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How to Write a Eulogy for a Brother: Guidance and Examples

By: Compose.ly — November 02, 2018

beach sunset rocks

When a sibling passes away, you can feel like you’ve lost a piece of yourself. Your brother shared your roots, knew your childhood memories, and had a unique insight into how you became who you are. He knew you on a level that few if any other people do.

Losing that kind of relationship is painful. If you are going through that kind of loss and trying to speak coherently about your brother and his life, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes, knowing why you’re going through this process can make it easier.

A Eulogy for a Brother – Why It Matters

A eulogy is a speech written and delivered in tribute to someone, typically at a funeral or memorial gathering. Because it is usually the most personal element of a service, it celebrates the person’s memory in a particularly special and impactful way.

As his sibling, you can speak to the moments that shaped your brother’s life. You have a unique ability to communicate who he is, who he was, and what made him special. These stories help loved ones to feel your brother’s presence and recognize his contributions to their lives.

Writing the Eulogy – Five Steps

You might feel tempted to stand up on the day of the funeral and hope that inspiration strikes you, and that’s normal. The thought of preparing a eulogy can intimidate anyone.

It takes strength to go against those impulses and sit down to plan your brother’s eulogy, but speeches really are better when they’re planned well. And your brother deserves the best speech you can give, so honor him by taking the time to prepare.

Approach it one step at a time. You don’t have to sit down and write it all at once. In fact, it will turn out better if you build it in stages.

1. Gather Stories

After the death of your brother, you may feel the memories of him washing over you. This is your chance to get all of those memories down on paper. It will probably be an emotional experience, but it will give you plenty of material for your eulogy and assist you in the grieving process.

Your Memories of Your Brother

This is a brainstorming, stream-of-consciousness kind of process. Don’t try to organize your memories or remember them in any particular order. Just write down what you remember as you remember it.

You don’t have to do it in one sitting. Take breaks and come back to it if you think of something later. When you have everything you need, you’ll know it.

Interview Loved Ones

You can make your eulogy even richer by including memories from other significant people in your brother’s life. You might find that in addition to giving you more stories for your eulogy, this process also helps you to celebrate your brother and process his loss.

2. Collect Information

A eulogy shouldn’t be a biography, but putting your stories into chronological order can help your audience to connect to them. Remember, most people at the funeral probably haven’t known your brother as long as you have.

Whether you can do it all from memory or whether you need to do some interviewing, identify the major events and stages in your brother’s life. Make notes of important dates including graduations, weddings, births of children, and even deaths.

You won’t end up using every piece of data that you collect, but creating this kind of timeline will help you to visualize your brother’s unique narrative.

3. Organize Your Thoughts

Before you start writing the eulogy as you will deliver it, take some time to structure the piece.  Doing so not only makes for a better speech but also makes it easier to write the eulogy later.

Select a Theme

Once you have your stories collected, read through them and identify any recurring themes. You might notice that many stories center around a particular topic, such as his generous spirit or his sense of humor. They might also reflect key values like family, hard work, or resilience.

If you’re writing a eulogy for an older brother, your theme might be lessons you learned from him or how he helped you. You can focus more on shared experiences or observations if it’s a eulogy for a younger brother, but you can still talk about what you learned from him. In fact, the theme of “lessons I learned” might be even more impactful if you are the older sibling.

Take some time to choose what feels right. You can always choose a different theme if you get stuck later.

Finalize Your Story Selection

If you haven’t chosen the stories you want to tell yet, now is the time. One or two personal stories should suffice. They don’t have to be serious, but they should say something significant about who he was as a person and how he impacted you as a sibling.

Remember, if you feel moved to tell stories that don’t work with your theme, you can change it.

Make an Outline

Your next step is to create an outline that puts your stories in order. Choose any format – remember, this is just for you. All you need is to:

  1. Order your stories
  2. Insert any relevant facts or context
  3. Note how you plan to segue between stories
  4. Jot down ideas for an introduction and conclusion

This will give your eulogy a clear structure and ensure that it flows well.

4. Write the First Draft

If you’ve taken the time to draw up a solid plan, actually writing the speech should go more smoothly.

Write the Middle First

Start with the stories, which will be the “meat” of your piece. Be sure to:

  • Include vivid details
  • Start with the action; avoid long introductions
  • Segue smoothly between stories

Remember that your time will be limited. Most eulogies last three to five minutes and you don’t want to go over 10 minutes. To give you an idea of how long that will be in print, 500 to 1000 words typically take three and a half to seven and a half minutes to deliver.

You might have to make a choice between including one more story or expanding on a particularly important one. In this case, go back to your theme and think about how to best convey your message.

Create a Conclusion

The end of your eulogy is a final send-off and your chance to emphasize what loved ones can draw from your brother’s memory. You can end with:

  • A quote from a song your brother loved
  • A reference to a shared memory you mentioned earlier
  • A direct address to the audience (“We will always remember what Tony taught us…”)
  • A direct address to your brother (“Thank you, Dan. Love you forever.”)

… or any brief message that seems to suit. As long as it honors your brother’s memory and conveys who he was, it works.

Introduce the Eulogy

Finish at the beginning, since it is the simplest and most straightforward part of the eulogy. Make sure you identify yourself by name as your brother’s sibling and take a moment to thank everyone for coming. Then, to lead your audience into your first story, mention the theme or main message.

For example: “Thank you all for coming today to honor my brother Jack. I’m Jill, and I know first hand how much my brother learned from a lifetime of climbing hills.”

Notice that this introduction is concise, respectful, and leads into your stories without any extra words.

5. Edit and Practice

When you have all parts of your eulogy, read it through out loud. If you can invite someone to listen, all the better.  Ask:

  1. Does it flow?
  2. Is it well organized?
  3. Do the introduction and conclusion work with the rest of the piece?
  4. Is the language varied or repetitive?
  5. Is it concise or does it ramble?

Remember to ask for open-ended feedback as well. Go back and edit based on what you’ve learned, then repeat the process until you have what you feel is a final draft.

A Few Examples

Although your eulogy will be as unique as your brother was, reading a few examples can sometimes spark your inspiration or help you get your thoughts in order. Below are two example eulogies for an older and younger brother, from the perspective of a sister and brother respectively.

Eulogy for a Brother from a Little Sister

field stretching to horizon

A woman wrote this eulogy for an older brother, who had been a guiding and protective force in her life and the lives of her children. Take note of how she continuously focuses on him and his giving nature, even while she includes details about her own experience.

“My Big Brother, My Champion”

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for coming out today to honor my brother Paul. My name is Cindy, and because I’m Paul’s younger sister, there has never been a day when I didn’t have him in my life – to protect me, to guide me, and to give me a leg up any way he could. He was only four years older than me, but he was my third parent every step of the way. And after our mom and then our dad died, he became my only parent.

His Selfless Support

We lost Mom when I was 29 and pregnant with my son, our first child. I was seven months along at the funeral, and I just kept wondering how I was going to be a mother without my own mother there to show me how it’s done. Well, we were at the reception and one of Mom’s well-meaning friends asked me when I was due. I promptly burst into tears.

Paul, despite his own grief, took me aside and sat there with me as I blubbered out all my doubts about motherless parenthood. He promised me that he would be there any time I needed him and answer any questions I had. Then he admitted he might not be able to help with the “nursing thing.” I laughed for the first time since Mom died.

Well, Paul lived up to his word. Of course. He answered the phone at all hours of the night, and he passed the phone over to my sister-in-law if he didn’t know the answer to my questions. He came over whenever I asked him to, even though a few times it turned out that there was nothing actually wrong. He was my rock all through my son’s childhood, and my daughter’s as well.

The Best Uncle Ever

I can’t even list all of the ways that “Uncle Paul” has been there for my kids. From the school pickups when their dad and I had late meetings to finding age-appropriate books about death when we lost our dad. I’ll never forget the picture of him on the couch, a child in each arm and the book on his lap, answering every question they had. And how my daughter came up to me afterward and said, “I actually feel better, Mom.”

She’d been crying all morning before that. She and her grandpa had been very close.

Paul even coached my daughter through her softball tryouts, just like he did for me when I was a freshman in high school.

My Biggest Fan

That may actually be my favorite memory of Paul. I was 14 and he was 18. I was about to start high school and he was preparing to go off to college. I was desperate to make the JV softball team, and Paul had lettered in baseball. He actually looked up how softball was different, talked to some of his friends, and figured out how to coach me.

We practiced in the backyard all summer until he left for college. And when my tryout actually happened, three weeks later, Paul actually drove back from school to watch. He even drove back home again that same weekend to take me out for ice cream when I made the team. Not to mention, he came to every game when he was home on weekends.

My Champion Since Childhood

I was so grateful to him for that, but at the same time, it was just something that Paul would do. He had always been that kind of a big brother.

Walking me to my first day of middle school, even though all of his friends were walking together. Pretending to believe in Santa until he was 13, even though he’d caught Mom wrapping the presents when he was eight. Punching our neighbor Chris in the nose when Chris called me a prude for not kissing him.

That one wasn’t our parents’ favorite, but I sure appreciated knowing he had my back.

Always Behind Me

I have no doubts that Paul still has my back. Wherever his spirit is, I know he’s pulling for our whole family and his many friends. Paul, you showed us all what it means to love. We’ll try to live up to it.

Eulogy for a Younger Brother

grain field sunset

This sample eulogy for a brother paints a picture of a man who was hard working, honest, and humble. Notice how the older brother uses vivid storytelling to paint a picture of the younger’s quiet ways.

“Goodbye, Humble Guy”

Hello everyone. I can’t believe I’m standing here today, saying goodbye to my little brother George. My name is Ed, and my family and I are so thankful that all of you were able to come out and support us in this difficult time.

What can I possibly say about George that would do him justice? It would feel strange to stand up here and extol his many virtues. He definitely had plenty of virtues, but he really wasn’t the extolling type. In fact, if he were here, he’d probably give me a hard time for using the word “extolling” in public. “I’m a humble guy.” He said that a lot.

A Quiet Success

I remember when they were writing a feature mention of his company, Hannigan Construction, for the local paper. He told me that they had called him to interview him and that they were asking him questions about his life in the company. “I didn’t know what to tell him, Ed,” he says.”I’m a humble guy. I grew up, I started a company, and that’s that.”

I remember looking at him and saying “And it’s now top of the list for local construction companies and you just added a mess of new employees.” He just shook his head and said, “That’s just what you do in business.”

Nose to the Grindstone

“Just what you do” was George’s way of dismissing his work ethic. When he first started Hannigan Construction, he’d be putting in 16-hour days, he didn’t make it to his poker game for six weeks, and I’m pretty sure he pulled at least two all-nighters. His company was turning a profit by the end of the year and everyone got him a cake for his hard work. As usual, he just smiled and said, “It’s just what you do when you’re starting a business.”

That’s always been George’s way. When we were growing up, I was always the one who was more academically inclined. You know, as I’m saying this, I can practically hear George’s voice behind me: “You were smarter, Ed, just say it. C’mon, it’s okay.” As humble as he was, he didn’t let anyone else hide behind humility.

Working With His Hands

In school, I would come home with A’s and the occasional B, while George would trudge along with C’s and the odd B-minus. He wasn’t a slacker, he studied, he just wasn’t about school. But he kept doing his best so he could get the best grades he could, and meanwhile, he’d be building amazing things in the garage.

But he wasn’t the kind of kid that would run inside with a birdhouse in his hand going “Mom, Mom, look what I did!” When he made a birdhouse – he couldn’t have been more than nine – he found a pole, put it up in the backyard. It was a gorgeous birdhouse. Perfect lines, perfectly sized … just fantastic. That night, Mom noticed it when she was washing the dishes. She goes, “Where did that come from?” and George, sitting at the table muddling through his math, just answered, “I made it.”

Didn’t even look up.

Living His Values

That was George. He did his thing, and he did it without making a fuss. That went for his beliefs too.  He had this supply guy who wanted him to downgrade the wood he was buying. George refused, even though it meant cutting into his profit margins.

He did that a lot. He’d make sure his customers got the best materials and if extra time had to be spent on a job, he’d do it himself. And he never complained. Ever.

My Brother’s Legacy

George left us much too soon, but he left us with an incredible model of how to live our lives. For you, George, we’ll do our best and we’ll do what’s right. As you would say, “It’s just what you do.”

We love you, George, and we always will. You humble guy.

Self-Care in Grief: Ask for Help

When you are grieving, people often tell you to ask for help when you need it. This applies to the process of writing eulogies as well. You are certainly capable of writing a eulogy for your brother, but you might feel that you need to take the time to mourn instead.

Such a choice is completely valid and even responsible. To make it through grief, you have to take care of yourself.

Turn to the speechwriting experts at Compose.ly, who will work with you to make sure your brother’s eulogy is as personal and moving as it would have been if you had written it yourself.  You will be able to honor your brother and your own process, and your tribute to your brother will be as beautiful as he deserves.