How Funeral Professionals Can Deliver Eulogies That Evoke EmotionJuly 29th, 2016
This past week, I had the unfortunate experience of attending the funeral of a long-time friend who passed at the way-too-early age of 26.
The death was tragic and unexpected – a freak car accident that left all of his friends and family struggling to simply comprehend the fact that their loved one was gone, rather than even begin to think about how they might honor and memorialize him at the funeral.
So when it came time to deliver the eulogy, they did what many families often do ﹘ they decided to put the task into the hands of the pros.
As a funeral professional, you’ve likely been tasked with this enormous honor before. Some families simply feel most comfortable putting the eulogy into the hands of those who are the most capable of honoring their loved one and have the most experience in retelling important life stories. The people who have done it time and time again, and will be able to deliver the memories that matter without getting overwhelmed or emotional. That’s what my friend’s family assumed would happen, at least…
Unfortunately, in the case of this funeral service, their funeral professional failed them on all accounts.
The Story That You Shouldn’t Tell
A eulogy, when done right, is an amazing, meaningful reflection on a loved one’s life that is meant to totally capture their essence and leave people with the feeling they know their loved one better than they did before. It should be heartfelt, thought-out and, above all, personal.
But unfortunately, if a funeral director does not take the time to truly understand the person they are memorializing, a eulogy can feel blank, empty, and more focused on the person speaking than the person they are honoring. That was the case with the funeral I attended this past week.
While my friend had lived a short life, it was one that was filled with impact, love, funny memories and unforgettable stories. But because the person delivering the eulogy did not make it a point to uncover these important attributes, we ended up leaving the funeral feeling like we knew more about the funeral professional than we knew about our friend.
And that’s not to say that families should not ask funeral professionals to speak at the funeral… As the go-to resource for all things funerals, you may be a comforting, logical choice for family and friends who don’t feel comfortable or capable of delivering a eulogy themselves. Whichever the situation, it’s your job to step up to the plate and deliver a eulogy that truly evokes emotion and brings a person’s story to life… even if you’ve never met them before.
So how do you do that? I’m glad you asked.
How To Bring Emotion And Personality To A Stranger’s Eulogy
If you think that the only role of a funeral professional is to help families plan a funeral, you’re sorely mistaken. While your role is to be a healer, an event planner, and a source of comfort, you also need to moonlight as a story detective. (Yes, you can steal that and put it on your business card.)
That’s all that great eulogies really are at the core… emotional stories that family and friends can resonate with, whether it’s a familiar sentiment that was so typical of their loved one, or a new story that they are hearing for the first time and is painting a better, more complete version of their loved one’s life.
But you don’t have to be a person’s close friend to get to the heart of who they really were as a person. You just need to ask the right questions to the right people.
For example, when you’re sitting down with the family during the arrangement, don’t just ask them basic information about their loved one – ask the questions that will really paint a vivid picture. For example:
- – What was your favorite quality about John?
- – What memory of John always makes you laugh?
- – What life lessons did John teach you?
- – What little things will you miss the most about John?
- – What things did John do that always made you roll your eyes?
- – What moments will you miss sharing with John the most?
And your detective questions don’t just have to come out in the arrangement conference with the immediate family. In fact, they shouldn’t.
One of the most valuable aspects of a funeral for friends and family is getting the opportunity to hear people’s unique memories and add new stories to the memory bank that they have created for their loved one. Collecting stories and memories from the many friends and family members who have traveled far and wide to make it to the visitation can be an amazing resource for your eulogy, and the families you serve.
As you walk around your funeral home in the days before the service, take the time to talk to the people there, listen to the stories that they are sharing with each other, and ask people questions that will paint a full picture of their loved one. After all, when you truly get to know the amazing person that they are honoring, not only will you be able to deliver a better, more emotional eulogy, but you will also build a better long-term connection with the people walking into your funeral home.