Should you consider writing your own eulogy?

Written by Stephen Corby for Australian Seniors. 

When you’re a writer, one of the worst aspects of the job (aside from the fact that you’ll never be rich) is that everyone assumes composing a eulogy will be easy for you – no matter if you barely knew the distant deceased relative, or if you’re too bereft with grief to find any words at all.

The fact is, eulogies are the hardest kind of writing there is. So what a gift it would be to friends and relatives if everyone wrote their own, well before the ‘deadline’. No-one would have to worry about doing you justice and you’d have the ultimate satisfaction of being able to choose your own last words.

Making plans in advance 

Kelly Scott, a Victorian funeral director and senior vice-president of the Australian Funeral Directors Association, has been trying to encourage people to write their own eulogy for years as part of funeral pre-planning, partly because she’s seen and heard so many disappointing speeches in her job.

“It’s a real topic of discussion at funerals, and people do get disgruntled. You’ll hear them afterwards saying, ‘Well, that wasn’t the Bill I knew at all,’” says Kelly. While she knows of people who have at least made an effort to provide notes, she’s yet to see someone fully prepare a eulogy. 

Writing your own eulogy is an absolute gift to leave people, so those left behind don’t have to worry.”  

Treading carefully  

Perth-based psychologist Associate Professor Lauren Breen specialises in grief and loss, and says many people feel like they’re tempting fate by even considering their eulogy.

“The ‘Death Positivity’ and ‘Grief Literacy’ movements are an effort at making people discuss these things in advance, but generally the way we think is, ‘Everyone else is going to die but not me.’ When of course one of the only certainties we have is that we’re all going to die, we just don’t like to talk about it,” says Associate Professor Breen, who cautions that there are potential risks to consider in putting pen to paper.

“Normally as people feel they are approaching death, it promotes life re-evaluation and that can activate a difficult review process. The risk of writing a eulogy at that point is that it might highlight those regrets or missed opportunities, or events that are painful or traumatic,” she says. 

“When someone knows they’re dying, they can also be living with intensive medical intervention, and that can make it harder to think clearly. They might benefit from speaking with a psychologist or a counsellor to overcome the impact of those possible negatives.”

4 tips for writing your own eulogy 

  1. Eulogies are typically up to five minutes in length. Mostly, they are written in the third person, but this is your last chance to speak to your friends and family, so write it in the first person if that feels more comfortable.
  2. You could also video yourself reading your eulogy and have that played at your funeral. 
  3. Treat your eulogy like a final conversation with your audience. Think about what message you’d like to leave for people and what you’ve learned in your life that might help them to go on living theirs. 
  4. Don’t forget anyone. You’ve taken the time to do this in advance, so be careful to make sure that no-one will feel left out or offended.

Get everything in order now 

Sorted out your eulogy? Great! Now, who is going to pay for your funeral when the time comes? Like writing your own eulogy, it’s good to have a plan in place so that your family won’t be left behind to pay for your funeral costs. Seniors Funeral Insurance provides a lump sum to your family when you pass away, so like your eulogy, it will be one less thing for them to worry about.