Losing a parent is a challenging event and it’s one that most of us will have to face at least once in our lives. Losing your mother is particularly hard because of the maternal connection. You , might think that speaking at your Mom’s funeral is a duty you cannot turn down, but is that true?
There is no moral or legal obligation for you to speak at anyone’s funeral, including your mother’s. Eulogies, readings and musical performances can be made more difficult with the effects of strong emotions. When speaking will increase your grief or ignite negative emotions, refrain from doing it.
Nevertheless, it’s easier said than done. You may have pressure from your family or community which makes you feel that you have no choice BUT to speak at your mother’s funeral.
If you feel like this, please feel free to read the rest of this article and make your own informed decision.
Do I have to speak at my mother’s funeral?
Traditional funerals in the US usually call for a eulogy but the person who gives the eulogy is not set in stone. Many people chose a close family friend or relative to deliver the speech.
It is always preferable that the speaker is willing and capable of delivering the speech without added anguish for themselves and the congregation. If you fall into this category, it may be best to give the honor to somebody else
In most cases, it is not usually the spouse who delivers the eulogy and it certainly doesn’t have to be a child. For example, my older brother gave the eulogy at our grandmother’s funeral as the oldest grandchild despite us having five uncles and aunts who could have done the job.
Some families ask an officiant to deliver the eulogy, particularly if the family is in a close religious community. They do this for several reasons, and deep grief is chief among them.
Speaking about your loss and letting your emotions to the surface is fundamental to the way we mourn as a society. Although speaking at your mother’s funeral in front of people is not essential, according to Christy Denckla, a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a clinical psychologist, attending it is.
So, if you are so reluctant to speak at your mother’s funeral and it is making you even consider not attending the funeral altogether, you need to stand up to any resistance and refuse outright, stating your reasons.
Reasons never to speak at your Mother’s funeral
There are many reasons not to give the eulogy at a funeral, in fact, I can think of over 20 which you can read about here. For now, let’s talk about the ones which may be affecting your decision whether to speak or not.
If you forget everything else, simply standing up in front of people and speaking to them is daunting enough. When you add to that the seriousness of the occasion and the fact that many of the congregation will reflect on your words for years to come, it’s outright terrifying.
However, stage fright is easy to get over and if this is all that is stopping you then you may come to regret giving in so easily.
To overcome stage fright practice as much as you can in the days leading up to the eulogy and have your speech written out. It’s better to read it rather than never say it.
Also, choose one or two close relatives or friends and focus on them during the speech. It’s a lot easier to talk to a friend than to a room full of, for the most part, strangers.
One of the strongest reasons for not speaking at a funeral is that you psychologically can’t. If you cannot speak about the deceased yet without breaking down, then giving the eulogy shouldn’t be your priority. This is normally why spouses don’t do it.
When you are in two minds about whether you can get through it all, make sure you have a backup organized so that they can stand with you and even take over if needed.
Not every parent-child relationship is a good one. Some can be outright hostile or have been plagued with hurtful interactions.
The eulogy is not the platform to attack the deceased and slander their name, even if you really feel they deserve it. If you know that you won’t be able to talk about your mother without letting out some of your pent-up anger, you will be doing everyone a favor to step down.
Sometimes families drift apart and are only reunited at times of tragedy, such as death. You may feel that you didn’t know your mother well and that you aren’t the best one to talk about all of her finest qualities. This would be a fairly good reason to assign the task to another.
How do I refuse to give a eulogy?
It is normally the spouse or immediate next of kin who decide who is giving the eulogy. That probably means your father or siblings, or even you yourself.
When someone else is pressuring you to be the speaker at your mother’s funeral, you need to be firm and express exactly why you don’t want to speak.
As with all situations, it’s always better to present the solution to a problem rather than just providing the problem itself. So, if you are going to refuse, make sure you have another candidate in mind to replace you.
It’s likely that your refusal will be met with some indignation and guilt-tripping. You have to be strong and stick to your convictions. Nobody can force you to give a eulogy and you are entitled to mourn for your mother in any way that you see fit. Just remember that!
Who is allowed to give a eulogy?
Absolutely anyone is allowed to give a eulogy and it is down to the discretion of the family to choose. Generally, a good candidate is someone who knew the deceased and is at least an adolescent.
The role is a great honor but also a great responsibility, so asking young children to do it should be avoided. It is also generally a bad idea to ask strangers or people who only recently met the deceased to speak.
The only exception is when you ask the officiant to speak on the family’s behalf as they are used to public speaking and will spend time with the family to gather suitable content for the eulogy.
What to say at your mother’s funeral if forced to speak
Unfortunately, sometimes you will be convinced that you don’t have the right to refuse to give your mother’s eulogy. So, while you struggle to get over the reasons why you originally didn’t want to speak, here are some pointers for what to say and do.
- 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.
How long should you speak at a funeral?
When you are giving your eulogy, you should aim to speak for no more than 10-15 minutes and no less than 2-5 minutes. How long you speak for depends on the amount of information you include and the style of eulogy you want to give.
The main aim of the eulogy is to honor the passing of the deceased, your mother in our context here, and invite the congregation to reflect on her life and how she influenced them in theirs.