I had a student reach out for writing advice for a funeral. Since I had spoken at my father’s funeral, I offered my thoughts.
Afterwards, I asked them if I could share. This is what I told them.
Work with memories of what the person meant to you.
At the start, when you are still trying to figure it out, keep it loose. Write with no specific structure in mind. The speech shape will come eventually.
You want to find the focus. Figure out what in your writing has gravity, what pulls you in. Sometimes this is a specific memory or a lesson learned. Use that to anchor the rest of your speech.
My student also asked, “how not to become a puddle of tears when speaking.” This question is more challenging, but I shared this:
Take your words up with you. Don’t go off memory. Print them out big so you can find your place when you get lost.
Looking at people is challenging. I remember not wanting to look at people but also knowing I should.
Find the people in the crowd that are on your side. They want you to do well.
Read your words beforehand. To yourself and others. Know what parts get to you—ready yourself for those moments.
Finally, remember it is okay to cry. We can’t control our emotions but only respond to them when they happen.
Allow your emotions to happen. Don’t fight it, and don’t force yourself through them. Take a breath. Let it happen, then move on.