2. How to write a eulogy
  3. Why & how to write a living eulogy

How to write a living eulogy and why

 3 compelling reasons to prepare a living eulogy

By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 05-13-2021

A living eulogy celebrates our love, appreciation and gratitude for someone who has powerfully and positively contributed to our life. As its title implies, it's a form of tribute speech celebrating a person before they die, rather than afterwards.

What's on this page

  • Why prepare a living eulogy - 3 reasons
  • Writing a living eulogy for self-development
  • Writing a living eulogy for a pre-funeral celebration
  • Writing a living eulogy for someone just because
  • Preparing the eulogy - deciding on form
  • What to include - content suggestions
  • A link to detailed step by step guidelines + a printable outline 
  • Links to sample speeches
Image: tattooed arm reaching out to hand someone a large bunch of lilac flowers. Text: Why, and how to write a living eulogy.

Why prepare a living eulogy?

The decision to prepare one usually arises from one of these three circumstances:

  1. The person you want to honor is nearing the end of their life and you want them to share how much they've meant to you at a living funeral.

  2. Your feelings of gratitude and love are so great for someone very dear in your life (your mother, father, a friend ...) you want to express them in a special speech.

  3. As a personal development exercise, you have decided to write your own eulogy.

Writing a living eulogy for self-development

Writing a living eulogy as a self-development exercise was first popularized by American business management and self-development guru Stephen Covey.  

'Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind' from his best selling book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People focused on the power of imagination. In  essence it's about beginning each day, task, or project with a clear vision of our desired direction and destination. The more we 'see' where we want to be in life, and what we want to do, the more likely we are to achieve it.

To make the experience of writing their eulogy more vivid or real, people are asked to imagine themselves at their own funeral listening to the speeches.

  • Who would be there?
  • What would people say?
  • What would be the dominant themes?
  • Did we make the world a better place?
  • Did we use our gifts to help others?
  • Did we face our challenges with integrity and courage?

The task offers an opportunity to reflect on, challenge and change the restrictive or negative aspects of our characters and lives while acknowledging and nurturing the positive. 

It can help us see recurring patterns clearly and function as a valuable road map which we can then use to consciously choose the paths leading to, supporting and reinforcing, the best of ourselves.

Writing a living eulogy for someone: 2 reasons

Let's leave aside preparing a eulogy for yourself as a self-development tool and focus on the reasons for giving one to someone else.

There are two main reasons. The first is being asked to speak at the pre-funeral celebration for someone who means a great deal to you.

The second is because waiting until a person is dead to fully acknowledge their place in your heart can be hard to live with!

A living eulogy for a pre-funeral celebration

Living eulogies are an important part of a terminally ill person's pre-funeral celebration. It lets them know just how much they were loved and admired by the significant people in their lives before they die.

Giving the speech can be a wonderful, uplifting experience for everyone. However it needs full and sensitive discussion beforehand with everyone concerned, including the person you're giving the tribute to.

For more about pre-funeral celebrations:

7 Compelling Reasons Why a “Living Funeral” Can Make Your Final Moments Beautiful

A living eulogy for someone just because 

How many times have you regretted NOT telling or showing a person how much they meant to you?

Perhaps you felt too shy and awkward. Perhaps the moment never naturally arose or maybe you felt the person you wanted to share your feelings with wasn't open to receiving them.

Or perhaps you were self absorbed, caught in the theatre of your own life, and unable to see, appreciate or admit what had been given you?

We are human. Our significant relationships are often complex: untidy bundles of emotion. Love, irritation, fear, and gratitude. Envy, admiration, affection and resentment. Anger, loyalty, love and suspicion.

That mix can be enough to consign talking about and honoring a relationship straight to the too-hard basket.

And then they're gone. Sometimes out of your life forever. Now instead of telling them directly, you tell the people who have gathered at their funeral.

I know from experience how uncomfortable that feels. It's a regret without recourse to remedy, other than forgiving yourself for being human and promising yourself you'll do better next time.

In contrast to a more typical funeral speech, a living eulogy celebrates our special people while they are with us. It is a powerful, life-affirming gift.

Preparing the eulogy

Deciding the form, the audience, and purpose

Decide on an appropriate form after you have considered who you are giving it to. What will they appreciate?

Now balance that decision against what you are able to give. For example, will you sing a song, read a poem, or give a speech? Perhaps you can combine all of these elements?

Is the occasion where you'll give the speech public or private? Do you want to share your praise in front of others?  If so, will it form part of a birthday celebration or perhaps an anniversary?

Think it all through. This presentation or speech is potentially very powerful. It will live on in memories. What impact do you want it to have, and why?

What to include in your eulogy

Include anything and everything sincerely and honestly reflecting the love, admiration, appreciation and gratitude you hold for the person you want to honor.

If appropriate, include the tricky bits. Openly acknowledging those areas where you've had to work to find a mutually acceptable compromise can be empowering for everybody. 

Loving a person dearly doesn't mean you stop noticing, or being irritated by, their lesser qualities and habits. Our speeches don't have to be about idealized versions of them. They are still who they are, regardless of the circumstances.

And yes, please, use humor!

A useful guideline is that whatever you say, or do, must genuinely come from the best part of your heart.

If the positive feelings you have are overshadowed by long held unresolved issues you'll need to be careful. The purpose of a eulogy is not to settle disagreements or to redress imbalances. Sometimes the bigger and better thing is to say nothing. 

Step by step guidelines for writing a eulogy

If you are giving the speech as part of public ceremony (birthday party, anniversary celebration or something similar) the step by step guidelines on my how to write a eulogy page will help. Use them to ensure you get all aspects of your speech: content, length of speech and presentation, fully prepared.

You'll also find a free printable blank step by step outline to use. It comes complete with an example speech.

Read a sample speech

Sometimes reading what other people have written sparks our creativity into action.

Browse a growing, wonderful and diverse collection of sample eulogies submitted by site visitors including a couple I wrote myself for my sister and my neighbor. There's also this tribute speech for my mother.

In summary:

Your living eulogy is an acknowledgement and recognition of the gifts received from someone you love.

Let's not wait until these people are gone from our lives to show our gratitude.

Now, who is on my list for today?
There's my husband...

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