Over the last 2 years we’ve spoken with hundreds of families like yours as we’ve created Better Place Forests. In doing so, we’ve noticed the topics that come up the most when someone is going through the process of choosing a memorial.
We thought it would be helpful if we created a list of the 7 most important things to ask yourself when you’re going through the process of choosing a memorial.
1. Who are you creating your memorial for?
This isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Obviously any memorial you create is going to be for yourself. But there are always other people to consider. A memorial is often used as place to grieve and remember and it’s the place where friends and family will visit you.
One conversation we had early on was with a friend (male) of ours in his mid-50s. We were discussing Better Place Forests and he had mentioned he hadn’t done much thinking about his own memorial before.
He said to us, “If it were just up to me, I’d be fine with being spread anywhere outside. But I think something like this would really help my daughters grieve.”
The statement really hit home. While it might be your memorial and you should choose what you want, make sure that it can provide comfort for your friends and family as well.
2. Are you creating a personal or family memorial?
The most common issue that comes up is that when people begin to plan their memorial, they are asked if they are creating it for themselves (and for their husband or wife), or for their entire family.
One of the most comforting thoughts for both parents and children is that they will be reunited. My colleague Sandy’s parents thought of this when they purchased grave plots for their 2 sons before they died. Unfortunately though, because they only purchased 4 plots, there isn’t enough room at the cemetery for either of their sons’ families.
Planning for memorials should be about the long-term and it’s worth it to speak to your children before you make any decisions.
3. Do you want your family and friends to visit your memorial?
Traditionally the answer to this question has always been yes. With the increase in cremation though, it becomes a more complicated question.
If you are choosing an option in a cemetery or with Better Place Forests, your friends and family will have the ability to visit your plot, niche, or tree.
However, if you are choosing spreading in nature, keep in mind that there might not be a way for your friends and family to visit your final resting place.
4. What would you like your memorial to look like?
Depending on the option you choose, there are a number of options in what your memorial marker will be. If you’re choosing spreading in nature, you might want your ashes spread in a very specific way such as in a river, or in the ocean.
Some cemeteries allow a wide range of tombstones and niche options. Other types like Better Place Forests allow for a choice of trees.
Think about what your visitors will see and feel when they visit your memorial and what it will mean to them.
5. Where do you want your memorial to be located?
You might have lived in a few cities during your life and your friends and family might be somewhere else. You might want to be in the cemetery where your ancestors are or you might want to choose a new location for your own family.
Regardless of what you believe happens when people die, your final resting place will be somewhere that others visit to think of you.
Your memorial can often be a comfort for you as well. Knowing that you will return to the earth in that location. Therefore it’s important that you choose a location that makes you happy.
6. What would you like your memorial to say?
If you are choosing an option where you can customize the text on your memorial marker, you should think about what sentence or quote you would like.
Most often it is chosen by your family, but many people have something in particular they want it to say - perhaps a favorite quote or a sentiment that expresses how you lived your life.
The important thing to keep in mind is that this is what people be reminded of when they visit your grave and read your memorial.
7. What is the budget for your memorial?
Memorials in all types of cemeteries have a wide range of prices. Even spreading in nature has state fees.
If you have a particular memorial that you would like, make sure to find out the cost. While most people purchase their own memorial well in advance, others just specify an amount of money in their will for their family to use.
You don’t want to surprise your family with an unexpected bill. You also don’t want to leave them without clear guidance about what to do and how to pay for it.
Some Last Thoughts
When I first speak with people, they are often at the very beginning of their search for their personal or family memorial. They might have a rough idea of what they want, or they are just exploring all the options to see what feels right.
Your memorial is a very personal thing and will be a place that others go to remember you - make sure that you really think about what you want. Hopefully these questions are a good place to start.