Giving a funeral speech can be daunting, challenging and upsetting. What should you say and how should you say it? Should you crack any jokes? How long should you make your speech? And, most importantly, what should you not say at a funeral?
Choose poetry and music for inspiration
The funeral scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral sees John Hannah’s character Matthew look to English-American poet WH Auden for inspiration. Using poetry or prose to express our grief can be a powerful tool – sometimes we can simply feel lost for words. A list of funeral poems from the Poetry Foundation may inspire you. Music can also be a potent source of inspiration – is there a particular song lyric that holds some significance?
Focus on good memories
Try not to fill your speech with too many dry, biographical facts or achievements. Set the scene, of course, but regaling your audience with stories about the deceased is more appropriate funeral etiquette. Do not point out their foibles. Funeral anecdotes should paint the deceased in a positive light.
Don’t give up
Allow yourself plenty of room for improvement. Start off by writing a rough draft that covers the basics – you can go back and refine it later. Read your speech out loud, seek feedback from others and remember to practise the final version as much as you can before the funeral.
Steady your nerves
Let’s be honest, most of us hate public speaking. Breathing exercises can help you overcome pre-speech anxiety, while thanking funeral attendees at the beginning of your speech can be a good way to calm your nerves.
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