If your relationship with a departed love one was difficult, words might fail you when writing their eulogy. Mixed emotions and confused sentiments are known to interfere with the logic of writing. But as Henry Ford said, “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” So, to ease your eulogy burden, start with writing the beginning and end first.  Don’t worry about the middle just yet.

Key points

  • Start by writing the beginning and end paragraphs first
  • Speak honestly, yet respectfully about the difficult relationship
  • Aim to write 500 words (4-minutes speaking time)
  • Watch hand-picked eulogy examples for inspiration
  • Use the Eulogy For Life How to write a eulogy in 7 steps template

Beginning a eulogy

There are many truthful, yet upbeat ways to begin a eulogy for a problematic relationship. One technique is to put a positive spin on character traits everyone will recognize.

Hand to heart – I thank you all for being here. We didn’t expect such a turnout.
For many who knew our beautiful, feisty daughter, her diva-like behaviour was intolerable. But in our home, we managed Alison as a very honest person who wore her emotions on her sleeve. If we asked her a direct question, she gave a direct answer. While she said she ‘didn’t give a shit’ we did. And we never gave up on her…

Eulogy for daughter

Opening, by Mother

Sometimes, self-reflection is the best answer, as in the following example.

Only after I had my own kids did I finally understand dad worked seven days a week so I could play.
While sorting my father’s possessions, I found his old diaries. I didn’t know he started work at fifteen in a canning factory. His own father was an alcoholic. The small wage dad earned was given to his Mother so she could put food on the table.
When growing up, dad was the quiet, sultry figure too tired from work to play ball in the yard. To my brother and I, he was a ghost who appeared at mealtimes; an enigma who we tiptoed past in fear. But unbeknown to us, dad loved us deeply. He worked seven days a week, so we could play and go to college.
There is so much dad left unsaid; so much love left unspoken – a mistake I won’t make with my boys.
Dad, if you can hear me, I love you, I forgive you, and I forgive me…

Eulogy for Father

Opening, by Son

Ending a eulogy

Equally, writing the closing remarks can be a daunting prospect. As with the opening, keep the ending upbeat and sincere. By using a positive spin, others will admire your restraint, appreciate your respect and be moved by your sincerity.

Alison, you certainly caused no end of trouble. Yet, give me the chance to raise you all over again, and I’d take it.  I am honoured to be your Mother, and I love you with all my heart.
May the angels keep you safe, and you my darling, may you give the angels some peace now and again.

Eulogy for daughter

Closing, by Mother

No, my Mother was not perfect, but who in this world is? What I can say is my Mother was perfectly herself – the warrior, the teacher, and a woman of great integrity. For that, I am ever grateful. Rest in peace, Mom.

Eulogy for Mother

Closing, by Daughter

What is most important about a eulogy?

Many people worry that when writing a eulogy, it needs to be lengthy, grand, wise, or enlightened. However, no rule says you can’t give a short tribute. Take, for example, the eulogy for Randall Jarrell written by Robert Lowell.

Now that he is gone, I see clearly that the spark from heaven really struck and irradiated the lines and being of my dear old friend—his noble, difficult and beautiful soul.

Eulogy for Randall Jarrell

by Robert Lowell

The point of any eulogy is to pay homage to the deceased. Irrespective of whether they were loved or despised, a good eulogy highlights aspects of the relationship between the eulogist and the deceased. Nothing achieves this better than sharing snippets from personal stories (anecdotes).

In this interview, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson talks about his dad’s tough love. The take-home point is how Dwayne identifies difficult physical and mental lessons measured out by his father, yet he still speaks positively.

How long is should a eulogy be?

Traditionally there are one in four ways to speak and write in context of death: eulogies, letters, elegies and epitaphs. Each vary in length.

Eulogies can read as brief as a short epitaph or much longer. The style of eulogy and the length chosen depends on what is appropriate for the departed.  A speaker delivering a eulogy for a deceased President, for example, may talk for 15 to 25 minutes (2000 – 3000 words). Meanwhile, eulogists at a private family funeral may read a poem or speak for two to three minutes (250 – 400 words).  Generally,  aim for writing a eulogy between 500 words (4-minutes speaking time) and 700 words (7-minutes speaking time).

Write a eulogy in 7 Steps

With the opening and closing paragraphs drafted, writing the middle section won’t feel so daunting.
To begin, identify three positive stand out moments (stories) across the shared history with the deceased. Look to recall thought-provoking, funny, or heartfelt moments. Alternatively, add a wise perspective to challenging traits. Limit yourself to writing one hundred words for each example.

Now that the first draft of your positive eulogy about a difficult person is complete, its time to edit. To fast track your final draft, download the 7 Steps for Writing a Eulogy template. Our step-by-step process will help you finalize and deliver the perfect eulogy. Or if you need extra inspiration, watch our hand-picked Youtube eulogy examples.

In summary, if your relationship with a departed loved one was a difficult, speak your truth with respect. By doing so, heartful sincerity will flow through your eulogy effortlessly. Who knows, your words may help others transform their mixed emotions so they too can say goodbye without guilt, regret or anger.