Choosing an Epitaph for a Loved One

Image of a headstone on Tegeler's website

Deciding on an epitaph for a loved one can be a big responsibility. You and your family are experiencing a difficult time, and making decisions about memorializing someone can be challenging. While it may take some time to choose the right words, an epitaph is an important part of honoring your loved one. There is no right or wrong way to memorialize someone, but there are a few different considerations to take into account. Read on for our advice on choosing an epitaph for a loved one who has passed.

What is an Epitaph?

Gravestone epitaphs are phrases or statements written in memory of deceased persons. It is usually engraved on a headstone, plaque, or other memorial object. An epitaph is a part of the space dedicated to remembering and honoring a person, so it should be carefully selected by those who knew them best. Samuel Johnson wrote, “The principal intention of epitaphs is to perpetuate the examples of virtue, that the tomb of a good man may supply the want of his presence, and veneration for his memory produce the same effect as the observation of his life.” An epitaph can be virtually anything meaningful to the deceased person and/or their loved ones.

Choosing an Epitaph

There is no right or wrong way to memorialize a person. However, choosing the perfect phrase or quotation to honor your loved one and contribute to their headstone epitaphs and overall memorials can be a daunting task. While selecting an epitaph can be stressful, in the long-term, it will provide comfort and space for reflection for visitors in the future. There are a few things you can consider when choosing an epitaph, but ultimately, those who were closest to a person who has passed can hardly go wrong.

Life Roles

For many people, their relationships to others are a critical part of who they are and how they will be remembered. For example, one person might be a mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, wife, niece, and friend. These relationships reflect the multi-dimensional nature of a person and how they will be remembered by a wide range of different people. Consider your loved one and the roles they played in the lives of those close to them.

You can also include information about occupation if it seems appropriate to you and your family. For example, you might include “devoted teacher” or something similar. Some people are especially dedicated to their religious beliefs and consider them to be central to themselves and who they are. If your loved one, for example, practiced Islam, you might consider including imagery or text to reflect this. You and your family know what your loved one would have wanted, so trust your instincts when it comes to choosing life roles to honor them.

Meaningful Quotations, Poetry or Bible Verses

Think about what was important to your loved one. If they were religious, including a short passage from a religious text that was meaningful to them is a great way to honor them. Examples include:

From the Old and New Testaments:

  • “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8
  • “Under the shadow of thy wings.” – Psalm 36: 7
  • “Many waters cannot quench love.” – Song of Solomon 8:7
  • “In the hand of God.” – Ecclesiastes 9:1
  • “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever”. – Revelation 22:5
  • “Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13

Even if your loved one was religious, a line from a poem or a quotation might be a better fit for their epitaph. Consider any favorite books, poems, or historical figures. This type of quotation may be the perfect way to honor them. Some popular examples of quotations for epitaphs include:

  • “To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die.” – Thomas Campbell
  • “For all we know this might only be a dream, we come and go like ripples in a stream.” – Nat King Cole
  • “A life, like any other, completely unlike any other.” – Neil Gaiman
  • “There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.” – Mahatma Gandhi
  • “Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.” – Walt Whitman
  • “I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” – Sarah Williams

Classic Epitaphs

Your preference may be for a simple, classic epitaph. There are many beautiful and concise ways to honor your loved one. Examples of classic epitaphs include:

  • Beloved
  • So loving & so loved
  • Forever in our hearts
  • Rest in peace
  • In loving memory
  • Gone but not forgotten

Personal Epitaphs

Including personal information specific to your loved one is a great way to comfort visitors. For example, if they loved dancing or singing, you might choose an epitaph that evokes memories of them doing those things. You can also choose a quote from a poem or religious text that referencing dancing or singing. This will help people who visit in the future reflect on happy memories of your loved one doing the things they loved most. You can choose to mention things they loved, such as a certain place or a family pet, or even something unique and special about them.

Ultimately, you and your family knew your loved one best and are, therefore, best equipped to choose an epitaph. Keep in mind that the words you choose are meant to honor the deceased and comfort visitors, and decide based on what feels right. As long as an epitaph evokes the feelings and memories that are most comforting to you and your loved ones, you can’t go wrong.

Contact Us

If you are in need of assistance in choosing an epitaph and/or choosing a grave monument in Maryland, contact Tegeler Monument Company today. Our family has been working for more than five generations to help other families create beautiful, comforting memorial spaces that truly honor lost loved ones. Call 410-788-1318 for more information.