When grieving, it isn't easy to focus on everyday things. The little details that need to happen in your life, funeral arrangements, expenses, and much more, can begin to feel overwhelming. Sometimes, it can feel absurd as life continues, but your heart is breaking. At some point, you will be asked or need to think of an epitaph for your loved one's headstone, and we understand how hard it can be during this time to do so.
If you are here because you are seeking guidance, we hope this article can assist you in crafting meaningful epitaphs and tribute messages.
What is an Epitaph?
An epitaph refers to a short phrase, poem, verse, quote, or saying usually engraved into a headstone or marker to honor the deceased individual. Epitaphs can also be called headstone inscriptions.
How To Write an Epitaph
Consider the deceased's personality and life philosophy when working on the epitaph. Who were they as a person? What were their life's guiding principles? What were the things they valued? We know it can feel almost impossible to cover someone's entire life in just a few lines, so you will want to focus on one central aspect of their lives to create the most meaningful impact in the epitaph. For example, they may be remembered for:
- Their sense of humor and funny personality
- Their duty to family and their faith
- Their life achievements, both personal and professional
Narrowing down what you want to highlight about your loved one will help you develop ideas to include in the epitaph.
Finding Further Inspiration
Once you've decided what aspect of your loved one to focus on, you can brainstorm and search for inspiration, writing down any ideas. You can find inspiration from your loved ones:
- A line from a favorite poem
- A line from their favorite song
- Their favorite quote
- Their favorite bible verse
- How they passed
- Their relationship with others
- Their feelings about life and death
- How their talents affected others (Music, painting, and so on)
Don't hesitate to contact immediate family and friends for their ideas and suggestions to see if anything overlaps to help you further narrow the epitaph down.
What Voice To Use
Epitaphs can be written as if the surviving spouse, parent, or child wrote the lines. For example: "You are always in my heart and thoughts. You were taken from me far too soon. I will always love you."
They may be written as if the deceased is speaking. For example: "If you can remember me, I will be with you always."
An epitaph can also be written in the third person as a message for all and any who might be reading the inscription. For example: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8). Or: "Through her song, she touched hearts. Beloved daughter, wife, and mother."
How Long Should an Epitaph Be?
An epitaph's length should generally be kept short. A single phrase or single line is expected. In some cases, you may be able to write epitaphs as long as six to eight lines of verse, but this entirely depends on many factors. The longer the epitaph, the more room you will need on the headstone, and your headstone engraver may have guidelines on how many lines they can add. It's essential to know and understand how much room you have on the headstone and what your professional headstone maker advises.
Let Yourself Grieve
The most meaningful epitaphs are the ones read and immediately remind the reader of the deceased. They should evoke a response; you will undoubtedly want to avoid cliches and write something as unique as your loved one. For these reasons, there is no need to hurry to choose. Let yourself process your grief before finalizing anything on their headstones.
Reading examples of other epitaphs can help you write something meaningful to you and your loved one. Here are a few that may assist you in getting started:
- An angel on Earth and an angel in heaven.
- We shall meet beyond the river.
- I'll see you on the other side of the stars.
- To know him was to love him.
- The song is ended, but the melody lingers on – Irving Berlin
- Loved with such love and with such sorrow mourned. –Wordsworth
Longer epitaph examples:
Nor speak of me with tears, But laugh
And talk of me
As if I were beside you.
-- Isla Richardson
Those we love and lose
are always connected by heartstrings
We hope that we have been able to ease some of your burdens during this difficult time and hope that we have helped you with crafting a meaningful epitaph and tribute message.