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12 May 2014
The Headstone Guide

Dying Wishes

Dying Matters commissions new study which shows that half of all couples do not know how their partner would like to depart this world.

Planning your own headstone

​In an article today in The Times, new research by the organisation Dying Matters reveals that half of all people in couples have no idea how their partner would like to depart the world. Two-thirds of adults have not made a will. Four of five people questioned by Dying Matters said they do not feel comfortable talking about their own demise. This is evident in my experience with the commissioning of a headstone, where many clients do not know what their loved one wanted on the stone.

Once in a blue moon, I am commissioned to make a headstone for a person while they are still alive; usually, it is not something one wishes to think about and discuss - one’s own epitaph, but the wording is often decided with conviction and they usually make the most interesting and strongest inscriptions. The wording for a headstone is normally decided by the family of the deceased for obvious reasons. There are different approaches to choosing the right words; one way is to express one’s love and memory of that person for a purpose for those left behind.

The other way is to find words that express the nature, character or likes of the person the grave marks.

If there are lots of family members to be consulted, it can take months to come up with the right words. In these cases, one cannot list every attribute of the deceased, but there is usually at least one word everyone can agree on. The words will be there for many, many years and cannot be changed, making the decision even harder.

If you want to leave instructions for a headstone in your will, it is possible for you to visit me in advance and create a headstone design which can then be kept on file. Alternatively you may just wish to look at my book for ideas and perhaps leave suggestions and guidance for your family.

Information you may want to include:

1.Headstone Material- you may specify a stone, or at least give an indication of whether you would prefer a light or dark stone.

2.Wording- you may have a specific epitaph in mind, or you may wish to provide guidance such as "something simple or a poem".

3.Carvings of decoration- you may have some idea of a special carving or decoration you would like to include

4.The general style or feel of the headstone lettering- do you want a very traditional headstone, something simple, or maybe something that is more contemporary or individual.

If you see any headstones you like in our book or on our website, you could refer to the pages in the book, or the names on the headstone for reference for inspiration.

When my mother in law died, we gave her a DIY, or family lead funeral, which was the most beautiful send-off. For a full description of her beautiful DIY funeral read this post.


Traditional headstone
Simple headstone

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Our Headstones book is full of advice and inspiration and every penny we raise goes to supporting Maggie's Cancer Care Charity

Headstones book SEE THE BOOK
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.