What to Consider When Writing Your Loved One's Epitaph

29 February 2016
 Categories: , Blog


When you choose your loved one's cemetery monument, deciding on the material and design is only half the battle. One of the most important aspects of a memorial headstone is the writing you put on it -- the epitaph. An epitaph is a short piece of text inscribed on a monument, written about the person who has passed away. Even if you have a way with words, writing your loved one's epitaph can be a difficult task. Here are 5 helpful tips on what to consider when you put pen to paper.

The Length

Epitaphs can be as short as you like, or as long as the size of your headstone allows. However, you may have noticed that most epitaphs you see are just a couple of lines long. While you may have thousands of words you'd love to say about the departed, sometimes a short message can be just as poignant. If you struggle to stick to such a short length, write out everything you want to say first. Then, highlight a few parts that are the most special to you, and rewrite them into one short inscription. If your inscriber charges by the letter, keep your budget in mind when you choose your final text.

The Past

Some people opt to describe their loved one in the epitaph. Think back through their past -- if they were still with you today, what would they most want to be remembered for? For many people, family is paramount. You may choose to present your loved one as a 'beloved wife, sister, and mother' or something to that effect. If you believe that people's actions define them, think about the most exceptional things they did. Were they a veteran or a doctor? Did they star in a stage show or invent a gadget? What was their proudest moment? What aspect of their past made the biggest impact on your life, and the lives of others around them?

The Voice

You may wish to write your loved one's epitaph from someone's perspective. For example, you could write a few lines from the point of view of your loved one. Writing in their manner of speaking or using a phrase they often used to say is a lovely way of preserving their voice for generations to come. Alternatively, you may want to write from your own perspective, using phrases like 'I love and miss you' or 'I will wait until we're reunited'. Writing your own thoughts can be cathartic, similar to writing a diary or talking to a friend. If neither option feels right to you, try writing as if you are a third party, refraining from using words like 'I' and 'we'.

The Audience

Is there someone you want to speak to when you're writing the epitaph? If you're writing from your point of view, the audience you're speaking to may be your loved one themselves. Alternatively, some people write epitaphs directed at visitors or passersby. This is a common audience for people who incorporate their loved one's past into the text. Starting the line with 'Here lies ...' is a good way to address anyone who may see the monument, and introduce them to the departed.

The Emotion

What do you want people to feel when they see your loved one's memorial? While you're grieving, it may be hard to feel anything but sorrow, and this may show in your writing. This is especially true if you're writing the epitaph to your loved one from your perspective. A sad inscription is perfectly acceptable, as death is an invariably sad event for most people. However, you may want people reading the text to feel something different when they read the epitaph. If you want visitors to feel happy, focus on the positive aspects of your loved one's life and passing. If your loved one had a great sense of humour, there's nothing wrong with including a pun or joke in the inscription. There are no rights or wrongs when it comes to the emotion of the text, so write with the feeling that you think represents the situation best.