How do you maintain emotional control while giving a talk?


classylady
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I will be one of the main speakers at my mother's funeral next weekend. One of my main concerns is being able to stay emotionally in control.  I don't think I'll break down and start sobbing, but what if I do?  Maybe, I'm stressing over a "what if" scenario, and shouldn't be so overly concerned. Do any of you have tricks you use when you start getting emotional and want to get back in control?

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First of all Classylady, I'm very sorry to hear about your mother's passing. :(

About your question, I don't think you should try to control your tears but I can understand the fact that you need to speak.  It usually starts with a lump in your throat. Try to regain control of that by breathing in and out and you will be fine.

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@classylady, I'm so sorry about your mom.  :bighug:  In that specific situation, I don't have advice - I didn't try it because I knew I wouldn't be able to do it.  Somehow, you have to find a way to distance yourself from what you're talking about, so that your emotions are protected a bit from the topic.  No idea how you do that. Sorry.

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One piece of advice I/we were given when I was part of a group of grandkids singing at my grandpa's funeral was not to look at any of the rest of the family while singing. So, I guess try looking at non-relatives foreheads or the back wall or the backs of pews or something, to avoid making eye contact with someone who is likely to cause you to start crying?

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1 hour ago, classylady said:

One of my main concerns is being able to stay emotionally in control.  I don't think I'll break down and start sobbing, but what if I do?  Maybe, I'm stressing over a "what if" scenario, and shouldn't be so overly concerned. 

Ah, blubbering, my old nemesis.  I see you're off bothering decent folk too.  Well, here's what I've learned about battling this particular soggy demon.

* Stop worrying about being embarrassed if you start crying.  Honestly, before I did this, balling was basically a self-fulfilling prophecy as I'd sit there and stress myself into tearing up, then things would get worse as the embarrassment would grow.  These days, I expect to cry.  I'm a dude.  If I can whoop being embarrassed about crying, you can do it.

* Self-effacing humor.  I start talks or interviews with my bishop by mentioning the box of kleenex I brought with me, and giving some lighthearted comment along the lines of "Please note the box is full and the garbage can is empty.  My goal is to leave this room with the exact opposite true."

* Practice.  Go over what you'll say.  Talk it through out loud as you drive around in the car.  Maybe rehearse the thing with a loved one before hand, and cry as much as you possibly can in rehearsal.  It seems like the tear-making brain chemicals get bored or run out over time.  I've managed to bore myself through repetition into not-crying at the emotional parts. 

* It helps to know what's at the root, the core of your being, the beliefs driving the emotions driving the tears.  But that's really hard to do.  It took me years.  But it helps.

* Remember, no matter how much you cry, I cry more.  I have to take special precautions to not make a spectacle of myself at funerals (even when I have no part in the program, even when I didn't even know the deceased that well).  My fiance's little brother once opined "oh my gosh - you cried when the Cosby show got cancelled!"  

 

Edited by NeuroTypical
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I originally posted a slightly humorous post about my past problem of laughing during church talks, then I read the original post and realized that this thread isn't about giving normal church talks, but a funeral talk, and realized my original post was neither funny nor appropriate here, and deleted it.  

@classylady I am so sorry this happened to you.  If tears happen, it is OK!  It is a funeral and that is what funerals are for.  It just means you love the person very much.  If they come, just let it all out.  Crying is a perfectly healthy and beautiful way of expressing grief... even during a funeral talk, it is perfectly OK.  Everyone will understand.

Please accept my condoleances.  I am so sorry and would give you a big hug if I could.

Edited by DoctorLemon
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Pray for strength.

I played a piano piece as they carried my dad's casket from the chapel. It was kind of a last gift to him, as he loved to hear me play. I was really nervous that I'd break down, because I'd been crying almost nonstop since we lost him, but I was able to get through it, I think with help. Of course as soon as I hit the last note, the sobs came. 

I'm sorry you've lost your mom. :( It's so hard. I hope that you're doing okay.

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3 hours ago, classylady said:

I will be one of the main speakers at my mother's funeral next weekend. One of my main concerns is being able to stay emotionally in control.  I don't think I'll break down and start sobbing, but what if I do?  Maybe, I'm stressing over a "what if" scenario, and shouldn't be so overly concerned. Do any of you have tricks you use when you start getting emotional and want to get back in control?

Make sure you know your topic and enjoy what your are doing.

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I gave my father's eulogy.

  • there is absolutely no shame in crying at funerals. The service is every bit as much for you as it is for the others who love and were loved.
  • you are excused from normal speaker etiquette:
    • you do not have to make eye contact as you speak. It's perfectly acceptable to focus your eyes on your written remarks. (my uncle identified this at the funeral. His wife kept getting stirred up and he would remind her not to look at the family)
    • as an extension to avoiding eye contact, you don't need to do it to see if the family is relating to your remarks (that's one of the reasons why a speaker does it, besides making personal connection with the audience). They will tell you afterwards if they appreciated your comments. If you need the visual feedback, find the pocket of grandchildren or home teachers or others who are close but not so close as to share your level of grief.
    • you can appoint one of your children to be a backup for you. You begin the talk, but beforehand select one of your children (or your husband) to come up and relieve you if you can't move forward. Sometimes just having a hand on your back will be enough for you to continue. Sometimes you need others to give voice to your words. If your backup does come up, give him or her a hug when they're done.
  • print out your talk in a larger font than you think is necessary. You already know you'll be tearing up, so plan ahead.
  • plan something for yourself afterward to recharge yourself emotionally. If you're a social person, mingle with others. If you prefer quiet and solitude, excuse yourself with some errand (some family members know you better than others. Tell that person you're taking a few moments for yourself or feeding the cats, or whatever excuse you need. That way you don't have to go through the taxing exercise of explaining yourself over and over).
  • not every moment will be sorrowful as you and your family prepare for the service. There is no need for guilt over this.
  • if you're given the opportunity, participate in (or at least witness) the dressing of the body.
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On 2/18/2017 at 6:42 PM, classylady said:

I will be one of the main speakers at my mother's funeral next weekend. One of my main concerns is being able to stay emotionally in control.  I don't think I'll break down and start sobbing, but what if I do?  Maybe, I'm stressing over a "what if" scenario, and shouldn't be so overly concerned. Do any of you have tricks you use when you start getting emotional and want to get back in control?

The trick I use is that when something is sad, I try to find something funny in it.  For funerals, I don't consider the sadness of missing someone.  I think of all the laughs we had.  I tell funny anecdotes about the person.  Not mocking.  But a reminder that this person who lived also laughed.

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I have six other siblings. Two of my brothers will also be speaking.  My youngest brother will be speaking first. Because of his emotions, he said the only way he could speak was if he spoke first. I will be speaking second, and then my oldest brother will talk. My other three sisters declined to speak--too emotional, and my other brother probably would have spoken, but he struggles with expressing himself.

I've spent hours reading through my mother's journals and history. I'm trying to find nuggets of her own personal thoughts to share. She was a prolific journal writer, but, most of her entries are about her daily activities and not her personal feelings.  Right now, most of my thoughts have no order to them. I need to somehow find a way to order them and get it written down. 

I appreciate all the comments. They have been very helpful. 

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Condolences, classylady.

I gave my father's eulogy in front of hundreds of people.  I didn't worry about getting emotional.  It couldn't be helped.  I was among my father's closest family and friends.  Every single one of them knew what I was feeling as they felt the same.  I found comfort in their presence and the love they had for my dad.  I basically gave the entire eulogy while crying in certain places and laughing in certain places... freely.  It was a very healing moment for my broken heart.

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On 2/18/2017 at 5:42 PM, classylady said:

I will be one of the main speakers at my mother's funeral next weekend. One of my main concerns is being able to stay emotionally in control.  I don't think I'll break down and start sobbing, but what if I do?  Maybe, I'm stressing over a "what if" scenario, and shouldn't be so overly concerned. Do any of you have tricks you use when you start getting emotional and want to get back in control?

deep breaths and long pauses. however it's a funeral... crying is expected. in many places in the world, so is wailing. It's ok to cry.

Edited by Blackmarch
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Again, I really appreciate all the good advice I was given.  The talk has been given.  I did not cry or sob, but I did get choked up a time or two.  I didn't break down and cry until after I was finished talking and all the grandchildren were singing "Love at Home" for a musical number.  I couldn't help but wonder if my daughter, who passed away when she was 19, was there singing with the other grandchildren.  That's when I lost it.

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6 minutes ago, classylady said:

Again, I really appreciate all the good advice I was given.  The talk has been given.  I did not cry or sob, but I did get choked up a time or two.  I didn't break down and cry until after I was finished talking and all the grandchildren were singing "Love at Home" for a musical number.  I couldn't help but wonder if my daughter, who passed away when she was 19, was there singing with the other grandchildren.  That's when I lost it.

*Hugs and prayers*  I bet your family (living here and in the next life) are so proud of you.  I know I am, heck and I'm not even family!

Edited by Jane_Doe
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1 hour ago, classylady said:

I couldn't help but wonder if my daughter, who passed away when she was 19, was there singing with the other grandchildren.  That's when I lost it.

My grandfather died this past Friday. I didn't cry until during Sunday School when somebody made a comment in our discussion on the ministering of angels that got me picturing him giving angelic help to members of our family.

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15 hours ago, classylady said:

Again, I really appreciate all the good advice I was given.  The talk has been given.  I did not cry or sob, but I did get choked up a time or two.  I didn't break down and cry until after I was finished talking and all the grandchildren were singing "Love at Home" for a musical number.  I couldn't help but wonder if my daughter, who passed away when she was 19, was there singing with the other grandchildren.  That's when I lost it.

 

13 hours ago, SilentOne said:

My grandfather died this past Friday. I didn't cry until during Sunday School when somebody made a comment in our discussion on the ministering of angels that got me picturing him giving angelic help to members of our family.

 

I was the Sacrament Meeting Song Leader the Sunday after my dad passed away a few years ago.  As it happened, the closing song was "God Be With You 'Til We Meet Again".  I couldn't last through the whole song.  I got through the first verse and had to sit down and had somebody take over.

 

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