It has taken me three and a half years to design and pay for my daughter Lily Katherine's headstone. Because I have had lots of time to think about exactly what I want to be permanently etched in stone, I decided to share some ideas with others who are going through the painful process of designing a headstone for their baby. I hope my thoughts and suggestions will be of use to you as you decide what story you want to tell of your precious little one's life to those who will see their stone, both friends and family, as well as passersby at the cemetery... now and decades from now.
Here is my daughter Lily's headstone:
Do you want a headstone for just your baby, or would you like to have one with yours and your spouse's names included as well for when you pass away? If you lost multiples, do you want them to each have their own stone (maybe identical, just with their individual names) or a shared stone?
Decide if you want your baby's stone to be flat or upright. Be sure to find out what the rules and regulations are at the specific cemetery where your baby is buried. Some cemeteries, like where my daughter is buried, allow people complete creative control over headstone designs. Other cemeteries have rules that must be followed, such as all the stones have to be flat. There are many beautiful options for both flat and upright stones.
What shape do you want the stone to be? If it's going to be upright, consider these - an angel, cross, heart, teddy bear, baby toy, lamb, rocking horse, butterfly, etc. You can do a simple Google search with keywords that you have in mind and you will find many beautiful stones for inspiration and ideas.
Think about what picture or design you would like on the front or back of the stone, or on the top, if the stone is flat. Is there an animal or symbol that is special to you? What did you use in your baby's nursery, at their shower, etc.? If you don't have any special symbols, think about including something "babyish," such as a building block, pacifier, bib, toy plane, train, or baby booties. Jesus holding a baby would make a beautiful image on a headstone. For a list of ideas of symbols and their meanings, click HERE.
Decide what size you want your baby's stone to be. Personally, I wanted my daughter's stone to be tiny and sweet since she was a baby. The size of the stone will also determine the price.
What kind of stone do you prefer? Dark or light? Some options you have are granite (this is what I chose), marble, limestone, sandstone, slate, iron, and bronze. Google search these images to see what colors and stones you like. Remember, what you choose to make your baby's special memorial stone in will determine the pricing.
Now, what would you like the inscription on the stone to be? Generally, a person's name, birthdate and date of death are included (or when a child is born still, like my Lily was, just one date is listed). Since there is not much space and this is a permanent memorial, think long and hard about what you want on your baby's stone. You can include writing on the front and back of the stone (and in some cases, even on the top part of the base, like I chose to have done). Of course, every monument company will operate differently and will have different fees. What perfect wording do you want? What story do you want to tell of your child's life and legacy? You can either use something someone else wrote or write something yourself. Do you want a heading such as "In Loving Memory of" above your child's name? Do you want something under their name and birthdate? Do you want to include the time they were born and died? Consider using Scripture verses that point to the promise of Eternal LIFE in Heaven.
You could also use a special quote, phrase, song lyrics, or nursery rhyme. Click HERE for some inscription ideas. Here are some of my favorite examples:
- “Budded on Earth to bloom in Heaven”
- "A moment in our arms, a lifetime in our hearts"
- “You touched our lives for the briefest of moments, yet you will stay with us forever”
- “An angel in the book of life wrote down my baby’s birth. Then whispered as she closed the book ‘too beautiful for earth’”
- "There are no goodbyes; where ever we are, you'll always be in our hearts"
- "As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be"
The unique and beautiful options for what you can do with your baby's stone are endless. There are many modern things that you can include that you wouldn't have been able to 100 years ago. For instance, you could have their picture put on it. You could have their handprints and/or footprints engraved. You could even have your own handwriting etched into the stone like my friend Morgan did for her son, Marcellus's stone. I thought a lot about putting a secret message to Lily in my own handwriting somewhere on her stone, but in the end chose not to. I also seriously thought about including her prints... however, I thought I wanted to make it look more like a stone you'd find from long ago.
What kind of font do you want on the stone? Click HERE for some font examples. What color do you want the font to be?
Do you want a flower vase to be included on top of the flat stone if you choose for it to be flat or on the side of the upright stone? Make sure you consider this before signing off on design plans because it may change the pricing and where the actual stone will be placed on the base.
I know how it can be a financial burden to purchase a headstone for a baby, something you never imagined you'd have to purchase. And I get it that headstones are expensive. That's why it's taken me so long to get my daughter's stone. It has been really tough waiting, but in a way I am glad I did because I have had time to think about exactly what I want, rather than rushing into it. It can be discouraging if you think you can't afford it. There are amazing organizations that offer financial support to those purchasing a headstone for their baby. Check out The Dempsey Burdick Memorial Foundation, Your Baby My Baby, The Tiana Foundation, and Hana's Gift (there might be other organizations that you can search for online). You should also know that you don't necessarily have to pay the entire cost of the headstone up front. For instance, I put down a deposit on half the cost of the stone and then they were able to begin production. I have been working on paying it off the entire time that it's been in production. You could possibly do a fundraiser for your baby's headstone (GoFundMe is a great option) and ask friends and family to consider contributing.
I know these are difficult decisions to make and can be quite overwhelming because how do you choose something that you will be satisfied with forever? Especially when it's a headstone for your baby and you want it to be perfect. It's especially hard knowing it's one of the last things you can do for your baby. If you need someone to talk to or want advice on design plans, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You could even go to your local cemetery for some ideas, which is what I did. As a matter of fact, at a big cemetery in Raleigh is where I found the exact size stone I wanted. I took measurements that I sent to the monument company and I took photos of the lamb to show them what I wanted... that way I knew exactly what I was getting.
I will end with a few beautiful examples of stones for inspiration (if you would like your baby's headstone to be pictured here for inspiration, please send a photo to me!)
If you can think of any other useful ideas and tips, please let me know!