you, but you may also be nervous about how the mourning family will react to your words. Here are some opening lines you may consider using.
- Good afternoon. My name is Mary Smith, and I have had the privilege of calling Jane Johnson my friend for the last thirty years. I was honored when Jane’s family asked me to write this eulogy, but I am also nervous about finding the right words to speak as a tribute to my friend.
- Good morning. Before I introduce myself, I would first like to thank you all for being here today to celebrate the life of Jane Johnson. The number of you who took the time to gather here is a testament to how important Jane was in many of your lives. I would also like to take this time to express my sincere condolences to the love of her life, Matt, and her precious children Allison and Michael.
- Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Well done is better than well said.” This quote reminds me of Mike. He was a man of few words, but his actions spoke volumes. Let me tell you about some of the amazing things Mike accomplished in his life.
- Probably everyone sitting in this audience today has a favorite Frank joke. Let me tell you my favorite.
- Whether you knew Jane as a wife or a mother, a co-worker, or a friend, we all benefited from her wisdom and heartfelt advice. Jane was always an old soul, and she always knew how to focus on the big picture as opposed to the pesky details of life.
Starting a eulogy for a family member
Saying goodbye to a family member is particularly hard. Remember to speak slowly and from the heart. If you have to pause to cry, so be it. Your audience will understand.
- Saying goodbye to my dad today is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I am Ryan, his son, and on behalf of the rest of my family, we would like to thank you for being here today to celebrate dad’s life.
- When I was a kid, my mom used to repeat, “this, too, shall pass.” Although her words were helpful when a bully was mean to me at school, or when I was going through sleepless nights as the mother of infant twins, I don’t think her advice will help me with the grief I am feeling today.
- Uncle Roy came to this country when he was 15. He didn’t speak English, and he didn’t know anyone. Let me tell you stories about his bravery and how that trait carried him through his long life.
- My dad grew up on a farm in the Ozarks. Even though he spent most of his life in suburban Kansas City, his heart never left those beautiful hills where he wandered as a youth.
- I feel as if I could write a book about my father’s life. He accomplished so much and meant a great deal to all of us in this room. Here’s what I want you to know about my dad.
Starting a eulogy for a spouse or partner
It's hard to imagine the strength it would take to recite a eulogy for a spouse or partner. For those of you who are able to honor your loved one at the funeral, here are some opening lines you may want to use.
- As I say goodbye to my husband today, I am reminded of this verse in Isaiah. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” This verse has meant a great deal to my husband and me as he has struggled with illness for the last several years.
- I know that Jane is looking down on me today, shaking her head because my funeral attire is all wrong, and my socks don’t match. Jane also took great care of those details in my life.
- The kitchen was the center of my wife’s world. It was in her kitchen that she prepared countless meals for our daughters and me. It was there she counseled friends. It was at the kitchen table, where she read her Bible every morning. I will never enter that room again without expecting to see her there.
- Mike’s brothers and sisters like to tell stories about how he was the first person to defend someone who was mistreated. That was the first attribute that drew me to him thirty years ago.
- The first time I met Jane, she was a shy girl who always avoided talking to me when we worked at the movie theatre together. I never would have imagined that forty years later, I would be standing here telling you about this amazing, strong woman with whom I shared my life for the last several decades.
Starting a Eulogy Off Right
Take time when writing a eulogy, especially as you write the opening lines. Have others look at the text before you deliver your speech, and practice reading it in front of a mirror.
Writing the eulogy for a friend, family member, or spouse is one of the highest honors you will have in your life. Show respect for the deceased by behaving appropriately on this solemn occasion.