Writing a eulogy or special occasion speech: #1 getting in touch with your feelings.

This is a bit of a change of pace for my blog – I am writing this post because a couple of people have asked me for a hand when writing a speech and I want to pop my thoughts somewhere where they are easily shared…

so, you have just been approached to speak

… at a special occasion. It may be a wedding; it may be a retirement party; or perhaps a funeral. You may have anticipated this moment, or it may be a surprise. You may be a confident speaker, you may be feeling overwhelmed. In any circumstance, if you want to give a beautiful speech, one that is real and comes from the heart, it will help to consider and bring together the following aspects:

  • yourself: your feelings and experience
  • the person you are celebrating: their life, accomplishments, and relationships
  • the people who will receive your speech: their needs and expectations.

This post talks about how to consider and acknowledge your own feelings and experiences to prepare yourself for the writing. I will link to posts that will help you get together your thoughts about the person you are celebrating and connect with the folk who will receive your speech as I publish them.

your feelings and experience

At any special occasion, you may be feeling a lot of feelings. There may be joy and anticipation. There is also likely to be a surprising element of grief. You may be about to lose a valued member of staff to retirement, a family member who is relocating to a partner’s hometown, or you may be grieving a loved one who has died. Many of us are familiar with Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief . We expect to be working our way through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, it may come as an unpleasant surprise that these emotions may hit us at a happy celebration, or that they arrive several at a time, or in the ‘wrong’ order or that some may linger, or come and come again. This is actually all normal and ok*. Kubler-Ross herself did not suggest that one needs to spend a certain amount of time in any stage, or advocate trying to rush through grieving. Nor did she suggest that there was an orderly or predictable progression through the emotions of grief.

This is important because to write a eulogy from the heart you will need to be connected to your heart, to be vulnerable, open. Acknowledgement of all of the emotions associated with your grief as you are experiencing it also allows you to more fully explore what your colleague, friend, or loved one means to you and the significance of their place in your life. There may be surprises in this.

The following exercise can help you acknowledge rather than rush through your emotions. I was introduced to it by nonviolent communication teacher, Thom Bond.** Read through the exercise fully before you begin.

an exercise to help you connect with your heart and feelings

Find a time and a safe and comfortable place where you are not going to be disturbed by noise, light, or activities around you.

Set a timer for five minutes.

Sit down, close your eyes and ask yourself: What am I feeling?

As the feelings arise, answer the question honestly and simply. “I am feeling…”

This may sound like: “I am feeling nothing, I am feeling bored, I am feeling a little upset, I am feeling curious, I am feeling anguished. I am disappointed, I am bitter, I am bitter, I am scared, I am jealous, I am ashamed, I am weary, I am feeling a deep, sweet sadness.”

You may find you get stuck on a particular feeling for the entire five minutes. You may cycle through a number of feelings. There are no wrong feelings or wrong periods of time. There is only you feeling your feelings.

Just sit for 5 minutes (or longer) and keep asking yourself: What am I feeling?

If at any time you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, open your eyes and do what you need to do to feel safe and comfortable again, then resume the exercise.

You may find yourself overwhelmed by thoughts of what you or others could or should have done/said/been. Approach these thoughts especially gently. If you find yourself berating yourself or others, acknowledge the emotion and the cause. This may sound like:

“I am feeling really yukky because I wish it was me having the baby and I would like to be happy for her, but part of me is just stuck in feeling mad and sad.”

“I am pissed off – I spent all that time training her and now she has accepted a transfer!”

“I am feeling awkward because really my brother was there to help her and I rarely called.”

“I am angry because I spent all those years looking after her and now that she is dead everyone else turns up! I wish they would acknowledge how hard that was for me instead of making excuses.”

“I am afraid. I have never lived alone, I don’t know that I have what it takes.”

I find that just acknowledging this stuff can loosen its grip on me, but I have called a counselling service a few times, when I needed help to work through something. For this reason, I have included links to sites in Australia and New Zealand where you can find information about free services, should you need them.

so, what do you do with all this emotion?

I would use it as a starting point to think about what the person I am going to talk about really means to me. You may get connected to how much the person has contributed to your workplace, to your community and your life. Some of it might make its way into the speech: “Geez, when Mary told me she was leaving, I actually panicked a bit but only because I realised how much she does around this place and I know replacing her will be impossible,” followed by a list of wonderful things Mary contributes to the workplace, of course!

However, the real value of the exercise and connecting to your emotions is that this genuine connection will underpin your speech, making it easier to be real when you are standing up in front of all the people. Please try it and let me know how it goes for you.

This post covered the first of three aspects that I believe you need to consider and integrate to write and deliver a beautiful eulogy or special occasion speech. When I write about the other two aspects: the person you are celebrating; and the people who will receive your speech, I will update this post with the links.

* this is totally my opinion, I am not a counsellor and am not qualified in any healing or therapeutic practices other than sport massage but I don’t tell people about that.

**I would totally recommend Thom’s online course – and a reminder – taking a few courses in nonviolent communication does not make me an expert, or qualified.

counselling: Australia and New Zealand

I’m happy to add more sites, if anyone wants one added, please provide the information in the comments.

Lifeline Australia or call 13 11 14

Australian National Mental Health Commission

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

references and photo attribution

Bond, Thom. (2015). The Compassion Course online. Thom’s website:  http://www.nycnvc.org/thom-bond/

Forsberg, Samantha. Forest [photo].CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Kübler-Ross, E., & Kessler, D. (2014). On grief and grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. Simon and Schuster.

gratitude #5/10

I’m grateful for writing today, for reading, for writing, for literacy. I’m glad I can get my thoughts and feelings out on paper, or on my screen, to be fully explored and expressed. I love the sense of relief and satisfaction when I have something satisfactorily writ down.

I’m glad to read the thoughts and feelings of others, for a sense of shared reality. I love the sense of quiet and contemplation that can flow easily into a written conversation when all participants take a little time to reflect and go a little deeper than may happen in the spoken world.

I love reading and writing beautiful things, opening little windows and exposing the word in it’s raw, wild, unfathomable beauty. I love poetry.

I love the practicality of writing a list, a note, a memo or email, jotting it down into the external drive, so I don’t need to endlessly toss it around in my mind. The freedom and release of letting that go!

I do wish my handwriting was a little more legible though 🙂

little update

so i’ve been very busy at work with start of new Semester. Saturdays and a few evenings teaching. All the new students to learn the intricacies of information retrieval, evaluation and use..exciting and exhausting.

And my own studies woefully behind but caught up in a binge this weekend!

Still have the 90 minute each way commute too but – ‘oh sweet, you can study on the train!’ isn’t quite cutting it, I miss writing a little poem, so absorbing to express a poignant moment in very few syllables like a little meditation every morning. sigh,

and now my daughter’s cat is staying while my daughter is between houses, a lovely lovely cat, it’s not his personality that sets my nose and eyes running and he does love a little cuddle, poor boy, poor me too!

And the rescue dog wees in the hall if we leave her in at night and barks at the possums when we lock her out so other daughters are tramping down the hall at midnight to take her out on the grass across the creaky boards,

and i got a job interview 2 weeks ago that they postponed it and I have not heard when the interview might now take place and am feeling a bit up and down and flat about it now when I was just so excited before.

and everyone but me is sick with a cold and they have been home in bed while i am at work and even though i love my job i can’t help feeling a little jealous, well, i am only human after all. I used to believe that thinking like that could give me cancer, but i’ve changed my mind, unless i get cancer in which case i may have to sue my brain.

and now i have to go make dinner because everyone else is sick but i am going to fill the dinner with lots of vegetables as I am pretty much the only one who eats them,not just tosses them around the plate into little piles which is probably the REAL reason i hardly ever get sick. That will teach them!

but, at least i feel a whole lot better about everything now for writing this little bit of nonsense and getting it off my chest 🙂

 

 

 

Back in the habit… I hope!

Ok, I got out of the habit of blogging while getting into the habit of doing some other stuff. Like walking heaps and falling madly in love with all the bush near my home and rediscovering a love for PALEO COOKING and working really hard to become an awesome teacher of LEGAL RESEARCH! (I hope). And I also started another non-violent communication course and grabbed myself a second empathy buddy to practice the homework with and still looking for a ‘first home’ to buy. Oh my goodness.

Not all of it has been fun – I have a bit of an RSI from too much typing and crochet. I totally stressed myself out for weeks trying to catch up to speed with legal research and devise fun interactive lessons with heaps of group work. And I’m afraid I shared that stress liberally at home 😦 And then when it all worked out I was on a high and probably that was just as annoying for long suffering family!

Maybe I should have blogged about it instead 🙂 But instead I kept thinking I didn’t have anything to say (!) Anyway now I have broken the ice I will be back soon and hopefully will be more ‘writerly’ next time. Or not! Who cares 🙂

gratitude – on writing

Grateful today for all the writing that didn’t make it. Recycled notepads full of scribblings, lists of ideas, of thoughts, of fancies, paper scrunched up and hurled into a dark corner (to become a home for mice – but that’s another story), the half-novel on the lost usb that may be … somewhere?
For me, writing is fishing: a sentence burley cast into an unfathomable murky ocean – every piece that makes it to ‘publish’ preceded by and followed by a dozen or more that sink… then lie as some sort of sediment in the bottom of my mind. Mmmm and hopefully even this is a rich mud that will nurture future seeds…
Loving the messes today.

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