How to Write Epitaphs and Memorial Sentiments

How can you describe a life in 25 words or less? Sounds impossible, yet that is precisely what writing an epitaph or memorial sentiment calls for. The number of words will vary according to the amount space you have to work with, but the goal is always the same: memorialize yourself or a deceased loved one in a few well-chosen words.

Epitaph or Memorial Sentiment?

To distinguish, an epitaph is the text inscribed on a tombstone; in fact, the word epitaph comes from a Greek word that means “on the gravestone.” A memorial sentiment, on the other hand, can refer to an inscription on a cremation urn, memorial plaque, or other form of memorial, including a grave marker.

An epitaph or memorial sentiment can be very short and simple, or more creative and personal. At a minimum, most inscriptions include the name of the deceased, along with dates of birth and death, for identification purposes. If your goal is to create an epitaph or memorial sentiment that captures the essence of the person for whom it is written, there are many places you can go for inspiration.

Where to Find Ideas

Following are some rich sources for ideas you can use in creating an epitaph.

  • Sacred texts – For those who embrace a religious faith, the sacred texts or holy books of most religions are filled with poetic verses of faith, hope, and love. Choose a passage that had special meaning for your loved one.
  • Favorite songs – Spend some time listening to your loved one’s favorite music. Chances are you’ll hear a lyric that would make a tender or meaningful epitaph.
  • Famous (and not-so-famous) quotes – Whether you’re looking for a sentiment that’s romantic, inspiring, humorous, or profane, you’re sure to something you like in a collection of quotations from notable people.

Write from Your heart

In the end, the best words are the ones that come from your heart. Whether you “borrow” your inspiration or the actual words from one of the sources above, or create your own original tribute, choose something that resonates in your heart. Choose something honest – if your loved one had no use for religion, a religious epitaph will ring hollow.  Likewise, don’t be afraid to use humor or sarcasm if it reflects the personality or philosophy of your loved one.

Here are some exercises to get your thoughts and your pen flowing:

  • Make a list of words you would use to describe your loved one. Write quickly, and don’t censor yourself – write down every word you can think of.
  • Write about the ways in which your loved one made a difference in your life.
  • If you could speak with your loved one at this very moment, what would you say?
  • What would you like everyone to know about your loved one?

Final Words

Have you written a memorial sentiment for a loved one? Or have you given any thought to what you’d like your own epitaph to say? Have you read any unique or intriguing epitaphs written by others?

Share Your Thoughts