Traditionally, when we think of funerals, we envision sad, somber affairs mourning someone who has passed away. There’s another option! Some people are choosing to have living funerals so that they can attend a celebration of their life.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Get in the Right Headspace
- Step 2: Outline What You Want to Say
- Step 3: Do Some Research
- Step 4: Fill in the Details
- Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice!
- Sample Living Eulogies for Friends and Family
There are quite a few reasons why this might be a good option. For instance, if someone is terminally ill, becoming elderly, or if they have family and friends that live far away but can come for a celebration. This way, the person gets to see all the people they love, celebrate their life, and in some cases, say some final goodbyes.
Living funerals typically include living eulogies — a speech that highlights the person of honor’s life, achievements, legacy, and what they meant to you. If you are tasked with writing a living eulogy for a family or friend, it may feel like there’s a bit more pressure since the person will be there to hear your eulogy and react. We’ve put together some steps you can take and some living eulogy examples to get you started.
Step 1: Get in the Right Headspace
Whenever you are writing anything meaningful, it’s a good idea to get in the right frame of mind. First, choose a spot where you can get those creative juices flowing. Choose a time you will be uninterrupted. Writing outside in nature can be lovely.
Another great option is a big comfy chair. If your desk features pictures of the person you are writing the eulogy for, that might be the perfect spot. Some people even like writing while taking a soothing bath.
Make sure your physical needs are met. It’s tough to write while you’re thirsty or on an empty stomach. Bring your favorite snack and beverage to the writing spot you chose.
Getting in the right headspace can really set the tone for your living eulogy. It might feel like a challenge to write, especially if it is moving and emotional. It is okay to feel whatever comes up. The best writing truly does come from the heart. So let yourself go there, and see what spills out onto the paper.
Step 2: Outline What You Want to Say
Is your eulogy going to be short and sweet, or do you want to say as much as possible? Consider what kinds of things you want to say and how you want to say them. Then create an outline.
Here’s a sample outline:
- Quote about the journey of life
- How we met
- Story of how we met, add a laugh
- My favorite story/memory
- Qualities I most admire
- Illustrate with a story
- Education, career, awards
- Build off of achievements
- Family, impact on others
- Thank everyone for coming
- Finish with a poem on love and loss
As you’re filling out your outline and considering what you want to say, also think about your audience. Who is going to be there? If it’s going to be an intimate gathering with just your closest friends, it might be okay to include some more risqué or controversial stories and language.
If it’s going to be a mixed crowd, you might want to be more conservative with your content and save any eyebrow-raising details for a one-on-one reading.
Step 3: Do Some Research
Once you figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it, get inspired by sample eulogies online. You can also look for funeral poems or specific quotes that fit the sentiment you are trying to convey.
Perhaps there’s a popular story or joke you can find in a book or online that really fits the person you are honoring. Jot these down in your outline before you start writing.
Step 4: Fill in the Details
Once you’re in the right headspace, have completed your outline, and finished your research, it’s time to write!
As you fill in the blanks, remember that the person is going to be there hearing your speech. Be honest, but also consider the types of things that might embarrass them and leave those out. The idea is to celebrate your loved one’s life.
Try setting an intention for your eulogy. How do you want the person to feel at the end of their living funeral after hearing your eulogy? As you write, consider that intention.
- Share stories and memories. Include your favorite stories and memories that you have of the person you’re honoring. Even though the person is there, living eulogies are typically told in the third person. Instead of saying ‘you’ when telling the story, say the person’s name and use he/she/they acronyms.
- Describe their qualities that you most admire. Write about the qualities and personality traits that they have that most inspire you. Think about what you would say about this person when describing them to your friend. Consider what it is that makes the person unique and loveable. You can use stories and memories to illustrate these qualities.
- Detail their achievements and the legacy they leave behind. You can talk about the person’s upbringing and childhood, education, career, and family. Think about the lasting impact they will eventually leave on the world, and more specifically, on you when they pass. Describe their awards, achievements, and anything else you think is important to memorialize about the person.
- Add laughter. In the case of a living eulogy, you’re not mourning the loss of your loved one. It’s a good idea to add some laughter and lightness to an otherwise moving and emotional eulogy. You can share a funny story, joke, or a quirk so typical of the person, you’ll have the whole room in stitches.
Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice!
Whether or not you are a pro at public speaking, it’s always wise to read your speech out loud a few times before the big moment. This helps you figure out a good cadence for reading, make note of good times to pause, and find errors that need to be edited.
Practicing ahead of time can help settle your nerves. It will also give you a good idea of how long the eulogy will be and allow you to make any adjustments.
It’s always helpful to practice in front of a trusted friend. Choose someone who knows the person of honor well so that they can share their honest feedback with you.
Sample Living Eulogies for Friends and Family
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the how-tos of writing a living eulogy, here are some excerpts from sample eulogies that we hope will inspire you as you write.
Example for a parent
My mom is the kind of person who always puts others first. It doesn’t matter what you need, she’ll be there in the drop of a hat and will make it happen. Her tenacity and generosity have always inspired me to be my best self.
My mom and I got into this giant fight a few years back, and I wouldn’t even speak to her. I was so mad. A few weeks later, I lost a close friend. My mom dropped everything, traveled all the way to Boston to be with me, and took care of me. The fight was completely forgotten like it didn’t even matter. She does this for all the people in her life. I guarantee you that there’s not a person in this room that my mom hasn’t gone above and beyond for.
On that note, I want to thank everyone for coming to celebrate the incredible human being that is my mom. Just as we are so grateful to know and love her, my mom and I are so grateful to know all of you. You have been the very best friends a daughter could ever wish for her mother to have.
Example for a spouse or partner
Even though I might be a little biased, I think my husband is a pretty special guy. We met on the train on our way to work. Every morning, we would see each other. I was always tired and grumpy, he was always alive and full of energy. I never wanted to chat, so he was patient, but man was he persistent!
Eventually, I gave in and the rest is history. That’s my guy — he never gives up on what he believes in. Whether it’s me, our beautiful children, or his incredible career. He’s the very best at everything he does. Best husband, best dad, best leader.
He worked his way from being a sales representative to the VP of sales with this unbelievable persistence. His clients, coworkers, and bosses all adore him.
Example for a dear friend
Sam is all heart. She has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. We met on our first day of high school. She had lived in the town her whole life, and I was a recent transplant. She had a large group of friends and certainly didn’t need any more. That didn’t stop her from introducing herself to me that very first day and inviting me to everything. We spent the next four years attached at the hip. We took dance classes, studied together, and got into more than a little bit of trouble too. I’ll spare you the details, but ask Sam about that party she threw under a bridge some time.
It was no surprise to any of us when she earned the ‘Most Likely to Win a Nobel Peace Prize’ senior superlative. And it was certainly not surprising when she went to medical school and became a psychiatrist. Sam has helped so many people back to health. She has truly saved lives. Despite her busy medical practice, she always has time, open arms, and a listening ear for her friends and family.
Example for another family member
Anyone who knows my uncle knows how much he likes a good dad joke. So here goes:
Why is it so easy to write a eulogy?
You only need the intro and the conclusion.
The body’s already there.
Good one right? Not only does my uncle like a good dad joke, but he tells them incessantly. It’s one of the many things I love about him. It’s not just the jokes, he’s always been a father figure to me. He’s taught me the value of hard work, always putting family first, and knowing when to laugh at yourself. It’s because of him that I succeeded in my art. Never taking myself too seriously was the key.
His children, nieces, and nephews are his entire world. He has given us so much love, taught us everything, and he makes us laugh every single day. Not only are we all successful, but we are all super close because of him. The 10 of us are my uncle’s legacy.
Write from the Heart
Make sure you check in with both the host of the living funeral and the person of honor to hear what they have in mind before you start writing. They may want all of the eulogies to have a theme, or perhaps they want them all to be comedic. If they give you free rein, it’s completely up to you. In any case, you may want to ask the person of honor if there are any stories they would like for you to avoid completely.
There are no right or wrong ways to write a living eulogy. The most important thing you can do is to write vulnerably and speak your truth about your loved one. The most memorable, moving, and beautiful eulogies are the ones that come from the heart.