If you're selected to give a eulogy, tell a short story, or want to speak at a funeral, you're probably wondering what information to share with others about your loved one. Often, speakers resort to a few funeral readings found in religious texts. Still, there's much more opportunity for stories of all kinds to be told.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Types of Stories Should You Tell at a Funeral?
- When Can You Tell a Story at a Funeral?
- Steps for Preparing a Short Story for a Funeral
- Short Story Examples for a Funeral
But if you’re looking to tell a more personal story, we can help. Write with clarity, compassion, and service to your deceased loved one. Succeed in doing that, and your audience will appreciate your words through such a difficult time. In the sections below, note the few tips and tricks we’ve compiled from the experts in the industry.
What Types of Stories Should You Tell at a Funeral?
You can tell several types of stories at a funeral, including personal, funny, and cathartic ones. The options are limitless, but the intent needs to have some strategy. First, take a look at these types of stories to see which one suits the personality of your deceased loved one best. Then keep reading for advice on how to prepare the story itself.
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A few ingredients go into telling a funny story, including your delivery style for those in attendance. Sure, a story can be funny on its own, but there’s also a sense of timing and rhythm required so that you know when to mark the best times with the right zingers and the perfect amount of detail.
The sudden loss of a loved one elicits the need to tell an inspirational story to mourners. For instance, if a parent’s loss was immediate and tragic, it’s common to look back at their words of wisdom or patterns of guidance to sum up how they would help you get through a sad loss.
Stories of mentorship
A teacher, a friend, or a coworker can take on the role of mentorship at any time throughout your life. It’s those moments which can turn the tables for you, flip that switch, or pull you from despair where you’re guided to better circumstances than before.
The tragic loss of a young family member or a beloved matriarch can be felt throughout the generations and webs of friendship. Choose a story of comfort like a parable from a religious text, words of encouragement delivered by friends, and even something wherein you dig deep within to hold others up in such a time of great heartbreak.
Parent and grandparent
Notable figures in your life will offer several if not hundreds of stories to relate to others. Choose one or several or sum them up into an idea or singularity of thought. After all, with so many instances of love and compassion, you would need much longer than the few minutes you’ll be provided in a funeral service.
A first meeting often marks stories of friendship. The story then walks listeners through the growth of your relationship, including the many times you were both “there” for each other. Choose several of these for an overarching idea or one significant and impactful tale.
The value of a story for a sibling can meet highs and lows, laughter, and grief. They’re your longest friendship and likely one with the most highs and lows, too. When you walk through the history as you begin to write, think about your audience and what they’d like to know that perhaps they don’t.
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When Can You Tell a Story at a Funeral?
There are four places to tell a story at a funeral. One, the eulogy, is selected by the family. The others are open to sharing thoughts and feelings when prompted or in casual gatherings before or after the service.
- Before the funeral service. You will find time to tell a story about your lost loved one at the wake. These are often quieter times, so the stories are much more subdued and sentimental. Share appropriately, considering your audience.
- The Eulogy. As the chosen speaker at the funeral service, you will be asked to prepare a eulogy. When doing so, communicate with the one closest to the loved one to make sure you’re supporting their needs and those of the audience as well.
- Open Mic. Funeral services that do not include eulogies will open the floor, if you will, to the audience so they can offer a story for all to hear. These stories often encompass all of the types of stories listed above, spanning a person’s entire life.
- At the reception. In a more relaxed environment, you’ll mingle with other mourners and share personal stories of your times with the deceased. Like the open mic option, these stories run the gamut, but, again, know your audience before you tell your story.
Steps for Preparing a Short Story for a Funeral
Learning about preparing a short story or how to write a eulogy may feel heavy, but you’ve been given an opportunity that can affect how people transition through their grief and mourning process.
1. Consider your audience
Like most things, your audience is the primary consideration for any good story. You wouldn’t tell a joke at the funeral of a child, but you might share a big laugh with others at a reception. So, make sure to think about who will hear your story before thinking about which story to tell.
2. Speak with the family
If you've been selected to give the eulogy, then you'll want to speak with the closest members of the family to gauge what they're looking for. Some may give you the green light to tell the funniest stories about grandpa. Still, others may feel more inclined to hear the compassionate moments.
3. Gather your thoughts
Next, you’ll want to spend some time thinking about the various stories you can tell. If this means you reach out to some friends or additional family members, then do so. But make sure you have a plan of action in mind so that when you ask them questions, you have a directive or a purpose ahead.
4. Write the rough draft
Look at your writings from an outside perspective. Write it all down on paper or in a computer document. Ask yourself if the words are appropriate. Do the ideas flow easily from one idea to the next, and if so, is there a better way of supporting the stories with more details and facts?
5. Read your story to someone else
Reading your story aloud to another person will help you gauge your patterns, fluctuations, and timing more easily. That, and a listener can let you know where the story falls flat. Or, by listening, you can determine if you’re hitting the right note or emotion with them.
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6. Write a final draft
Next, revise your work in a final draft, considering how your one-person audience reacted and how you felt about hearing what you wrote out loud. Check your grammar, make any edits needed, and don’t be afraid to cut entire pieces out of your document.
7. Just breathe
People want to hear your story. They don't care about any flubs or mistakes, or even if you’re nervous. They are at a funeral service to share in their grief, mourn in gathering, and find solace in the stories and words of others. So, take a breath and tell your account from the heart.
Short Story Examples for a Funeral
We’ll take a few of the ideas from above and give you some examples from which to tell your story. Look at the story's basic idea, how it starts and finishes, and then try it on your own.
Inspiring story example
Hello. My name is Mary Smith. My son, Sam, and I knew Mrs. Woodard well; she was his speech pathologist throughout high school. She was so kind. Every summer weekend between high school years, we visited her home. For about an hour on Saturdays, she worked with Sam to help him speak.
We were fortunate enough to get to know her family throughout those years, too. Many times, though we were there for support from Mrs. Woodard, we’d both feel comforted by her entire family as they welcomed us inside their home.
Sam cannot be here today, but he wanted me to stand up to speak with you all. He asked that I tell Mrs. Woodard’s children how grateful he is to have known her and for all the extra time and support she showed him.
As I said, Sam couldn’t step away to be here today since he’s speaking at the UN this afternoon at the international conference for peacekeeping. His schedule is often busy as he travels extensively to share stories with people from a podium, something that he wouldn’t have had the confidence or ability to do without the love and support of Mrs. Woodard.
For that, both Sam and I are eternally grateful. Thank you.
Funny story example
Thank you for joining us today.
Dad was a family man; his laugh was contagious; his heart was bigger. Most of you know my dad as the standup man he was, but few of you know about that twinkle in his eye. They would come out of nowhere, these unsuspecting moments. Close friends were subject to his pranks, but the family got the brunt of it.
From the time I was small, I recall Dad triggering several screams from Mom. Whether from a douse of cold water in the shower, hidden plastic snakes, or tall tales of circumstances you’d think we’d catch onto – but we never did. He was such a good liar, but he was even better of a human.
Bumper stickers were Dad’s favorite prank. And he’d leave just enough time between visits that you’d forget he was sticking NRA stickers right next to a Support the Yellowstone Wolves one. I think he learned his ways from Grandma, believe it or not. Family stories go way back to her on the farm as a young girl, often harassing her siblings to the point of bedroom turf wars and manure fights.
But Dad was so much more than this, too, because every day – every moment was a chance to laugh with his loved ones. You know, he always used to say, “It’s a short trip around the sun. I don’t have time to be unkind.” And it’s true, he spent every moment full of life, even when he was the butt of the joke, too.
Dad loved the joyful moments because they got you through the tough ones like this. And when you share stories later today, remember he’s still here gut laughing with us.
Comforting story example
I am honored that John and Sue asked me to speak on their behalf today as we gather to mourn the loss of their young child, Jenny. We're never ready for these moments, especially when a short life so full of spark and joy is extinguished too soon.
And as I was preparing these words for you all today, I thought about what great thought leaders have said about youth, tragedy, and even climbing out from grief. I remembered what a good friend told me once about pain. She said, "The deeper the crevice carved from pain, the more room to fill it with joy."
At the time, I was going through something traumatic of my own, and I certainly didn't understand the meaning of what she meant. But as I went through my stages of grief and acceptance, I heard those words come back to me.
I had been holding on to my pain because it was comfortable, and I knew that without it, I would have to face my loss head-on—and I wasn't ready to do that. Yet when I did, and over time, I also found that joy of which she spoke.
I realized that the pain is more of a gift than we understand. My pain became gratitude so that every moment I grieved in loss, I also learned how much of a blessing it was to spend time with them. And slowly, my crevice filled with their memory – and not my loss, subtly overflowing into everything I now do.
It took many years, but I realized I was lucky to know someone, love someone that much, and then ache like nothing I’ve ever known before for their loss. Without that pain, I'd never know what it was like to feel such joyfulness in their memory.
Sharing Stories at a Funeral
When thinking about how to plan a funeral for a loved one, consider how you’d like to share stories. While the traditional eulogy is recommended in religious settings, a celebration of life or a non-traditional funeral service will allow you to open the floor to more speakers so that everyone can benefit from the stories.
What are opening words at a funeral? ›
Family and friends, I welcome you into this gathering which is made sacred with the spirit of love and friendship you bring to this gathering. On behalf of Elizabeth's family I would like say “thank you” so very much, to all of you who have come to be with them today.
We want to talk about them, hear about them and surround ourselves with things that help us remember them. Just knowing that they mattered and won't be forgotten can feel truly uplifting. Your stories and memories offer the family a gift. Be specific, be sincere, and be brief.
- Strategy 1: Begin with action or dialogue. ...
- Strategy 2: Ask a question. ...
- Strategy 3: Describe the setting. ...
- Strategy 4: Begin with background information. ...
- Strategy 5: Have the main character introduce himself or herself.
- Identify a short story idea.
- Define the character's main conflict and goal.
- Hook readers with a strong beginning.
- Draft a middle focused on the story's message.
- Write a memorable ending.
- Refine the plot and structure of your short story.
- Highlight the person's passions or interests.
- What were the most memorable times you spent together?
- Sum up the person's character using a story or memory.
- Express your gratitude for the impact the person had on your life.
- Talk about their influence on family and community.
In a eulogy, do not say anything about the person's cause of death, grudges and old grievances, arguments, character flaws, family rifts, or negative memories. Instead, share good memories and leave it out when in doubt.How do you start a tribute writing? ›
- Reflect on your loved one. The first step to writing a tribute speech involves thinking about the person you lost. ...
- Narrow down your focus. ...
- Determine your tone. ...
- Make a game plan. ...
- Keep it short and sweet.
Beginning. The opening of the eulogy should set the tone for the speech. This section can include your relationship to the deceased, a reading of a quote or scripture they enjoyed, and their major milestones, like a romantic partnership, becoming a parent, their career, etc.What is a good verse for a funeral? ›
Psalm 23 - The Lord Is My Shepherd
Psalm 23 is one of the most famous Psalms in the Bible, and a popular choice for many occasions, including funerals. Its peaceful message recalls the faith of the person who has died, and gives hope to those who are attending the funeral.
Introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the deceased. Thank guests for attending the service; acknowledge guests that have travelled to attend. Express condolences to family member and close friends of the deceased.
What is it called when people share memories at a funeral? ›
A eulogy is a speech that's given at a funeral or memorial service. It's a way to share memories of the person who has died. It's also called a funeral speech.What is an example of tribute? ›
The concert was a tribute to the musician. Yellow ribbons were tied on trees as a tribute to the soldiers at war. an event at which artists and musicians paid tribute to the famous composer The country was forced to pay tribute. The ruler paid a tribute every year.What are character traits for eulogy? ›
Eulogy virtues, as David Brooks calls them, foster meaning in a fragmented world. These are the virtues that lead to a life well lived—kindness, compassion, love, humility, wisdom, courage, and integrity to name a few.What is a good sentence to start a story? ›
So, whatever type of story you want to tell, you'll find great sentences to start a story in the list below! Jack hadn't meant for it to happen... The wind swirled around me and the world went black... At first, I couldn't understand why I had woken up - then I felt the icy fingers close around my wrist...What should the first sentence of a short story be? ›
The first lines of a novel or short story must grab the reader's attention, enticing them to continue past the first page and continue reading. The first sentence provides you with an opportunity to showcase your writing style, introduce your main character, or establish the inciting incident of your narrative.What would be a good opening sentence? ›
Start with the chase. A good hook might also be a question or a claim—anything that will elicit an emotional response from a reader. Think about it this way: a good opening sentence is the thing you don't think you can say, but you still want to say. Like, “This book will change your life.”What are the 5 basic elements of a short story? ›
- Rising Action.
- Falling Action.
- Identify the focus of your short story. ...
- Start writing. ...
- Write a compelling beginning. ...
- Create a powerful ending. ...
- Read your story out loud. ...
- Edit and revise. ...
- Ask for feedback.
They are true masters at combining the five key elements that go into every great short story: character, setting, conflict, plot and theme. The ELLSA web-site uses one of these five key elements as the focus of each of the five on-line lessons in the Classics of American Literature section.How many words is a 5 minute eulogy? ›
The written word count of a eulogy should fall somewhere between 500 to 3000 words. It generally takes a person five minutes to say 1500 words speaking at an average rate. So that gives you some idea of word count and the actual time it will take to make the eulogy speech.
What makes a powerful eulogy? ›
The best eulogies are respectful and solemn, but they also give mourners some comic relief. A bit of roasting is fine if it suits who the person was and the family has a sense of humor. Close your eulogy by directly addressing the person who died, something like “Joe, thank you for teaching me how to be a good father.”What is the last line of the eulogy? ›
If you're unsure how to end your eulogy, finish with a simple goodbye, or a thank you for the memories you shared. You might choose to use traditional phrases like 'rest in peace' or 'sleep well'. Or you can use something less formal, like a greeting or joke you used to share with the person who has died.What is the most important part of a eulogy? ›
The most important part is to focus on how and why they were important to you; eulogies don't need to be polished and perfect. It can be helpful to step away from a first draft and revisit with a fresh pair of eyes. Share your first draft with friends or family members for their input.Who reads the eulogy at a funeral? ›
There is no hard and fast rule as to who should give the eulogy speech at a funeral. It's typically given by those who were particularly close, or had a special relationship with, the loved one who passed. It could be a best friend, a spouse, a child or grandchild, or even a co-worker.How do you write a good tribute example? ›
In a tribute, write about the person's best qualities and successes in life. Share how they changed your life or made you a better version of yourself. Summon admiration for their life's work and what it meant to them.What is the difference between a tribute and a eulogy? ›
Eulogy: A speech to honor a deceased person, usually at a funeral. Obituary: A written biography of a recently deceased person published in a newspaper. Tribute: To pay honor, admiration, or homage.How long should a tribute at a funeral be? ›
Like any speech, a eulogy shouldn't be too long—never more than 10 minutes. Short and sweet is a good rule of thumb, but it's also important not to be hasty or casual when writing and delivering a eulogy. Eulogies generally last between three and five minutes.How do you write a death scene in a short story? ›
- Make the character's death inevitable by skillfully utilizing foreshadowing.
- Don't let them die in vain. ...
- Go cold. ...
- Focus on an unusual detail that stands out against the tragedy.
- Know when to use last words and when to remain silent.
- Get permission. Once you've chosen the subject of the biography, seek permission to write about their life. ...
- Do your research. ...
- Form your thesis. ...
- Make a timeline. ...
- Use flashbacks. ...
- Include your thoughts.
We are sad to announce the passing of [full name] of [where they lived]. They died at age [age] on [date of death]. [First name] passed away surrounded by their loved ones after a battle with [illness]. The funeral will be a private ceremony with only close family members present.
How do you announce a death in a story? ›
Examples of Death Announcement Wording
With great sadness, we announce the loss of our beloved father, (insert name). In loving memory of (insert name), we are saddened to announce their passing on (insert date). A life so beautifully lived deserves to be beautifully remembered.
A scene is roughly 1 200 – 1 500 words, but this also varies from writer to writer and even from genre to genre. But it is nice to have a starting point. So, if you are writing a 1200-word short story, it makes sense to write your short story as one scene.How do you write a heartbreaking scene example? ›
- Tap into your own emotionality. ...
- Know the difference between sentimentality and truth. ...
- Leave room to be surprised by specific detail. ...
- Pair strong emotions with ordinary ones. ...
- Use backstories to add weight. ...
- Use sad moments to further character development.
- “They're an angel now.”
- “I know how you feel.”
- “They look so good.”
- “Don't cry” or “Go ahead and cry.”
- “At least it wasn't worse.”
- “God is sovereign.”
- “Let me know if I can help.”
- What can you say instead?
A eulogy is a speech made in remembrance of someone who has died. The eulogy speech is typically made at their funeral, and pays tribute to their life in some shape of form. The funeral might feature two or more eulogies made by individuals who were close to the deceased.