Nervous About Speaking at a Funeral? Try These Celebrant-Approved Tricks 0

Man looking nervous in church

Standing up to speak at a funeral can be rewarding … and terrifying. 

But in a situation where the advice ‘imagine everyone in the audience naked’ is deeply unhelpful, how do you overcome nervousness and say what you need to say? We asked four celebrants for their advice. 

 

To prepare…

 

writing a funeral speech1) Write your speech down

“Unless you’re really accomplished and used to speaking in public, it’s absolutely essential to write your words down,” says Clive Pashley from Premier Celebrants. Not only will the script keep you on track, but it can be comforting to read your words later on. Otherwise, “you often don’t remember much of it.”

“Do not ad lib,” stresses Yorkshire-based celebrant Adrienne Hodgson-Hoy, citing a vicar who, despite all his experience, repeatedly got the widow’s name wrong during a eulogy. “That’s when things go to pot.” 

 

2) Practise before the funeral

Practice makes perfect. “But not too much,” warns Adrienne, “because you want it to sound natural, rather than stilted.” 

This has two benefits. The first, explains Clive, is emotional. Reading the piece through a few times can take some of the sting out of them.  “The more you read it, the more you deal with those emotions. Then it’s not such a shock on the day.”

The second is to simply rehearse your delivery, and make any last edits. “Get somebody to listen to you practise,” advises Adrienne. “They can give you tips about which points you need to emphasise and when to stop and breathe.”

 

3) Type your final draft out 

Woman types out funeral speechMicrosoft Word is your friend, says Clive, who recommends putting the whole speech in size 16 or 18 font to make it easy to read. Add double spaces after full stops and keep paragraphs to six lines or less.

“If you’ve got just a massive solid body of text, you can easily lose your place,” he explains. “It really hinders the flow of the delivery.”

His final tip? Gobbledegook. “Often, the end of the speech is when you get overcome by emotion. But if you type out a few lines of gobbledegook after your final paragraph, it can trick your brain into thinking there’s more to come, so you don’t well up. I promise you it works!”

 

When the time comes for your funeral speech…

 

4) Breathe in, breathe out

All our celebrants agreed on this: after each full stop, remember to breathe. And take a longer, slower breath at the end of each six line paragraph. Start as you mean to go on:

“Take a deep breath and drop your shoulders,” suggests Kate Mitchell, who acts as a celebrant in the South East. “Then, fix your eyes at the back of the hall – but low, so you’re not looking above people’s heads. The main doors are usually a good point to focus on.

“Place your finger on where you are – if your eyes are blurry it’s easy to lose your place – then look up, smile, take another deep breath and begin.”

“Try to deliberately speak slowly. You might feel like it’s too slow, but it’s really going to be a normal pace.”

5) Pace yourself

“Take your time,” says Kate. When a natural pause comes, use it. “One very good suggestion is to sweep your eyes around everybody regularly,” she adds.

Adrienne agrees, warning against fast, “monotonous” speaking. “At the end of a paragraph when you are taking your breath, look up and make eye contact.”

“When people are anxious and nervous, they speak faster than usual,” explains Clive. “Stand close to the microphone and try to deliberately speak slowly. You might feel like it’s too slow, but it’s really going to be a normal pace.”

 

6) Don’t worry about getting upset

Woman holding a man's hand to give support“The number one thing people worry about is emotion,” says Melanie Sopp, interfaith minister. “The idea that ‘I won’t be able to hold it together and I’ll cry and it will be a mess.’ But it’s natural to be emotional.”

If you do break down, don’t beat yourself up, says Adrienne. “It is emotional and it is difficult – and people will understand that. Just say you’re sorry, take a moment and then continue when you’re ready.”

Kate agrees. “No one’s expecting you to find this easy.  If you start to feel upset, or that you need to stop, do stop. Just take a deep breath and say, ‘I’m finding this very hard.’ Be honest.”

It’s also perfectly normal to ask someone else to step in and finish your speech for you if you do become overwhelmed. “Never be afraid to ask for help,” says Melanie.

 

7) Remember, it’s worth it

Speaking at a funeral can be stressful, but it’s also very rewarding, says Melanie. “If someone thinks that they’d like to do it, then I always encourage them, because I think it can help. It can even be a healthy part of the grieving process.”

Once you’ve made up your mind, “don’t let anyone talk you out of it!” she adds. “If it’s important to you, do it. 

“You’ll never, ever regret it.”

 

And for more inspiration…

Not yet written your funeral speech? Check out our guide on what to say in a eulogy or tribute here. And for inspiration, you can’t beat our piece on funeral speech examples. It’s filled with touching and even funny eulogies from real people.

 


Meet the celebrants

Clive Pashley started Premier Celebrants with his friend, James Greely, in 2016. They were later joined by Rachel Nussey. He and his team offer professional and bespoke funeral service planning across the Midlands.

Rev. Melanie Sopp is a celebrant and interfaith minister, working across the Midlands and the South coast. Melanie runs the excellent Celebrant Academy, which trains celebrants to create ceremonies and lead services of all kinds.

Adrienne Hodgson-Hoy was inspired to become a celebrant after losing her husband. Now, she leads unique, personal funeral services across Hull and East Yorkshire. With a friend, Adrienne runs Memories of Me, a service that allows people to plan their own funeral services.

Kate Mitchell is a creative independent celebrant working in the South East: her stomping grounds include Kent, Surrey and Sussex. As well as funerals, Kate leads thoughtful wedding and baby-naming ceremonies.

Previous Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 Inspiring Eulogy Examples to Draw From 0

Eulogy examples: a microphone in front of a blurred background

Writing a eulogy is widely (and perhaps rightly) thought of as one of the most difficult tasks out there. Not only does it involve public speaking, but it asks you to communicate how you feel about a loved one at a time when your emotions can be overwhelming. If you’ve been asked to deliver a eulogy, you might be feeling understandably nervous about the whole thing.

Don’t worry. We’ve put together some eulogy examples to show that you don’t have to be Shakespeare to put together a powerful, moving speech.

6 of the best eulogy examples to watch for inspiration

Remember, eulogies don’t have to be that long to be great, and you certainly don’t have to stop yourself from crying. If you’re struggling for words or you’re not sure where to start, here are some long, short, and even funny eulogy examples to get you started.

“He got me ready to be a strong, upstanding man.”

No two people get on one hundred percent of the time. If you’re looking for eulogy examples for a father, this speech about a man who spent some years “butting heads” with his son is a heart warming place to start. By acknowledging that history of conflict in this short, witty eulogy, the son tells the story of how it ultimately strengthened their relationship and helped him be a better version of himself.

“I want my father’s memory to help you and others.”

Here’s one of our short eulogy examples for a father who always kept his promises. Not only has this man picked out a positive character trait and focused on that, but he’s also used it to spark action and conversation among the other people attending the funeral. His father’s memory will inspire guests to follow through for their own loved ones.

“We were the light of her life, and she let us know it ‘til the end.”

“I know it may sound greedy to want more days with a person who lived so long, but the fact that my mother was 92 does not diminish, it only magnifies the enormity of the room whose doors have quietly shut.”

Not all of us will be lucky enough to have someone who can eulogise us on national television, but this tribute from American comedy legend Stephen Colbert is a fine eulogy example: a mother who taught her children to sing, dance, and pray in German is commemorated briefly but beautifully in his speech, which you can read in full here.

“She was my first teacher.”

In one of our longer funeral eulogy examples, a mother who believed in making things work is touchingly remembered. This feels like a complete picture of the person who’s died: someone vivacious, entertaining, community-minded, and endlessly resourceful. If you have the time, you can take it to show as many aspects of your loved one as you can.

“She had some trouble with technology.”

Good funny eulogy examples show that you don’t have to tell a long, complicated story with a setup and a punchline to get your audience chuckling – sometimes, just a phone call is enough. In just under four minutes, we learn that the person who’s died was intelligent, sweet, and caring, but she’s also left some laughter behind.

“That’s the kind of man I want to be.”

“Show, don’t tell” is good advice for eulogies as well as fiction. In this often funny, always touching eulogy example, a grandson describes his grandfather through a series of anecdotes that perfectly describe a man deeply loved by, and devoted to, his family.

If you can learn anything from the funeral eulogy examples you’ve seen here, let it be this: eulogies can be sweet or sharp, funny or sad, or all of those things at once – but they’re at their most effective when they’re spoken from the heart. Start with honesty, and mould it from there.

And now for something completely different.

When asked to eulogise his friend and colleague Graham Chapman, John Cleese realised he had a vitally important duty to carry out: to be the first person to drop the F-bomb at a British memorial service. We’re not suggesting this as a template, but think of it as some light relief as you search for a eulogy sample that inspires you.

For more funeral arrangement inspiration, check out our Advice Centre here.


Have you delivered or heard a great eulogy? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us all about it in the comment box below.

Missouri Storm Chaser’s Ashes to be Released into a Tornado 0

Tornado

What would you say if you could write your own obituary? For a creative option, you can’t beat Jim “Mad Dog” Sellars’ self-penned goodbye, in which the adventurous former ice cream dipper, butcher, weatherman, telephone lineman, reserve policeman and veteran storm chaser from Missouri announced that his ashes would be released into a twister.

“My friends the ‘Outlaw Chasers’ will launch my cremains into a tornado at a later date”, Sellars wrote. “That’ll be fun!!!!”

The scattering will be a fitting tribute to a man who chased well over 100 tornadoes in his lifetime. Speaking to the Kansas City Star, Sellars’ older brother John described Jim as a dedicated and generous person who approached all his hobbies whole-heartedly. “If he knew (a tornado) was going to set up somewhere, in Oklahoma, or Alabama, he would load up with a couple of people and go chase.”

“If he found something that interested him, he jumped into it all the way up to his neck.”

Even when Sellars was confined to his bed due to illness, he continued to track tornadoes for the National Weather Service’s SKYWARN program, also sending out radio reports to help his fellow storm chasers.

“It was a tough time for him, but he spent every waking hour helping people all over the radio”, said John. Condolences on Sellars’ memorial page describe him as both “fun loving”, “generous” and a “big hearted guy who was very devoted to helping others”.

Jim’s self-written obituary tells the story of a busy life well lived, with memories of family, friends, and a range of careers:

“I remember the 1960 Winter Olympics we had in our snowy backyard, sitting with Dad watching the satellite Echo 1 flash through the night sky.

“I was honored as a Policeman to have met and protected … Presidents Reagan and Ford, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, George Carlin, Dolly Parton, Mac Davis, Kenny Rogers, Tom Jones, Elvis and many more.”

It also paints a portrait of a self-deprecating man with a strong sense of humour. “I had a few tryouts with the Reds, Phillies and Cardinals. … I was either too drunk or too hung over to do much good … But I had fun.”

Yet, as you might expect from a long time storm chaser, the weather seems to have been Sellar’s enduring passion. “I saw my first tornado in Sept 1975 and my last 30 years later … I liked all kinds of weather, rain, snow, sleet, hot, cold … I really didn’t care as long as I was here to see it.”

Despite the unusual nature of his brother’s last request, John has promised to launch the ashes into a tornado as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Jim Sellars is survived by his two children, a son and a daughter, and four grandchildren.

“I loved all my family, friends, caregivers, and the people that made my world turn.” Sellars said. “So, as we move forward on our path around the sun at 66,660 mph, let’s all pray, hope, or wish for peace and love for our world.

“Bye for now. … See ya on the other side.”


Do you have any unusual wishes for your own ashes? Make sure your family know what to do when the time comes by sharing your funeral wishes in your will with Beyond. It’s free, easy and takes just ten minutes. Start writing your free will here today.