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Forever In Our Hearts:Beautiful Words To Put On A Headstone

Emily Hutton

While we all know that no one can live forever, losing a loved one is never easy. Whether it’s sudden or something you’ve been expecting for a while now, nothing quite prepares you for the barrage of emotions that come on the day it finally happens.

A well-thought-out headstone inscription is one way to commemorate a lost loved one, whether it’s your mother, father, sibling, spouse, child, or even very close friends. To make this difficult process easier, we have put together a collection of beautiful words to put on a headstone, from short headstone sayings to poetic tributes.

Small stone marker inscribed with in loving memory with flowers on top

What Goes On A Headstone?

Headstone inscriptions can be very minimal and simple or very detailed and personalized. The simplest inscription on a tombstone is simply the deceased’s name along with their year of birth and death. Most wording on headstones also includes memorial phrases such as “forever in our hearts” or “in loving memory” quotes.

If a person usually went by a name different from their legal name, you may want to include this name to make the headstone more easily recognizable to people who visit to pay their respects. This is especially important for people who did not identify with their given names and have chosen names for themselves, whether they were able to have them legally changed or not.

Depending on where your loved one will be buried, there may be rules on what goes on a headstone or headstone etiquette. Take a walk around the cemetery and check out other headstones to get an idea of what is expected, and always consult with the administration should you prefer a more unique headstone.

Cross tombstone engraved with Lest We Forget

How To Choose Epitaphs

Epitaphs are, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, “phrase[s] or form of words written in memory of a person who has died, especially as an inscription on a tombstone”. It’s also defined as “someta

Epitaphs are, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, “phrase[s] or form of words written in memory of a person who has died, especially as an inscription on a tombstone”. It’s also defined as “something by which a person, time, or event will be remembered”. Epitaphs are not a requirement for tombstones, but many people include one to express their love and remember the deceased. 

After a loss, it might be hard to find the appropriate words. Here are some ways you can go about choosing the perfect epitaph.

Use Their Words

A great gravestone epitaph will ideally encapsulate the life, values, and impact of the person it’s written about. Some people might have already planned for this before they died and have a preferred quote for memorial purposes.

Several famous personalities have their own words as their epitaphs:

  • “The best is yet to come.” – Frank Sinatra
  • “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty I’m free at last.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” – Winston Churchill
  • “Murdered by a traitor and coward whose name is not worthy to appear here.” – Jesse James
  • “That’s all, folks!” – Mel Blanc

Take the time to speak with people who were close to the person who passed, as they may be able to help you narrow down your choices.

Quote Their Favorites

Personalized headstone epitaphs don’t necessarily need to be words that the deceased said or wrote. If they had a favorite book, movie, or song, you might want to draw inspiration from them – perhaps a line from a song that they constantly hummed when they were around or a saying by their favorite character.

For a moving epitaph, poem verses or lines can be used. If the deceased is religious or spiritual, take a cue from prayers or religious texts such as the Bible, Talmud, or Quran

Woman standing on a pathway looking at a grave from afar

Keep It Simple

Headstones are usually not very big, so while you might want to commemorate your deceased loved one with plenty of words, it’s much better to go with something that’s short and sweet. There are many short, beautiful words for a gravestone that you can use to sum up just how important a person was to you.

A simple way to honor the roles a person has had throughout their life is to indicate them on their headstone. Of course, don’t go with their technical titles – instead, go with the roles that made their lives meaningful both for them and the people they left behind. Here are some epitaph examples:

  • Mentor and mother to many
  • Served the country, served the people
  • Beloved father, uncle, and grandfather

There’s no need to use fancy or pretentious words on a gravestone to express the importance of a person. What’s important is that it’s meaningful for those who matter, even if it’s as simple as, “You will always be in our hearts.”

Headstone Inscription Inspiration

If you’re struggling to find the words that will perfectly capture your deceased beloved’s spirit and personality, here are some ideas that you can use or take inspiration from.

Husband And Wife Headstone Inscriptions

While wedding vows often include the line “til death do us part”, many often choose to still be together even after death – at least in the cemetery. Though it may take a while for a married pair to be together again in death, it’s a beautiful idea to honor their commitment to each other in life. 

Here are some possible epitaphs for couples’ headstones:

  • “They were lovely in their lives, and in death they were not parted.”
  • “You were the love that made all the others irrelevant.” – Rupi Kaur
  • “Two halves of the same soul joining together in life’s journey.”
  • “Real love stories never have endings.” – Richard Bach
  • “A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” – Dave Meurer
  • “We lived together in happiness, now we rest together in peace.”

For couples who were religious, here are some cemetery Bible verse ideas:

  • “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” – 1 Corinthians 13:8
  • “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” – 1 John 4:12
  • “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8
  • “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” – Colossians 3:14
White tombstones and graves

Memorial Tribute Quotes For Parents And Grandparents

We can only hope that our parents and grandparents live forever, but the time inevitably comes for them to eternally rest. The following memorial quotes are for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and any other parental figures in your life:

  • “A mother holds her children’s hands for a while, their hearts forever.”
  • “I love you for giving me your eyes, for staying back and watching me shine.” – Taylor Swift
  • “Her children rise up and call her blessed.”
  • “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Budington Kelland
  • “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.”
  • “A loving father, tender and kind, what a beautiful memory you left behind.”
  • “Our parents, you are with us always – whether near or far. For you see, we’re connected by the heart.”
  • “Those we love never truly leave us. There are things that death cannot touch.” – Jack Thorne
  • “What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us.” – Helen Keller
Half-buried headstone inscribed with mother

Headstone Quotes For A Son And Brother/Daughter And Sister

For those who suffer the painful loss of a child or sibling, here are a few epitaphs ideas:

  • “Always loving, always loved.”
  • “No man is indispensable, but some are irreplaceable.”
  • “If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.” – David Ellsworth
  • “Life is not forever. Love is.”
  • “Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.” – Walt Whitman
  • “Born into the arms of the angels.”
  • “So small, so sweet, so soon.”
  • “Ours for a little while.”

Tribute To A Friend Who Passed Away

Quotes specifically for friends who have passed tend to be less common as it is usually family who ends up choosing headstone inscriptions. However, a person especially known for having many friends can be honored through the following epitaphs:

  • Loving son/daughter/child, brother/sister/sibling, and friend
  • “Beloved by family, cherished by friends.”
  • “He who has achieved success has lived well, laughed often and loved much.” – Bessie Anderson Stanley
  • “The world is diminished because he is gone, but it is still a better place because he was here.”
  • “Say not in grief ‘he is no more’ but in thankfulness that he was.”
  • “To lose a friend is the greatest of all losses.” – Cicero
  • “The best of friends know that they were loved for who they were in life and will be remembered for their heart in their death.”
  • “There is no greater memory than the sound of a friend’s laugh. May it drown out the sound of my cries.”
  • “The comfort of having a friend may be taken away, but not that of having had one.” – Seneca
  • “You cannot stop loving your friend because he’s dead, especially if he was better than anyone alive, you know?” – JD Salinger
  • “His friendship was an inspiration, his love a blessing.”
A group of people standing before a grave

Epitaphs For Spouses And Life Partners

The loss of a spouse and life partner is a devastating blow. A well-chosen epitaph would be the perfect way to honor their memory as well as express your love and what they meant to you. Here are several epitaphs for a lost partner:

  • “Grief is the price we pay for love.” – Queen Elizabeth II
  • “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” – Song of Solomon 8:6
  • “I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life; and if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • “His name is written in letters of love on the hearts he left at home.”
  • “Lives of great men all remind us / We can make our lives sublime, / And, departing, leave behind us / Footprints on the sands of time.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Black and gray marble tombstone on a grass field

Cemetery Bible Verses

If the deceased found comfort in religion during their life, a Bible verse could serve as an apt epitaph. The following are from different versions of the Bible, so if you or the deceased has a preferred version, you might want to check that out for different wording.

  • “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” – Psalm 23:1
  • “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – 2 Timothy 4:7
  • “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1
  • “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” – Ephesians 2:10
  • “And so we shall be forever with the Lord.” – Thessalonians 4:17
  • “With Christ, which is far better.” – Philippians 1:23
  • “I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4
  • “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” – Psalm 23:4
  • “Sleep on now, and take your rest.” – Matthew 26:45
Bible on top of a tombstone

Poetic Gravestone Epitaphs

Poets are able to express a great range of emotions and meaning in such a limited number of words, making their works a great source for headstone inscriptions. These are particularly appropriate for those who in life were avid readers and lovers of literature:

  • “Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality.” – “Because I could not stop for Death”, Emily Dickenson
  • “Parting is Hell, but life goes on, so sing as well.” – “If I Should Go”, Joyce Grenfell
  • “Miss me a little, but not for long, and not with your head bowed low, remember the love that once we shared, miss me, but let me go.” – “Let Me Go”, Christina Rossetti
  • “And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side of my darling–my darling–my life and my bride, in her sepulcher there by the sea–in her tomb by the sounding sea.” – “Annabel Lee”, Edgar Allan Poe
  • “And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.” – “On Death”, Khalil Gibran

Shakespeare may have written his works centuries ago, but his words still resonate. Here are a few lines from his works that may be used for headstone inscriptions:

  • “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives this and this gives life to thee.” – “Sonnet 18”
  • “He gave his honors to the world again, his blessed part to heaven, and slept in peace.” – Henry VI, Part 3
  • “Thou know’st ‘tis common; all that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity.” – Hamlet
  • “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” – The Tempest
  • “If you read this line, remember not the hand that writ it; for I love you so, that I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot, if thinking on me then should make you woe.” – “Sonnet 71”
  • “Good night, sweet friend: thy love ne’er alter, till thy sweet life end.” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.” – As You Like It
Black marble tombstone engraved with if our love could have saved him, he would not have died

Unique Headstones

A headstone is meant to mark a grave, making it easier to find. While having a unique headstone inscription may make this easier, there are a few other ways you can make a headstone stand out.

Material

Most headstones are made out of granite, a durable and relatively budget-friendly material, and thus look quite similar. By simply choosing a different material, like marble or bronze, you can get a unique look that will make it easy to spot the headstone from far away.

Engravings And Carvings

In addition to or in lieu of an epitaph, a headstone can have an engraving or carving of a unique pattern or design. With today’s technology, it’s even possible to engrave an image of the deceased on the gravestone! This can either be decorative or the focal point of the headstone.
Tombstone with decorative border and tree engraving

Shapes

A truly unique person deserves a truly unique headstone. Custom headstones may cost a bit more, but if your loved one was passionate about something that can be expressed through a sculpture, it may be worth it. Instead of the usual tombstone shape, consider musical instruments, crests, or other objects that reflect the deceased’s passions and personality.

Can I Change Headstone Inscriptions?

If, in hindsight, you realize that there’s a better headstone inscription or design that will better commemorate your deceased loved one, you may want to change headstones. How easy this will be may depend on where you live, and the cemetery you will need to work with.

While it may vary from place to place, you should, at the very least, be ready with proof that you are the authorized person to change the headstone – this includes proof that you are the next of kin or the rightful owner of the plot where the headstone currently is.

In Loving Memory, Forever In Our Hearts

Whether you choose to go with a common headstone inscription or a unique memorial quote, what matters is that it’s meaningful for you, your family, and your deceased loved one. We hope that this list has made it easier for you to make this difficult decision!

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