The people we talked to wanted to have one or more ways of remembering the person who had died (also see Coping with grief and keeping memories alive). It sometimes took many months after the death to decide whether and how to mark a grave or special place. It offered a good opportunity to involve people affected by the death, but sometimes the decisions were made rather too quickly, or people felt excluded if they were not consulted.
Some had marked the grave with a headstone. Others had marked the burial place, or where ashes were scattered, with a plaque, a small stone or a memorial bench.
Most people found it comforting to visit a gravestone or other memorial (see Burying the body or scattering or burying the ashes
). A few said that they did not need to visit a particular place because the person was with them in spirit or because they would rather live with memories of the person than visit a place to remember them.
A few people had planted a tree or some plants or had given money to a hospital or school in memory of their relative. Alex and Felicity took comfort in setting up a prize in their daughter’s memory, The Alice Duncan Travel Prize.
Some people had asked their funeral director to put them in touch with a monumental mason, who had helped them to design a memorial. Ann, for example, said that she could order a stone at the crematorium. Others had found a sculptor or letter-cutter who had spent hours designing, carving and installing a headstone or a smaller stone to lie in the ground. Alex said that it is important to take time to think about a memorial and not to rush the process of designing and choosing a stone.
Kate pointed out that in many parts of the country, it may take a year or more for the soil to settle after a burial. That was another reason for waiting to have a gravestone made. Margaret delayed a long time before commissioning a gravestone for her daughter because she mistakenly thought she had to wait until after the inquest before she could erect a permanent memorial stone. When she received the final death certificate she had a heart-shaped stone made for the grave.
Some people spent a long time choosing the type of stone, the inscription and the design for a gravestone. It sometimes took a while for people to find the type of stone they really wanted. People often chose a design or motif for the stone that represented something important about the person who had died. For example, Susan, Barry’s mother, asked the stonemason to carve a lion on Barry’s gravestone, because her son had left a picture of a lion with his letter when he died. The lion represented freedom for him.
Amanda asked the letter-cutter to carve a daisy on the back of the stone for her son because he had called one of his guitars Daisy. Also when he was a child and his grandparents’ ashes were buried he had picked a daisy and put it on the box.
Bob and Lynda did not want a religious symbol on Darren’s gravestone, and chose a stone with a smooth face and a rough edge, to represent the life they thought he must have led. They had his name carved on the stone. They find the graveyard both a comforting and a painful place to be.
Rachel was only 15 years old when her mother died by suicide. Her father chose the headstone and an inscription which refers to “such a tragic ending”. Rachel has been planning to replace it.
Susan has found great comfort from giving money to build a teaching block, a toilet block and a playground for a school in Africa, in memory of her daughter Rose. Her daughter’s ashes are scattered in places that are important to Susan.
When Paula’s husband died she commissioned a headstone for his grave. On the second anniversary of his death his colleagues put together a short film of him at work and put it on YouTube. Paula thinks the film will be nice for her daughters as they get older, and will help them to remember their father.