March 05, 2022 4 min read
Planning the words for a headstone often feels like the final goodbye. These eternal words will encapsulate the life of your loved one, so it’s important to make sure you create something stunning and memorable.
Many people stress needlessly about the content of the headstone, but there are simple guidelines you can follow to make sure you get this right. If you’ve also been tasked with writing the eulogy for your loved one, then you’ll be familiar with the language commonly used in these situations.
While a eulogy is a short remembrance speech, the headstone is the short summary of a person’s life that lets visitors know how much they meant to you. The headstone tribute is shorter than a eulogy, but it’s a good idea to use your eulogy as a starting point. There might be quotes and scripture from the eulogy that help you to create the perfect words.
A headstone is a decorative stone placed at the head of the grave. It might also be referred to as a tombstone, a gravestone or a plaque. There are many different types of headstones available, from elaborate and decorative to simple and discreet. While it may be called a headstone, it could be made from stone, wood, bronze, iron or slate.
The purpose of the headstone is to identify the grave so that those visiting know where to leave flowers or pay their tributes. A headstone will often include something called an epitaph. This is a phrase or form of words that are written in memory of the deceased. The epitaph might be a description of the person, or it could be a famous quote or saying.
There are a few common things that are added to headstones. These include the full name of the person, their date of birth and their date of death. In addition to these basic details, many people choose to include a short epitaph.
When choosing the epitaph, it’s important to consider the entire surviving family and what they would like to see. You should also consider the wishes of the deceased and how they would like to be remembered. Some famous epitaphs include:
As you can see, some of these are quite light-hearted in nature. It’s not uncommon for families to include an inside joke. It’s also possible that the deceased may have decided what they would like their epitaph to say in advance. You could also choose a line of poetry or religious scripture for the epitaph.
If the headstone is placed in a church graveyard or other religious ground, you will often need approval from the vicar or other religious figure. You might need to seek approval before you confirm the final wording with your stonemason.
If the headstone will be placed on private land, then there will be no restrictions. However, some stonemasons may object to carving anything that might be deemed offensive. Always check on restrictions before finalising the headstone as it could be very expensive to replace it.
If you’re struggling for inspiration, try these simple headstone inscriptions that could easily be adapted to your needs. Try these classic inscriptions:
You could also choose a popular quote from scripture and hymns. This could be tied into the eulogy for your loved one and the readings that make up the funeral.
Or you could choose something more personal to you. It’s common to list a person’s accomplishments and qualities. For example…
If the person is cremated and you would like to honour their memory in a different way, you might choose a memorial bench with a plaque. You could also place a plaque at a popular lookout spot to give you a place to stop and remember your loved one.
If the plaque is on public or private land, you will need permission to place it. And this might come with some strings attached about what you can include on the plaque. We’ve all seen funny plaques on benches commemorating the dead. You could include a saying like:
In loving memory of Dad, who hated this park and everyone in it.
In loving memory of Buddy, who was a bad dog but a very good boy.
In loving memory of Ellen who loved this view.
If you’re struggling to find the words for a headstone or plaque, don’t stress about it. Enlist the help of friends and loved ones to determine the right way to honour your loved one. The right words will come to you eventually, you might simply need to sit with it for a while. Grief can make it difficult to make decisions, so don’t feel that you need to rush this particular one.