Why Is Writing An Eulogy So Hard?
There are 3 reasons why writing an eulogy is hard. Firstly, its highly emotional & secondly public speaking is exposing & makes the speaker feel vulnerable. Then there is the simple fact that until we are asked to write an eulogy we have never thought about it before! At school we were taught how to write letters, book reviews, short stories & job resumes. Writing an eulogy was definitely not part of the schools curriculum! Not surprisingly, when faced with the prospect of having to write an eulogy, our first reaction is one of fear followed by “I couldn’t! Life however, sometimes takes that choice away. The first eulogy I wrote was for my mother. My sister asked me to write the eulogy because, “I was good at writing” If you are faced with the opportunity to write an eulogy my advice is to take it and embrace it. Your reward will be far greater than the gift you give to others. Start now by shaking off the myths about writing an eulogy. Myths that you may not know you held until the moment someone asked, “Will you write the eulogy?”
9 Myths About Writing An Eulogy
- Eulogies are depressing to write and adds to everyone’s grief
- Writing an eulogy is all about dying & death
- One can’t say ill of the dead which means eulogies are not truthful
- Writing an eulogy is scary because everyone will judge what you say
- Eulogies are old fashion and serve no purpose
- Eulogies are only for church funerals
- A eulogy is so short you don’t have time to say everything
- Eulogies are boring because everyone says the same thing
- Only the next of kin are allowed to write an eulogy
In truth I look at each of these statements less as “myths” and more a list that family/friends give when asked if they would like to write an eulogy! Psychologists call this a “negative coping response” which seems perfectly reasonable when dealing with grief & a fear of public speaking. But, from personal experience I would like to balance this negativity by sharing the positive aspects of writing an eulogy.
10 Reasons You Should Write An Eulogy
- It brings comfort to others
- Through personal reflection of the life as a whole you will add to your understanding of the person
- It gives the time and the space for personal reconciliation
- Hearing others speak often gives a new perspectives to previously unknown periods of the individuals life
- A gift from you, to both the extended family & those closest to you.
- It is the opportunity to carry out a final activity for your loved one
- It shows respect in that you care enough to do something that everyone else understands is not easy.
- Writing is cathartic. Hearing the words internally & sharing them with others can bring a sense of closure
- Writing can be a form of healing: The relationship between expressive writing and healing was first studied by Dr. James Pennebaker in the late 1980s, whose study revealed striking benefits of how writing about trauma.improved immune-system functioning
- Like any community/family gathering it strengthens the family bonds. The group/tribe will leave with a sense of belonging which, in itself, gives a sense of security to the individual.
How To Overcome The Fear Of Writing An Eulogy
1. Keep an open mind
Admit the fear and give yourself permission to leave your options open. When asked by a member of the family, “Let me think about it” is the best reply
Unlike most research, a library is not going to help. An eulogy is personal which means the research also has to be personal. An obvious place to start is the family photograph album. If you can do it with a group of other family members over a cup of coffee/glass of wine you will be surprised how many memories will be unleashed. Funny, sad or shocking it is all valuable “research” A jewelry box or a draw of odds & ends will all trigger stories that will add life to your eulogy. My advice would be to come prepared with a few questions. It is not necessary to make the question sheet obvious (it may detract from the “sociability” of the occasion) but it can be your “go to” if needed. You can check out interviewing tips here where the focus is on gathering family history information.
3. Gather your thoughts
Now is the time when you need to take a deep breath to reflect on all the ideas, stories & memories you have gathered. As the material for your eulogy grows so will your stress levels! Speaking from my experience of writing posts for this blog, be alert to the fact that it is sometimes easier to stay in “research” mode rather than take the next step……..writing the eulogy. Recognize this as yet another procrastinating ruse and move on.
4. Ask for help
A support buddy is a must. Choose a person you trust to be both honest & supportive. You may think that person needs to be a writing guru or a word smith but keep in mine this is your eulogy. If your writing expert makes too many changes the end result may be a eulogy that is not “in your voice”.
Reading the eulogy out loud is the only way to become familiar with the words. If you have never heard your recorded voice I would advise against taping yourself! There is nothing to gain from it as I can guarantee you won’t like it. (I sound like a child!) Tell yourself everyone else already knows what you sound like!
6. Plan Your Back Up
The first part of your back up plan was to give your self permission to not give the eulogy. The second part of the back up plan is to organise your “on the day” Plan B. When I prepared the eulogy for my Mum I asked the vicar if she would help me should I need it. As it turned out I did. When my time came she looked at me, I shook my head & she quietly came forward to take my notes. She read my words as I had written them and changed the pronouns as required. No fuss, no embarrassment.
The Next Step: Writing
Now that you you have debunked the myths, embraced the positives, researched and planned your back up, it is time to write! This is where you will find a guide that others have used successfully. “Follow These Steps and the Eulogy Will Write Itself” may sound a tad optimistic or even outright misleading but if you keep in mind your back up plan includes an opt out clause there is no reason not to keep going!