Writing a eulogy can be challenging, particularly during a time of grief. But it can also be extremely rewarding. Think about it, you get the chance to pay ultimate homage to a life well lived. A well-written eulogy is a long lasting gift, not just to yourself since the process can help you work through your grief, but to the family and friends that the deceased leaves behind.
Through the eulogy, you can paint a rich picture of a complete life while giving testimony to the many elements that went into to making this person who he or she was. Remember, we are the sum of our parts. We have family, friends, and careers. We are members of a community and we have interests that vary from football to gardening to running marathons. While you can’t include everything you know about a person, you can still cover the complete life of the deceased by focusing on highlights, attributes, and memories.
The H.A.M. Method for Writing a Eulogy
Lives are made up of large and small events, ups and downs, happy times and sad. That’s one of the things that can make it so hard to get started. There is just so much to say! You want the eulogy to be uplifting, so focus on the ups rather than the downs. This can include big accomplishments such as being named “Teacher of the Year,” or small things such as a favorite bow tie that became a signature fashion choice. Events such as the birth of children, military service, and professional awards can all fit into the highlights.
Questions to ask:
- What were the major accomplishments?
- What were the big life events?
- What events were celebrated?
- Did he or she have special interests?
- How did he or she spend her time?
Attributes are the parts of a person that make up his or her character and personality. They illustrate what made this special person unique and answer the question “What kind of person was the deceased”? You might focus on the special talents the person had or what he or she valued most. The best eulogies are honest and heart felt so you want to focus on the positive and what you remember most about this person.
Questions to ask?
- What were his or her favorite things?
- What did the person like to do?
- What made the person laugh?
- What made the person cry?
- What made the person unique?
Sharing memories is what will make the eulogy personal and draw a connection with those listening. You should reflect on your own personal experiences but be sure to include others as well. Remember, you are weaving together the many aspects of person’s life in order to shape a story of a unique life. Regardless of how large or small the memory is, it should illustrate what set this person apart. It’s OK and actually recommended, that you include humor. If you can make the audience laugh it will help all of you move past the sadness that accompanies grief.
Questions to ask:
- What comes to mind when you think of the deceased?
- Is there a typical situation that illustrates the deceased’s approach to life?
- Who should I talk to that may have special memories to share?
Using the H.A.M.
The H.A.M. method for writing a eulogy can be useful in shaping your story by defining the “what” and “how” of the person’s life. The highlights and attributes are your “what” and the memories are the “how.” For example, winning “Teacher of the Year” would be the “what” to memories of “how” the person helped a student. A marriage (the what) goes hand-in-hand with a memory of “how” the deceased met his or her spouse. By intertwining memories with the highlights and attributes, you will be able to craft a beautiful and personal eulogy that will do justice to the complete life of a special person.