How to write a difficult father eulogy is a question many fear to ask. Why? Historically, mourners honor their dead. Every culture since the beginning of time mark and commemorate death with some form of ritual.  The need to provide departed loved ones with a dignified exit from this world to the next is compelling. More than that, a eulogy offers great comfort to the bereaved, helping all mourners to process their grief and loss. But what if the deceased was a complicated, angry, distant or fearsome father?

Difficult father eulogy or eulogy letter?

For an adult child in charge of the eulogy, the death of a difficult father arrives wearing two masks. One is an angelic and charitable face while the other is ominous and foreboding. So the dilemma becomes which story to tell; angel or demon.

Eulogies have long been an important part of the funeral tradition. Eulogizing the deceased, highlighting treasured memories and bidding farewell is the norm. But what if writing an outstanding tribute that illuminates the essence of the individual’s personality isn’t possible? Some fathers are more demon than an angel. Perhaps the alternative is writing a eulogy letter.

Letter eulogy

While the concept of a letter eulogy may appear new, it’s a tradition belonging to the eighteenth and nineteenth century; a time better known as the Golden Age of Letter Writing.  During this period writing letters expressing sorrow, counsel and consolation were common practice.

By contrast, letter writing is a lost art in the era of technology,  yet the format still feels familiar to modern mourners.  Expressing heartfelt thoughts in long-form text is a far less intimidating than writing a formal eulogy. And when it comes to reading the letter aloud at the funeral service, speech flows in a natural, authentic pattern. 

Dear Dad, 

I stand here bearing witness to the last chapter of your life. But as a child, know that I was afraid of thunderstorms because I thought it was you upstairs stomping angrily. To this day, I still don’t understand why mom, my sisters and I were never good enough for you. Yet, here we all are, dutiful to the end bidding you farewell.

As I say my final goodbye, know that the anger you imparted will always be with me. But instead of a shriveled flower deprived of sunshine and love, I stand firm like an oak tree. My deep roots keep my family foundation strong while my branches and leaves protect my boys from life’s thunderstorms. I did not do onto them as you did me.

Growing up, witnessing bursts of anger brought on by your internal torment gave me a choice. Blame the people and circumstances around me while never looking inward for the answers, or travel a path less worn. I chose the latter.

Despite the fatherly words ‘I love you’ never leaving your lips, I don’t stand here heavy with anger or guilt. Instead, a strange sadness befalls me. Perhaps it’s pity; for you never got to appreciate what was in front of you—a dutiful wife; vibrant daughters.

Dad, my home is happy; my family warm and loving. My boys are independent, adventurous and smart. And Peter, my husband, loves and respects me. No father could wish more for his daughter. While I know you were not proud of me because of these things, I thank you for teaching me who not to be.

So, with death setting your spirit free, journey unencumbered. And may your soul find contentment and eternal peace.

With gratitude, 

Jenny – your firstborn daughter.

Difficult fathers

Writing a eulogy letter is perfectly acceptable in this era of modern mourning. You don’t have to outline the entirety of a difficult father’s life.  Nor do you need to lie, do a ton of research or make people laugh. Your eulogy letter can be simple. Acknowledge the relationship, respectfully highlight the essence of your experience and end with parting words, thoughts, a quote, or line from a poem.

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