One of the certainties of life is that sooner or later, we all have to deal with the passing of a loved one. Time gets the best of us all at one point or another and we are left to celebrate and mourn those who have passed on.
A common way of doing this is by reading a eulogy at the funeral. A eulogy, which originates from the Greek word eulogia, means quite literally to praise someone or something. For this reason, a eulogy is a speech that is generally written to speak in a positive light about the recently deceased individual.
What is generally not known or understood is that a eulogy can also speak of the living. For instance, one could dedicate a eulogy to a retired colleague, a boss, or an employee that has won a respectable position. A eulogy is meant to honor someone, not necessarily just those who have recently passed on.
Understanding the Difference Between an Elegy, Eulogy, and Obituary
These three terms are often misconstrued or confused due to their meanings. A eulogy and an elegy are quite similar because they are both generally written for remembering and honoring the dead. The difference is that an elegy is a song or poem that has a lamenting tone to it. It expresses the loss of a friend, family member, or loved one, whereas a eulogy is a speech and is often a tribute.
There are also eulogy poems, though we will cover the topic of “what is a eulogy poem?” later on in this piece.
Circling back to the previous paragraph, there are also obituaries. These are much different than elegies and eulogies. An obituary is generally a statement announcing the passing of a loved one or family member. It lists their surviving family – oftentimes spouses, children, and grandchildren – as well as information on where any services will be held.
What Is the Function of a Eulogy?
Though covered briefly above, a eulogy is meant to recall good memories of the deceased. It is an attempt to recall happy memories to help lighten the grief that everyone is feeling on that particular day.
Though most eulogies only provide short breaks from grief, they can help those in attendance to remember why they are there. Sure, they are there to mourn, but they are also there to celebrate a life. They are there to celebrate what the person meant to them throughout their lives and to share that joy with others who were touched by the deceased.
Eulogies are meant to be positive, to invoke happy memories, and to boost the morale of the family and friends of the deceased. While it cannot take away that grief, a proper eulogy can certainly help to briefly mitigate the pain that comes with that mourning.
What Is a Eulogy Poem?
Having said all that, writing and reading a eulogy for a funeral or memorial is far from the easiest of experiences. Those reading are often no doubt dealing with their own feelings of grief and giving a eulogy can project an air of strength as well. Whether or not the person speaking feels that strength is another matter entirely, but it displays a strength that others can lean on.
But when it comes to writing and delivering the eulogy, this can be a difficult process. The vast majority of us have no experience writing or delivering a eulogy and rarely know where to begin. The fact of the matter is that there is no right or wrong way to compose a eulogy. Each eulogy is as unique as the person giving it and the person that it describes.
The only general rule of thumb for a eulogy, however, is to keep it positive. Remember, people are grieving and don’t want to have any negative feelings invoked on a day that is already particularly difficult to deal with.
The key to writing a eulogy is to compose it from the heart. If delivered from the heart, it will likely be a memorable eulogy and one that will leave those in attendance thinking fondly of the loved one they have lost. A poem can be a fantastic way to deliver your message, allowing you to keep the message shorter than a full speech while delivering all of the noteworthy and memorable points.
Keeping your delivery short can provide some relief while still conveying the message that the deceased was both appreciated and loved.
How to Write a Eulogy Poem
After answering the question “what is a eulogy poem,” you then need to focus on the process of creating one.
Starting at the beginning, it is important to gather all of your thoughts and feelings about the deceased and write them down. It is also important that you gather as much information from others – particularly friends and family – as you can. This will help you gather a collection of memories and experiences centering around the deceased so you can best convey your message.
Contrary to popular belief, constructing a eulogy doesn’t have to be done entirely on your own. As a matter of fact, having others help you can not only make them feel like they are contributing, but it can help them with their grieving as well. Additionally, it can help take some of the pressure off you to create the entire thing from scratch.
One of the best ways to start this process is by looking at old photographs. This can help to jog the memory about old times, places, and achievements that may have been previously forgotten. Most eulogies tend to start from the beginning of the deceased’s life and work chronologically towards the end.
There are those who pick a singular theme and stick with it, while others focus on things that were important to the person in question. Things like friends, family, sports, drama, music, travel, writing, etc. These things tie into the overall theme and message about the deceased.
When it comes to poetry at a funeral, whether religious or not, it can have a very profound and powerful impact while providing a moving sentiment. This is especially true if the poem is written by a friend or family member.
There are poems that exist already that are generally meant to encapsulate the passing of a friend or loved one, allowing the reader to express their grief and loss of the recently deceased. It remains a positive message, but one that is a bit more serious in tone and that is meant to share sorrow with those in attendance.
Creating a Theme
Like writing and delivering a regular eulogy, finding a theme and crafting a message about the deceased is the important part. You need to know the message that you are trying to convey to those in attendance; determine the points you want to cover and how you want to present the passing of the person in question.
Funeral poetry is not the longest form of eulogy there is. This means it is a great way to deliver your message in a compact and concise way. This is perfect for those who are not experienced with speechwriting and those who tend to meander and get off track when left to that process.
Poetry takes the meandering out of the process. It is a tightly constructed message that is delivered to the audience and it does not have to rhyme, either. Delivering your message in a compact way allows you to stay on message, keep wandering to a minimum, and deliver a more powerful message than may have been experienced with a regular eulogy.
Funeral Poems within a eulogy.
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My final thoughts
Referencing previously existing funeral poems can be a great place to start. Pieces like “She/He Is Gone,” “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,” “Death is Nothing at All,” and “Instructions” are just a few examples of famous funeral poetry that can deliver a positive message while still mourning the deceased.
When writing your own poem, referencing the structure, the theme, and the delivery of the message can help you to create all of those aspects in your own eulogy poem. It gives you a place to start, allowing you to get your thoughts and feelings out and onto paper (literally and figuratively), and to accomplish the task of sharing how you feel.
The process of delivering a eulogy in any form – be it poetry or speech – is rarely easy. After all, the speech itself is not what matters, but rather the person that everyone has gathered to celebrate. Deep feelings of sorrow and grief will make even the best-written speech or poem feel imperfect and that is okay.
Delivering a speech or piece of poetry that is able to encapsulate the life of the deceased, sharing stories and explaining why they were loved, is what makes for an effective eulogy. It is about expressing your feelings of loss regarding that person, sharing what will be missed by their absence, and helping to trigger memories and experiences that others may recall from their time with the deceased.
A eulogy poem can be an effective way of conveying that message, creating a beautiful moment in an otherwise tough situation.