Writing the Ideal Eulogy for Your Father

As you begin composing a eulogy for your father’s funeral or memorial service, feelings of anxiety are normal. You doubtless have many wonderful memories and thoughts you wish to share, but feel unsure as to which ones to include or how to deliver your message. We have formulated the following guidelines over many years to help you create a eulogy that will best honor and celebrate the many treasured aspects of your father’s life.

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Because the most moving eulogies serve as testaments to the unique personalities of the departed and the eulogist alike, they tend to vary greatly. Our tutorial is simply intended to assist in the process; it is not the definitive set of rules on how to eulogize someone you love. Grieving the loss of a beloved father is sufficiently difficult without the added pressure of trying to craft the perfect eulogy. 

You may worry that your eulogy may not properly honor your father, or you may be concerned that you will not write it as eloquently as you would like. Whatever your worry, we believe our recommendations will help assuage your fears. We understand the pain of bereavement, and it is our goal to help you craft a speech that will celebrate your father in a heartfelt, genuine way. If at any point you encounter difficulty while planning or composing your eulogy, please call us at 320-4-EULOGY (320-438-5649).

Eulogy Basics

Before you can write a proper eulogy for your father, you must first understand the essence of a eulogy. A eulogy should be intimate and casual in delivery and tone. The purpose of a eulogy is to celebrate and pay homage to the deceased among those who loved them the most. Your close relationship to your father should emanate from your eulogy as you present the highlights of his life and legacy. Your portrayal of your father’s characteristics, his quirks, and your memories of him should effectively convey to your audience the impact and influence he had on your life, as well as theirs. 

Many individuals confuse eulogies with obituaries or elegies. An obituary is no more than a general listing of facts for the news. It is biographical and stoic, quite unlike the conversational piece you will create in a eulogy. A eulogy written in the same vein as an obituary may seem dry and unloving. 

An elegy, on the other hand, is a poem or song performed as an homage to the deceased. Simply include stories, memories, and snippets of your father’s most notable actions and achievements as you and your audience travel through his life in loving reminiscence. This will result in a eulogy of which your father would be proud. 

As you prepare to craft your father’s eulogy, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas

You may feel tempted to write your speech in a single session, because you have a lifetime of words to share about your father. However, we recommend gathering your thoughts and ideas in a preliminary form before putting them into presentable paragraphs. 

Effective brainstorming methods include taking time alone to consider your father, looking through his belongings or gifts from him, reading letters from him, or compiling photos for inspiration. Another option is to talk to other people who knew and loved your father to gain inspiration from their words and ideas. 

Keep careful notes of everything you see, hear, and especially feel as you move through these influences. Although this process can become painful, keep in mind that you are crafting something special on behalf of the father you loved dearly.

Harvesting Inspiration

As we mentioned before, this part can be very taxing emotionally. Your grief is understandable. For some people, talking with others and experiencing memories can be cathartic. For others, this can be a very difficult, even agonizing, part of the grieving process. We would like to help you through this emotional time by giving you some concise starter questions to help you find direction.

You do not have to answer all of these questions and make every decision about your father’s legacy on your own. Discussing your father with his closest and most cherished loved ones (some of whom are probably your own most cherished loved ones) will bring up wonderful inspiration for your eulogy and help heal everyone involved.

Tone and Mood

The tone and mood of your eulogy will dictate every part of its content. This can be a sensitive topic, but deciding what tone and mood will match the funeral home or memorial service venue, the audience, and the circumstances of your father’s death is an important part of deciding what to keep and what to discard from your brainstorming notes. Considering the aforementioned criteria, your tone and mood should befit the personality and life accomplishments of your father. 

Think about it this way: some people’s fathers are solemn and serious, while other fathers are boisterous and humorous. If your father is on one end of this spectrum or the other, your eulogy should be quite consistent with that personality. However, it is perfectly fine to mix and match appropriate moods to construct a eulogy that expresses all of your father’s traits. The best way to ensure these moods and tones do not overlap in confusing ways is to consider consulting with an objective professional with extensive experience in composing eulogies. 

Maintain Order

Consider any repetitive ideas or patterns in the notes you have taken about your father to determine whether you can derive an overarching message or theme for your speech. Make sure to mention all of the most important highlights of your father’s personality and life story. You may discover a surplus of things to say; when that happens, it is best to keep those details organized categorically or chronologically. 

Chronological organization

You might begin by discussing your father as a child. To adopt this method, you will need to reference stories you have heard from him directly or from people who knew him at the time. Speak about the way your father met your mother, if this is a fond subject. Many individuals may talk about their fathers’ experiences in the military or recount the humorous and incredible stories of their fathers as “strapping young men.”

Should it feel appropriate, spend a significant length of time discussing your childhood and early years with your father. If you are giving his eulogy, it is likely he devoted a great deal of time, energy, and care to your successful upbringing. Reflect on your relationship with him in your adulthood and consider mentioning his accomplishments throughout this time.

Categorical organization

For some people, a chronological organization is too difficult to execute in an orderly manner, or there are too many smaller events to mention. A categorical approach will allow you to discuss your father as a son and brother, a husband, a father, a businessman, a soldier, a neighbor, a citizen – or any other role he played well. If this organization appeals to you, move your various inspirations and ideas into boxes or lists under separate, sensible headings for a solid organization.

Remember: You do not have to spend valuable presentation time giving your audience a complete timeline of your father’s basic life details. In many cases, your audience will be composed almost entirely of individuals who know your father intimately enough to understand your words without reference or back-story. Instead, highlight things that are important to you and would be important to your father; in this way, you accurately reflect and celebrate who he was throughout his life.

Monitor Duration

The customary duration of a eulogy is 5 to 7 minutes. It is best to confirm with the funeral home or memorial service venue whether they have established time limits for eulogies; however, the 5-to-7-minute standard is a good guideline, because there are significant drawbacks to a eulogy that is too long or too short. For instance, overly brief eulogies may leave attendees wanting to know and understand more about the deceased. On the other hand, a lengthy and laborious eulogy can be mentally and emotionally taxing for the eulogist and the audience. The length you choose will also govern how many anecdotes and stories you are able to include in your writing.

Step 2: Write, Write, Write

Now that you have outlined your ideas, it is time to begin the actual writing process. Be certain to maintain simplicity, emotion, and proper tone to reap success with your writing. Your language should not be complex, because your audience may be unable to follow; it will also be more likely to cause an error in your presentation. Unlike delivering a speech in an academic or professional setting, you are merely sharing your feelings about a man you admired. Write your eulogy in a way that is genuine to you so that when it is spoken, it feels right.

Introduce Yourself and Your Purpose

As any writer will tell you, the most difficult part is starting. Be sure to consider your two most important purposes as you introduce your eulogy:

1. Introduce yourself

It may seem strange to introduce yourself to a group of people who know who you are. But remember: There will be friends and neighbors of your father who may not know you very well, as well as others who certainly have never heard you speak of your relationship with your father. Explain who you are and how you and your father grew close. This will create credibility and authority with your audience, so everything you say will have greater impact.

2. Introduce your message

Your listeners will want to know what they are about to hear. Set the tone by expressing how much you appreciate the opportunity to discuss your father’s life accomplishments and highlights. If you laughed or felt other positive emotions throughout the composition process, tell the audience. While it is not necessary to give a full itinerary of the stories you will relate, provide a small snippet of the emotional experience you will be sharing with your audience and remind them of why. This portion of the eulogy should be engaging, because a distracted audience will undoubtedly make you more nervous.

Write from the Heart

From this point, begin to write anecdotes regarding each of the ideas you collected about your father during the brainstorming process. Some pieces will be lengthy, while others will remain small remembrances. Only write things that you will enjoy sharing with your audience, as this will not be something you will hand out for everyone to read to themselves. Everything you write in your eulogy will be something you express verbally. If you organized your ideas during the brainstorming process, you will appreciate the organized and thoughtful outline during this stage.

Wrap it Up

Your final statements will undoubtedly be what people remember most about your eulogy, and potentially about the service as a whole. This presents a great responsibility and opportunity to guide the overall tone of the service. Consider how these final thoughts will resonate within the legacy your father leaves behind.

First, tie together all of the thoughts and messages expressed within the introduction and body of your eulogy. We recommend also taking a moment to express your gratitude for the opportunity to present. Then, conclude with a lasting and influential statement about your father – the man, his life, his impact.

Step 3: Review Objectively

Edit Cautiously

With a complete, finished product in front of you, you may feel tempted to stand up, dust yourself off, and call it done. However, without careful proofreading and editing, you may find yourself standing in front of a large group of people questioning your word choice or encountering confusing structural issues you missed during the writing process. This experience will leave you distracted and uncomfortable in a situation where you are likely already anxious. Regardless of how well you may normally write, your recent circumstances may have impacted your focus or precision. Allow yourself time to comb through your work and remove as many errors as possible.

The easiest way to ensure clarity of mind when editing is to take a break. It may also be wise to commission a friend or relative to scour the piece for any errors or places where the wording doesn’t flow well. Reading the piece aloud to someone else or yourself may also reveal which parts look great on paper but sound awkward when spoken.

To Memorize or Not to Memorize

Deciding whether or not to deliver your eulogy from memory is a serious consideration. You may be someone who benefits from memorization because holding note cards is distracting or disorienting; conversely, you may find memorization too stressful. Note cards can prevent leaving out important stories or details; however, some individuals may find that reading from note cards makes them sound like a robot. Only you will know what works for you. 

For those who choose to memorize their speeches, we advise doing so in small sections so that if you lose your place at any time, you can easily start back up. Those reading their speeches or utilizing notes should practice in the mirror and watch their hands to make sure they do not fidget. Regardless of whether you choose to memorize or not, be sure to practice your vocal inflection to ensure that it all sounds natural.

Step 4: Present Your Eulogy

We understand that in all likelihood, you will be quite anxious or nervous about presenting something you wrote. This nervousness rises when you consider the emotional nature of the situation and the incredibly personal material that you are sharing with loved ones and strangers alike. We would like to remedy some of this anxiety by offering the following tips on various components of your presentation. 

Slow down

It will feel and sound very peculiar when you first try it, but slowing down your speech significantly will afford you the best chance of not rushing through your eulogy. Nervous presenters often blaze through their speeches too quickly for audiences to follow. However, setting a more deliberate pace will not only help to clarify your speech – it will calm your nerves and ease the pressure of performance.

Pan the room

Monitor your eye contact with fellow attendees while delivering your speech. You will want to look directly at the people in the audience and speak to them, instead of at the wall behind them. Since a eulogy is emotional and intimate, delivering to the ceiling, floor, or walls may achieve the opposite effect. Scanning the room and making brief but deliberate eye contact will allow you to speak intimately without becoming distracted by focusing too closely on any one individual or group. 

Enunciate & speak up

Clear speech and vocal projection are essential to any verbal communication. For the sake of verbal clarity, it is best to familiarize yourself with every word of your eulogy through careful, repetitious practice. In this way, you will know when to pause, when to emphasize, and how to pronounce all of your words in the order they will be delivered. To ensure volume quality, ask whether a microphone will be available or not. If you will be using a microphone, try to find an opportunity to practice with the equipment. If not, practice your eulogy loudly and prepare to project at a much higher volume to compete with environmental noise. 

Step 5: Reflect and Relax

Once you have successfully delivered your eulogy, you will likely experience a sense of pride and accomplishment. You will have just celebrated your father’s life in a moving and memorable way, providing one last remembrance to yourself and your fellow mourners. Your father would certainly be proud to see how you managed this feat in the midst of the grieving process.

We invite you to contact us at 320-4-EULOGY (320-438-5649) for assistance throughout any step of the eulogizing process. It would be an honor to assist you in the important undertaking of celebrating your father’s life. Our comprehensive support through the preparation, writing, and reviewing processes will help you deliver a eulogy that reflects the unique impact of your father’s life.

Eulogy Consultants offers free example eulogies. To see a sample eulogy for a father, click here.

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