Giving a eulogy at a parent’s funeral, be it Mom or Dad, is an incredibly difficult moment regards less of your relationship with them. When you are having reservations about doing it you are probably asking yourself what the real results will be about refusing to speak at your dad’s funeral.
There is no ethical reason or law obliging you to speak at your father’s funeral. Speaking at a funeral in any capacity is incredibly stressful due to the effects of very strong emotions. If giving a eulogy will add to your grief or result in negative emotions, feel free to give the task to another.
Although you are within your rights to mourn in any way you see fit, there is going to be social pressure to do what others expect you to do.
If you are feeling this, then please continue reading before making your own choice over whether to give the eulogy or not.
Do I have to speak at my father’s funeral?
All funerals in the USA, and most other Western nations, have some form of eulogy which celebrates the life of the deceased. Who gives the eulogy is not fixed in stone and doesn’t have be a child.
If you feel that you cannot speak at your father’s funeral then you absolutely shouldn’t. Although speaking at your father’s funeral is a meaningful experience, it can be so intense that it becomes counterproductive to your grief recovery. You have the right to mourn in the way that you see fit.
I won’t lie to you if you are the only son or daughter most of your relatives will expect you to speak on their behalf. However, there are some very valid reasons not to speak at your dad’s funeral, some of which are due to the emotional nature of the day and some which will just make everyone very uncomfortable.
Reasons never to speak at your father’s funeral
There are so many reasons not to give the eulogy at a funeral, in fact, I can think of over 20 which you can read about here. But, let’s go over some which are most connected to why you may choose not to give the eulogy at your dad’s funeral.
All eyes looking at you
Although it may be a fairly minor issue in the eyes of some, extreme stage fright is both a crippling affliction and not enjoyable to watch. Just because you are related to your father by blood doesn’t mean that you will be able to pay him the full tribute he deserves if you can’t face the crowd.
Nevertheless, all the reasons not to speak at your dad’s ceremony, stage fright is the easiest to deal with. If you have a few days to play with you certainly have time to finally overcome a lifelong aversion to public speaking. You will probably be glad you did it in years to come.
To overcome stage fright, there are some simple steps to take. Firstly, practice as much as you can before giving the eulogy. Secondily, have your full eulogy typed up and read to be read. Although it’s not the best delivery of a speech, it’s better to read it rather than never say it.
One of the most terrifying aspects of giving a speech is all the eyes looking at you. To combat this, choose one or two close family members or friends and just focus on them during the eulogy.
It’s a lot easier to talk to a friend than to a room full of people hanging on your every word. if in the coming days you feel that grief has overtaken you, which is entirely normal, consider talking to a professional grief counselor from the comfort of you own home
Too sad to speak
There is a reason why the spouse of a deceased person is rarely expected to give the eulogy, it’s just too emotional. Why is then that the same consideration isn’t always given for the children on a departed dad?
Being too emotional and not being able to utter the words that you may otherwise wish to is an acceptable reason not to give the eulogy at your father’s funeral. Even if you loved your dear old dad intensely, breaking down into uncontrollable sobs in front of hundreds of people won’t do either of you any good.
If you have things that you want to say about your father, you can share those sentiments with the person who IS giving the eulogy. You can also say those important words during another ceremony later such as when you are installing a headstone, which happens 6 months after burial, or scattering ashes.
You hold a grudge
Just because your father has died it doesn’t mean that all of the hurt and bitterness between you is instantly washed away. Some parent-child relationships are just strained and it can take years for such grudges to die, if they ever do.
Although you don’t need to idealize your father in his eulogy, some character flaws become endearing after death, you shouldn’t let loose at a dead man.
If you are in any way in danger of airing your family’s dirty laundry in public you should probably avoid doing it. More than likely it won’t do you any good because it’s not going to give you the closure you need.
Time made strangers of you
Although a eulogy isn’t supposed to be a blow by blow account of someone’s life, it should encompass the key events in it. You may feel that you haven’t spoken to your father for years, even decades and that you just don’t know him that well.
If this is the case for you, you may feel more comfortable speaking to another person who will give the eulogy and just sharing the relevant information you do have.
How do I refuse to give a eulogy?
Refusing to give a eulogy can be made a little more difficult than it should be merely because of the person you have to decline. Often the funeral planner will be a family member, probably your Mom or sibling. If your relationship with your dad was tough, it may be even more so with this person.
The best thing to do is, to be honest, and to state your reason for not giving a eulogy at your dad’s funeral as clearly, simply, and firmly as you can. Don’t leave any wiggle room or soften your excuse with a ‘maybe’ or ‘I was just thinking’.
If you were the best candidate, then make sure you follow your refusal with a suggestion for another person to give the eulogy. Providing a replacement will take the pressure off of the person organizing the funeral and it will make them much more likely to let you be.
Who is allowed to give a eulogy?
When it comes to giving a eulogy, there are no restrictions to who can speak. it all really depends on the type of funeral being carried out. Usually, only close relations and friends will be asked to speak, but officiants may also be chosen to speak on the family’s behalf.
This means that no one would bat an eyelid if you, as the son or daughter, didn’t speak at the funeral. It’s not the same as at a wedding where the wedding guests might find it strange to see the father of the bride sitting down not giving a speech.
What to say at your father’s funeral if forced to speak
You may have read this far in this post and, although you really don’t want to do it, feel that you will not be able to get out of giving a eulogy at your dad’s funeral. if that’s the case, here are some tips to help you plan a speech that will do him justice.
- Start by thanking the congregation for attending
- try to keep events and stories in a chronological order
- Include significant dates e.g. birth date, college, marriage, birth of children etc.
- Include important places in her life , e.g. place of birth, where she grew up etc..
- Don’t forget the names of significant people in her life.
- Speak about key moments in her life that were meaningful to her and to those who knew her.
- Focus on honors or awards she received in her lifetime, both profession and hobby-related.
- Give some of her favorite sayings or scriptures. Especially ones that influenced your life.
Just remember that your eulogy can be as short or as long as you want. the average eulogy runs between 2 and 10 minutes long. You don’t have to be a comedian and you don’t need to be a poet. Just speak from your heart and imagine you are talking to your dad one last time!