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Choosing your Own Headstone

Have you even thought about choosing your own headstone? Leaving some guidance in your will could be a great help to your family.

Have you ever considered designing your own headstone? When people know they are going to die they often try to prepare as much as possible for their families, choosing what sort of funeral they’d like, allocating their precious possessions to their loved ones, and deciding what charities they’d like to leave money to. One thing that is rarely discussed, however, is the headstone or memorial stone.

Perhaps this is because talking about a headstone seems too final, and we don’t like to talk about death in this country. Perhaps the idea of setting our name in stone is too harsh a reminder of our mortality. Perhaps we would rather leave the decision to our families.

My mother died this year and I plucked up the courage to ask her what sort of memorial she would like, but it was not easy to raise the subject and I felt awkward doing so. I am however relieved that I did, as I would never have known what she wanted had I not asked.

A headstone or memorial stone is often the last thing that is chosen after we lose a loved one. It is a decision that is often put off, and for good reason, because choosing a headstone can be a very difficult process. Often the hardest thing is choosing what words or carvings to put on the stone. It can cause great anguish to the families trying to decide how best to capture the essence of their loved ones.

Another issue is the disagreement which can take place between family members such as the late wife and the parents of the deceased, who may have very different ideas of what they’d like. This can lead to terrible family rifts and turn what should be very therapeutic into a battle.

Headstone with gold disc

Why not choose your own headstone?

Your family might be very relieved to find instructions for your own headstone in your will. You could make the difficult decision of what epitaph to choose, what sort of stone you’d like, even what carvings you might like. You can offer them guidance if you don’t want to be too prescriptive, or even a few options. You might even like to include details of the person whom you’d like to make the headstone. If you wanted Fergus to make your headstone you could include one of our booklets in your will. This might be particularly important if you know that your family might disagree on what type of headstone to choose. The cost of the headstone can also come out of your estate saving on death duties.

headstone design

Designing the headstone in detail

You could either leave the design quite open, or you might even like to approach us before you die to have your stone designed in detail. This will take some of the burdens away from your family. You could include a copy of the design in your will. Some people even order the stone in advance which we can store in our workshop.

Alternatively, you can leave the final design to your family, but include some of the following details:

1.The text or epitaph you would like on your headstone. This might include a poem or verse for the back of the stone. You could include a few options.

2.The type of stone or at least an idea of whether you would like a light or dark coloured stone.

3.The size and shape of the stone.

4.The style of the design. We have a book which we will be publishing shortly called Choosing a Headstone which is full of ideas and inspiration. You might like to find a few headstones in the book which you like and include them in your will for guidance.

headstone quote

Leaving the decision to your family

You might prefer to leave the decision to your family. Giving them the chance to decide can be therapeutic for them and an important part of the grieving process. Clients often tell us how much commissioning the headstone has helped them and how much comfort it gives them. Giving your family some guidance though, even if it is just an idea for a carving, can be a way of reminding them of you every time they visit the grave. I am hoping that will be the case for my mother’s memorial.

Fergus W
Written by

Fergus Wessel

Designer and letter-carver

Fergus created Stoneletters Studio in 2003, after training at the Kindersley Workshop. He is a member of the prestigious Master Carver's Association.