How Funeral Professionals Can Deliver Eulogies That Evoke Emotion


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.

What advice do you have for writing better, more emotional eulogies? Do you enjoy taking on this role in your funeral home, or do you believe it should be left to the families? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Donna Austin

    Why would a funeral professional deliver a eulogy? This should be left for clergy or perhaps the family. This could be litigious. I would not consider myself qualified unless I was trained in sociology or psychology. Not a good ideal as a funeral professional. You cant be a master of all things. Stay in your lane.

  2. Dawn Fisher

    Roughly 60-70% of the people we serve have no church affiliation. That means they come into our arrangement office with the mindset that they can’t have a service because they don’t know a preacher. If we let them use Uncle Bill’s neighbor’s preacher who never met the decedent or the family, they end up with a canned funeral which sometimes does not even mention their loved one’s name. We offer our funeral directors’ as celebrants who create a eulogy by interviewing family and encouraging their involvement in the service. We never use open mic unless the family requests it…and then we ask the people they want to speak to prepare their thoughts. Impromptu “come to the mic if you want to speak” often fail. We want people to leave feeling like they knew the decedent better because they came. We also want to equip the attendees with ways they can help the surviving family…they don’t get off easy by just coming to the funeral and going home…we educate them that, while their attendance at the service meant so much to the family, what they can do in the days, weeks and months ahead are even more important. #1 being “speak their name.” Go home and write down your memories of the person and share it on their guestbook or in a note. Don’t be afraid that saying their name will remind them of the death…instead…remind them of the life. One question I always ask is, “How did you meet your spouse?” You’d be surprised how many time their own kids don’t know how their parents met! I have heard some of the sweetest stories.

  3. Allan Stearns

    This article was forwarded to me by the general the general manager of 3 funeral homes that I have worked at for 5 years. I am a senior citizen (69) and a retired military officer, and a certified celebrant. I have been conducting celebrations of life/memorial services for 2 years and have conducted at least 75 in that period of time. The article was accompanied by a huge thank you from the manager directed to me. I spend several hours at least with each family I work with, gather the stories. anecdotes, likes and dislikes, the special things that meant a lot to the deceased. I tell the families that my service will be unlike any they have ever ever attended before. I spend hours (usually about 4-6) researching ideas, themes, historical events, appropriate poetry and prose, and also, if requested appropriate scripture. I try to limit the musical selections to no more than 3. Each one takes 3-4 minutes to play. I try to limit outside speakers/family member reflections to one or two max. I ask each family to have their speech written down. I also ask the lead family member, to try to have the speaker(s) compare notes so we don’t have repetition, I also inform the family that the service will only be between 25-30 minutes in length including the music. This always gets a sigh of relief from the families because they have all had to sit through long, droning speeches that leave them exhausted, frustrated, and disappointed. Lastly, I seek to identify a takeaway item or momento of the service to present to a key member or to several members. I have given porcelain angels, framed poems, special candles. stuffed teddy bears etc. Nothing of great expense, but something I knew the family would carry home as a remembrance of this day. The last thing I do at each service, is present the key member of the family a copy of the service that I had prepared and read – knowing that they would share this with those who were unable to attend. I have been generously rewarded with accolades and comments that indicate that the friends in attendance felt that I really knew the deceased.

  4. Josh Henne

    Great article. Thank you for sharing. I have been in funeral service over 22 years now, beginning at 14 years old and have seen so many changes in my time. Its great to have new perspectives and insights!!