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How Do I Say That Last Goodbye?


Saying ‘Goodbye’ to a loved one is probably the hardest thing you will ever do.  However, if you are holding a funeral, or memorial service, it is something that you will very much want to get right.  You may believe you have a responsibility to friends and family, and also to your loved one – for, depending on your views, you may feel he or she is watching and listening.  Even if you have no specific beliefs about life after death, this is something you want to get right for your own sake.  It is perfectly simple to compose a eulogy, as long as you bear in mind a few pointers.  Let’s start with some ‘don’ts’.


•    Firstly, DO NOT tell yourself this is something you must do, regardless of all other considerations.  It may be satisfying, it may help you move on – but if it truly feels an impossible task, give yourself permission to leave it to someone else.   Remember, you can always revisit this opportunity at a later date, perhaps at an anniversary memorial, when you may be in a calmer place.

•    DO NOT stress yourself, thinking this is something you have to do perfectly.  This article will help you do your best.  No-one will be expecting anything amazing of you, and most, if not all, will admire you for saying anything at all.

•    DO NOT believe you have to whitewash the person who has passed on.  They were human, and full of frailties, as we all are.  Representing them as real, and flawed is much more genuine.

•    DO NOT push yourself to go through with your eulogy on the day, if you are more upset than you bargained for.  It will help to have someone standing in to read it for you, if necessary.

Once you have taken on board these points, you should feel less tense and more able to begin.  Start by writing your immediate feelings – you can always edit later, and once ideas begin to flow, your task will seem easier. 

•    Decide how long you want your eulogy to be.  If two minutes is all you can manage, fine.  Five minutes is quite ample.  If you want to say more, it will be easier if you have some visual back-up (see below).  The best way to gauge the length of your talk is to write the first page and then time yourself, as you read it.  You will then know how long your entire eulogy is likely to be.  A few sincere minutes will have more impact than a ramble.

•    Visual aids will help you focus, and enable those listening to tune in.  You could display a collage of photos, describing each in turn.  Video clips will also be great.

•    Take your time.  It is fine to write a few words and then stop, or to get up to write in the middle of the night, even though during the daytime you couldn’t think of a word.  Don’t expect to complete this in one sitting.

•    Read your eulogy out to a trusted friend before the ceremony, so you can talk through the details.

•    Include some humour.  Just because they have passed on, there is no need to stop smiling.

•    Tell anecdotes – they will bring what you say to life.  Reminisce about some good times and interesting situations you shared.

•    Include a brief mention of your dear one’s faults.  This gives people permission to remember the worse things without feeling guilty.  Acknowledging faults openly actually clears the way for greater appreciations of the virtues.

•    A TIME OF PRAISE – THIS IS THE MAIN PART OF THE EULOGY.  What was lovely about them?  Make a list of all their finer qualities.  Speak about these, with some instances of how they were expressed.

•    A brief life-history will be interesting to those listening.  Pick out the major points and say how the person reacted to them.

•    What really motivated this person?  What did they love, and try to do/be?  Even if they seemed ordinary, they were exceptional.  Give an idea of what drove them, and say how that will carry on.

•    Don’t worry about crying – it is natural, it is not a sign of weakness, and no-one, least of all you, should be embarrassed.

•    You might like to finish with a poem.  If you can write poetry, now is your chance to express yourself.  Otherwise find something on-line, or choose something that you, or your loved one liked, or shared in some way.

•    Thank everyone for being present at your tribute.

However you deliver your eulogy on the day, congratulate yourself for your courage.  Obviously, this is a hard time, and you may not see an end to it, but light will dawn eventually.  Meanwhile, consolation and support are at hand, so don’t soldier on alone.   Put in a call to one of our helpful readers at The Circle.

PUBLISHED: 01 May 2014

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