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.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- 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
- Example Opening Lines for a Eulogy
(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.
Also check out the Example Opening Lines for a Eulogy we have listed below.
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.
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.
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.
Example Opening Lines for a Eulogy
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 for mom or dad
Writing your parent's eulogy may be one of the most challenging things you have ever had to write. Here are some sample eulogy beginnings to help you get started with the task:
- My relationship with my father was complicated. My Mom always said we had difficulty getting along because we were too similar. Unfortunately, it took me years to realize this, but my Mom was probably right.
- Today we gather together to celebrate Mom's first day in Heaven. She once told me her vision of Heaven was being a part of a massive choir of angels singing Handel's Messiah. That's one reason we played that piece for you this morning. Perhaps Mom was singing along during the chorus.
- Michael Robert Smith was born in 1926 in the family home. He was the sixth of what would be nine kids, but only seven survived to adulthood. Several of Dad's siblings are attending today. I loved it when they would all talk about their childhood. Even though they grew up in poverty, they all smiled when thinking about those times. They spoke about household chores that sound like something from "Little House on the Prairie," like churning butter, milking cows, and heating water for their Saturday night bath.
- My mom loved peonies, dark chocolate, and poems by Mary Oliver. She was a good singer but a horrible artist. And even though she didn't particularly enjoy cooking, she made the best lasagne I’ve ever had. Now that she's gone, I am afraid I’ll forget some of those characteristics that made her unique. So, thank you for indulging me for a bit as I share some details about my beloved mother.
Starting a eulogy for a grandmother or grandfather
Perhaps you have been charged with writing the eulogy for your grandma or grandpa. If so, here are some sample beginnings:
- "The Lord is Near! Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation with prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
This hand-written verse from the Book of Philippians was taped on my Grandma's bathroom mirror all of my life. The paper was old, faded, and curled up around the edges. But even though she changed bathroom decor periodically, that piece of paper remained a constant.
I never really talked to her about it, but that verse probably meant a lot to her when my Dad went to Vietnam. She probably read it to herself when Uncle Peter was in that horrible motorcycle accident. And she probably cried while reading that verse when she was taking care of Grandpa at the end of his life.
- Grandpa was a man of few words. Yes, go ahead and laugh — because we all know that that's not true. We lived next door to Grandpa and Grandma, and I had a neighborhood paper route when I was a kid. One day, I left to deliver the papers while Grandpa was standing outside talking to our neighbor Mr. Smith. I delivered all 60 papers, stopped and got an ice cream sundae, and when I got back, Grandpa was still talking to a worn-out-looking Mr. Smith. Grandpa certainly had the "gift of the gab."
- Today, I stand before you broken-hearted. I know Grandma had a good, long life, but I still needed her. So even though I am happy that she has been reunited with Grandpa, I can't help but be a little angry and jealous.
Starting a eulogy for a sibling
Unsure of how to start a eulogy for a sibling? Here are some unique ways to begin your speech.
- Dan asked us to play the last song, "Live Like You Were Dying," at his funeral. He also made an entire playlist of songs for the slideshow you'll see in a little bit. You see, Dan knew he was dying. While the rest of us urged him to try experimental therapies and visit other doctors, he knew four months ago that his time was short on Earth.
Even though I was frustrated at the time by his stubbornness, I am so thankful we had these last four months with him. Our family spent a lot of time with him — just talking and listening to music. We laughed and cried as we talked about our childhood. He said he was scared, and we cried some more.
- I can't believe I am standing here before you to eulogize my baby sister. Honestly, it all feels like a bad dream. However, here we are, and there she is, and even though I wish I could wake up and hear her snorting, obnoxious laugh, I know she's gone.
Even though I’m angry at Susan and feel like screaming and yelling, I will push those feelings aside and share memories of my little sis.
The first memory I would like to share is about her first year of college . . .
Mom and Dad always said they didn't have a favorite child. Even though it was kind of them to say, none of us believed it. Freddie was their favorite — and deservedly so. He was everyone's favorite.
Freddie had a contagious smile, a zest for life, and a loving, open spirit. That's why there's not an empty seat here today.
Starting a eulogy for a child
We are sorry if you’ve been tasked to write a eulogy for a child. We will attempt to share some words or phrases that might help you.
- This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Even though I was honored when Blake and Emily asked me to speak today, I haven't slept well since they asked. I know my words will do nothing to ease any of our pain. It's too deep.
- I was so excited when Patty announced her pregnancy to the family. I had never been an auntie before, and I was looking forward to having a little niece or nephew to spoil. Unfortunately, however, it was not meant to be. And even though we wish we could all change that fact, our beloved Bethany is now looking at us from Heaven.
- I'm still in shock that Caroline is gone. Just last week, I went to St. Bart's to watch her play volleyball. We went out for tacos afterward, and she told me how much she was looking forward to prom the following week. Now, I am standing in front of you with the job of summing up her too-short life. Here's what you should know about Caroline.
First, we all know that Caroline was bright, but you may not know the extent of her gifts. She was ranked first in her class — even though her schedule was loaded with AP classes. She was planning on using her talents to become a doctor.
- Mikey loved Tonka trucks, playing in the mud, and laughing with Great Grandpa Pete. He always had a mischievous smile, but he was such a sweetheart. He would sing while digging up worms and loved offering dandelions to everyone he met.
Starting a eulogy for a coworker or boss
Perhaps you have been tasked with "sharing a few words" at a coworker's funeral. Here are some suggestions on how to start your eulogy.
- Before I begin, please allow me to extend my deepest condolences on behalf of the entire staff of Wilson and Wilson. Betty, Francine, Don, Jr., you have been in our thoughts and prayers.
I met Roger 28 years ago when he sat across my desk telling me why he was the right person for a sales job. Of course, I agreed with him, and he started immediately. Little would I know that this person would become one of my best friends in my entire life. We played golf together, raised our kids together — and yes, occasionally, we would work together.
- Patricia was a valued member of our staff for more than 16 years, and I say this with certainty — she will be missed. Patricia had a way of making everyone feel valued and respected. And everyone showed up early to work on the Fridays she promised cinnamon rolls. They were, without a doubt, the best cinnamon rolls I've ever had.
- For those of you who don't know me, my name is Ethan Draper. I had the pleasure of working with Martin at Infinity Roofing for the last 13 years. Today I would like to offer my condolences to you all and share a few memories of Martin.
Martin was known for his fantastic work ethic. No one could keep up with his energy. Even the younger guys on the crew were amazed at all he could accomplish in one day.
While he certainly was a productive employee, he stood out because of his attitude on the worksite. As you can imagine, it gets sweltering on top of those roofs, and it's hard to keep a good attitude when the temperatures climb during the height of the summer. But Martin never complained.
Starting a eulogy for yourself
I hate to break this to you, but we will all die someday. Since you know it is coming, you might consider writing your own eulogy and leaving it in an easy place to find.
Not sure how to start? Here are some ideas.
- If you are reading this, I am dead. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh – but we all knew that this day was fast approaching. Or at least I did.
I decided to write my own eulogy after spending a lot of time on Cake, a funeral-planning website. After reading their blog, I decided to take control of this event. I chose the music, poems, and flowers and wrote my own obituary. Some of you may think I took it too far by writing my own eulogy, but only those who didn't know me very well are probably surprised.
Thank you all for coming to my funeral. Wow. That is a weird statement to write. However, there are some things I would like to share with you all, now that you are a captive audience.
First, I want to send love to Cynthia and the kids. I know how hard the last year has been on you, and I'm sorry for not being the best patient at times. I want you to know that I love you all with my whole heart, and I am thankful to you for letting me die at home.
Next, I would like to address my parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews. I love you all! I always felt sorry for my friends who weren't close to the people in their families. I can't imagine life without you all. I have lovely memories of our family vacations, volleyball tournaments, Christmases at the cabin, and summers at the lake.
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.