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Courtney Cook

Top 10 Songs for a Funeral Ceremony

By Meaningful Funerals, Music

Music can be a powerful component of the funeral ceremony because it allows us to process our feelings in a very special way. Grief counselor and educator Dr. Alan Wolfelt says that music imprints itself on the heart more than any other experience in life. Music can help us express our emotions in unique ways that words cannot.

As you select songs for your loved one’s funeral service, think about songs that were meaningful to them; almost any song that your loved one enjoyed could be used in their service. If you’re unsure where to start, though, here are 10 great songs you can incorporate into your loved one’s funeral or memorial service.

Fire and Rain (James Taylor)

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus
You’ve got to help me make a stand
You’ve just got to see me through another day

This enormously popular early ’70s hit, written and passionately sung by the great James Taylor, contains many themes that apply to a funeral audience: the loss of a friend, praying for help from a higher power, and attempts to stand firm during times of “fire and rain.” The peaceful and sweet melody balances the honest and vulnerable lyrics, capturing both the complexity of the grieving process and the various emotions people experience in the aftermath of loss.

Stand by Me (Ben E. King)

Oh, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand
Stand by me

This classic pop song is simple and direct, but that doesn’t mean it lacks depth or heart. An instantly recognizable anthem of love and perseverance, the song strikes just the right note for a funeral, conveying hope amid painful circumstances. When we go through difficult times, we all need someone to stand by and support us, and this song beautifully encapsulates that need. It’s been covered many times by a number of talented artists, but the original is preferable for its familiarity and for King’s raw energy.

You Raise Me Up (Westlife)

I am strong
When I am on your shoulders
You raise me up
To more than I can be

While several bands have covered “You Raise Me Up,” Westlife’s version is one of the most popular. With lyrics that remind us that we are stronger because of the people we surround ourselves with, this song would be a beautiful tribute to a parent or mentor who was always there to support those around them. Additionally, for those who are religious, “You Raise Me Up” can be seen as a reminder that during times of grief, we can turn to God for support.

You’re My Best Friend (Don Williams)

You placed gold on my finger
You brought love like I’ve never known
You gave life to our children
And to me a reason to go on

This song’s simple, straightforward lyrics beautifully capture the love between a married couple. Don Williams delivers some of the most heartfelt and heartbreaking lines ever recorded as a tribute to the person who is his “anchor in life’s oceans.” Losing someone you love, lean on, and find comfort in is one of the hardest things you can go through, and this song can serve as a heartfelt tribute to honor the memory of a spouse or long-time partner.

We’ll Meet Again (Vera Lynn)

We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day

Vera Lynn’s 1939 classic has undeniably been a favorite choice for funeral services for many years. Written on the eve of the Second World War, it captured the sentiments of many families who had to say goodbye as their loved ones left for battle. But this British tune has taken on a deeper meaning as families have used it in funerals for their loved ones. Vera Lynn’s piercing voice conveys hope in the face of loss in a way that carries universal appeal, and many people have used it to say goodbye to someone they love.

Into the West (Annie Lennox)

Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

While it was composed for the end credits of the 2003 film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, respect for this song extends far beyond Tolkien fans. The universal appeal of the lyrics and Lennox’s breathtaking vocal performance make it a great choice for a funeral service. The nature-driven imagery highlights both the pain of loss and the hope of a peaceful rest for a loved one. Lennox’s faith-driven assurance that “you and I will meet again” makes this a particularly good choice for religious ceremonies.

Tears in Heaven (Eric Clapton)

Beyond the door
There’s peace I’m sure
And I know there’ll be no more
Tears in heaven

Written after the loss of his 4-year-old son, “Tears in Heaven” is a moving piece about Clapton’s grief journey. The gorgeous melody, masterful acoustic guitar work, and heartfelt lyrics are perfect for honoring the life of a loved one. Over the past 25 years, the song has sprung up in many funerals, and its popularity isn’t surprising. “Tears in Heaven” portrays a bold and honest struggle with grief, while the profoundly personal nature of the song resonates with many families who have lost loved ones.

Landslide (Fleetwood Mac)

Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too

Once they released their self-titled 1975 album, Fleetwood Mac exploded into the mainstream. The album features many of the band’s most popular songs, but Landslide, a heartfelt exploration of loss and change, packs the greatest emotional wallop. A great choice to honor the memory of a parent or close loved one, this gentle pop song has been a favorite at memorial services for many years.

See You Again (Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth)

So let the light guide your way, yeah
Hold every memory as you go
And every road you take
Will always lead you home

The most recent song on this list, See You Again, was written and recorded for Furious 7 (2015) as a goodbye to Paul Walker, one of the main actors who died suddenly during the movie’s production. Charlie Puth’s heartfelt vocals and Wiz Khalifa’s nostalgic rap work together to create a song filled with both the grief of loss and gratitude for the happy memories together. In recent years, this song has struck a chord with many grieving families and captured the hope of a time when we’ll be reunited with the loved ones we’ve lost.

My Way (Frank Sinatra)

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Sinatra’s anthem is undeniably one of the most popular funeral songs, and it’s easy to see why. This classic song celebrates a life well lived and is a testament to the power of the individual and the impact that they can have on the world. In addition, the beautiful lyrics and Sinatra’s powerful voice work together to create a bold, heartfelt sound. A fitting tribute to a loved one who embraced life to the fullest and faced “the final curtain” with dignity, “My Way” is still a timeless song to honor a loved one.

For more suggestions on songs to include at a funeral service, check out the resources below:

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person's hand pressing the hazard light button in a car

Everything You Need to Know About Funeral Procession Etiquette

By Educational

Funeral processions have long been a part of the funeral tradition, beginning before there were even cars. While this practice has changed throughout the years, it remains an important step in the grieving process for many families. As a ritual, the funeral procession allows families to mourn together and honor their loved one.

But many drivers don’t know what to do when they encounter a funeral procession or become a part of one for a friend or family member. If you’re part of a procession, do you stop at red lights and stop signs? If you come across a procession while driving, do you pull over? Or can you pass the slower cars?

Here’s what you need to know about funeral procession etiquette:

If You’re in a Funeral Procession

Drive slowly

car driving with brake lights lit up

Out of respect and to ensure the group stays together, most funeral processions drive below the speed limit. On most side or back roads, you’ll travel around 30 mph. If you go on a highway, you typically won’t go over 50-55 mph.

Follow closely

Leave stopping space between you and the car in front of you, but not much more! Drive closely behind the person in front of you to prevent those who aren’t part of the procession from cutting in.

Stay with the procession

Don’t leave the procession or take a different turn. The people behind you may not know where to go. Additionally, before leaving, check with the funeral home or procession leader to find out if you should go through red lights and stop signs. Some states allow this. If a police officer is directing traffic, follow their guidance.

Turn on your headlights or hazards

person's hand pressing the hazard light button in a car

Traditionally, cars in a funeral procession turn on their headlights to show others that they are part of the procession. You can also turn on your hazards if you wish or if the family requests it, but these are only necessary for the lead and caboose cars.

Keep noise to a minimum

Out of respect for the other mourners and the deceased, don’t play loud music while driving. If you wish to listen to music, keep the volume low and make sure your windows are rolled up. Also, it’s best to stay off your phone and avoid honking or revving your engine as you drive.

If You Encounter a Funeral Procession

Avoid passing

sign by a road on an orange cone that says funeral with an arrow pointing to the left

If you encounter a slow-moving funeral procession, do not pass it. In some areas, pulling over to the side of the road may be required, much like for an emergency vehicle. If you are on a highway with multiple lanes, you can pass the procession, but please do so with caution and respect and only pass on the left side.

Don’t cut into the procession

Cutting into a funeral procession is disrespectful and, in some states, illegal. Don’t try to join the procession or cut in to take a turn or exit. People in the procession may not know where to go, and you may cause confusion or an accident.

Yield the right of way

yield sign

Laws about funeral processions and right of way vary from state to state, but it’s always a good idea to yield the right of way to a procession when you can. If a funeral procession passes through an intersection and your light turns green, wait until the procession passes before continuing.

Keep noise to a minimum

To show respect to the procession, turn down any loud music. Never honk at the cars in a procession, and don’t rev your engine, especially if you’re passing them.

Watch for the end car

Typically, the car at the end of a procession will have extra flashing lights or flags to signal the end of the procession. Some processions may have a police escort with them. Once the final car has passed, you can drive as normal.

Whether you’re part of a procession or simply a bystander, the most important thing to remember is to show respect to the deceased and the mourners. By showing kindness and respect to those in a funeral procession, you can make a hard day a little easier.

Quill pen and ink bottle next to a stack of handwritten letters

Ladies of Liberty: Remembering Mercy Otis Warren

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

“The British were indeed very far superior to the Americans in every respect necessary to military operations, except the revivified courage and resolution, the result of sudden success after despair.”
– Mercy Otis Warren

As we mark the Fourth of July and the independence brought about after the Revolutionary War, it’s impossible not to remember the historical men and women who played key roles in the creation of our nation. Men like George WashingtonBenjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are easily remembered, but what about the women – the ladies of liberty – who also deserve our remembrance and respect? Today, let’s talk about Mercy Otis Warren and how she influenced the American Revolution with her mightiest weapon – a pen!


Early years

Born in Barnstable, Massachusetts, on September 14, 1728, Mercy Otis Warren was the third of James and Mary Allyne Otis’s thirteen children. Like many women at the time, Mercy didn’t receive a formal education, but she learned much about history and politics from her father, her uncle, and her older brother, James Otis Jr., who helped her build her passion for writing.

In 1754, Mercy married James Warren, a friend of her brother and a politically active patriot, and the two had five children together. Thanks to her husband’s position and commitment to the colonies’ cause, their house became the center for much of the political action at the time, and the two often hosted groups of Patriots in their home. In fact, she and her husband were friends with John and Abigail Adams, who supported and encouraged their efforts to aid the Revolution, and the two couples often exchanged letters.

Early Influence on the Revolution

As unrest began to build in the colonies, Mercy was determined to build support for the Patriot cause. While she could not become involved in politics as a woman, she did have one powerful skill she could use to influence others: writing. Starting in 1772, Mercy wrote and anonymously published multiple satirical plays and dramas that criticized Britain’s policies and their Loyalist support.

After the Boston Tea Party in December of 1773, John Adams wrote a letter to James, Mercy’s husband, that asked for Mercy to write about the event. Mercy did, writing a poem titled “The Squabble of the Sea Nymphs; or the Sacrifice of the Tuscararoes,” which the Boston Gazette published on their front page. Her works helped fuel support for the Patriots’ cause and brought the nation closer to the fight for independence.

Photo of the US Constitution

Writing the History of a New Nation

While Mercy’s early writings shaped the course of the Revolution, the works she wrote after the Revolution made an even bigger impact. Mercy was unafraid to stand by her political beliefs and examine the actions of even the most powerful politicians despite some of the backlash she received. After the drafting of the Constitution in 1787, Mercy wrote a pamphlet denouncing the Constitution, pointing out that it moved power away from the people without protecting their rights – an argument that encouraged Congress to add the Bill of Rights in 1789.

Additionally, her most famous work is History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, a detailed historical account of the Revolution she lived through. Within its pages, Mercy provides a detailed picture of the events of the Revolution, along with her own commentary. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she argued against slavery, stating that the practice was contrary to American principles. While the collection was not popular when published in 1805, Mercy’s account is valued by historians as one of the earliest accounts of the Revolution, with many significant insights about the historical figures of the time.

Mercy continued writing for many years until her death in 1814. She was buried next to her husband at Burial Hill Cemetery in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Key Contributions

At a time when women were discouraged from formal education and politics, Mercy became a powerful force in both realms. Her writings paved the way for the Revolution and created a space for women’s voices and opinions. In addition, she passionately supported many causes, including the rights of the people, education for women, and the abolition of slavery.

From her plays to her historical accounts, Mercy left her mark on the Revolution and shared her unique perspective on the events she experienced firsthand.

Quill pen and ink bottle next to a stack of handwritten letters

Interesting Facts

  • Hosted political meetings at her home
  • A close friend of many Patriot leaders, including John and Abigail Adams
  • Wrote three satirical plays criticizing British policies: The Adulator (1772), Defeat (1773), and The Group (1775)
  • Wrote History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution (1805), one of the first accounts of the Revolution
  • The first female historian in the United States
  • A statue of Mercy stands outside of the Barnstable County Courthouse in Massachusetts

The Importance of Legacy and Remembrance

As you can see, Mercy Otis Warren lived an extraordinary life and used her words to help shape our nation during a difficult time. She was a patriot. An intellectual. A wife and mother. A brilliant writer. A feminist. A historian. She left a clear legacy, both to her children and to the fledgling nation she helped found.

As we remember Mercy Otis Warren and the events that made her life both ordinary and extraordinary, take a moment to think about your own life. Are you leaving a legacy that you and your family can be proud of? Have you shared what’s most important with those you care about?

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. What we do matters. While most of us will never be famous or well-known, that’s not the point of a legacy. Instead, think of legacy as your opportunity to take your family and the next generation to a level you can only imagine. Just like Mercy did!

young woman sitting on a bench, smiling with her elderly parents

5 Reasons to Discuss Your Funeral Wishes with Your Family

By Plan Ahead

Planning a funeral after someone has already died can leave family members with many questions and add stress to an already difficult time. But while thinking about your own death can be uncomfortable, planning ahead for your funeral wishes can lift a huge burden off your family’s shoulders.

As you begin to put your wishes down in writing and talk to your funeral director, don’t forget to discuss your wishes for your funeral with your family. While starting the conversation about this sensitive topic may be difficult, the discussion will benefit everyone. Here are 5 reasons you should talk about your funeral wishes with your family:

1. Make Your Wishes Known

young woman sitting on a bench, smiling with her elderly parents

Whether you choose to talk to your family when you start planning or after you already have something on file, they need to know that you’ve thought about what you want for your funeral.

If your family is unaware of your wishes, they may not know which decisions to make. That can lead to emotional overspending, where a family spends more because they want to get “only the best” for their loved one. When you talk to your family about your wishes, they can make more confident decisions during the planning process.

By sharing your wishes with them, you ensure that you’re all on the same page. Your family will know exactly what you want, and you’ll know that your wishes will be carried out.

2. Get Another Opinion

elderly african american couple smiling and hugging outside

In some cases, you may not know exactly what you want. Maybe you know you prefer burial but don’t know where you’d want a service to be held. Or maybe you just need a second opinion from someone you trust.

When answering tough questions like these, discussing your wishes with your family members can be helpful! Your family members are often the people who know you the best, and their suggestions could help you make decisions. Plus, by talking with them as you create your plan, they’ll better understand the reasoning behind your wishes.

However, if you think your family members might object to some of your wishes or influence you to make decisions you don’t want, don’t feel pressured to discuss your wishes with them before you have everything set! You can always wait and let them know after your wishes are on file.

3. Prepare Your Family

older couple playing with their young grandson outside

Whether you include your family in the planning process or not, discussing your wishes with them will help them understand what you want and make sure they aren’t surprised by your wishes, like if you choose to donate your body to science or have an outdoor service instead of one at your church.

In addition, as you discuss your wishes with your family, you’ll need to let them know where your funeral wishes are on file. What funeral home did you plan with? Who is the funeral director you talked to? Where are the important documents they’ll need, like your birth certificate, will, or other estate planning documents?

By letting your family know about your wishes, they’ll be ready to answer questions at the arrangement conference. Plus, they’ll know where to go and who to talk to!

4. Avoid Disagreements

large family with grandparents celebrating a birthday

After a loved one dies, emotions can run high. Family members are grieving, and they often have different ideas about what should be done to honor that special person’s life. This difference of opinion can lead to heated disagreements when there are no clear answers about what the deceased wanted.

When you clearly discuss your wishes with your family, you can eliminate confusion and give your family a guide to your wishes. And since what you verbally tell your family could be forgotten or misremembered, it’s important to also record your wishes and put them on file with your chosen funeral home.

5. Give Everyone Peace of Mind

young man hugging elderly mother

One of the best parts of sharing your wishes with your family is the peace of mind that everyone gains. When you tell your family you have a plan in place, you lift the burden of planning a funeral off of their shoulders and eliminate the unknowns.

And if you choose to prepay for your funeral, you also remove the financial burden for your family. They’ll know that everything is taken care of; they won’t have to find a way to pay for the funeral or wait for life insurance.

By answering the many questions that arise while funeral planning, you give your family one less thing to worry about. Plus, you’ll gain peace of mind, knowing that your family is taken care of and your wishes will be followed.

As you talk to your family about your funeral wishes, give them time to process and think through what you’ve shared. Because we often avoid talking about death, your family members may react in different ways. Be patient and know that your preparation will make things easier for everyone.

More Information About Planning Ahead

Why Plan Ahead for Funeral Wishes?

10 Reasons to Plan Ahead

5 Emotional Benefits to Funeral Preplanning

How to Get Started With Funeral Preplanning

6 Ways You Can Save Money with Funeral Preplanning & Prefunding

9 Preplanning Mistakes to Avoid

Gold pearl earrings resting on white fabric

What Clothing Do I Need to Provide for a Viewing?

By Educational, Explore Options

While families sometimes choose to skip the viewing, it plays an important role in grieving. A viewing or visitation provides time for those who are grieving to gather together and support each other. And since the body is present at a viewing, family members and friends can see their loved one, say goodbye in person, and accept the reality of the death, which is an essential step in the grieving process.

As you prepare for the viewing, you’ll need to bring clothing, accessories, and makeup for the deceased. While your funeral director can give you more details on what they need, here are a few things to remember.


Navy blue suit jacket as a piece of clothing for a viewing

There are plenty of factors to consider when choosing clothing for the viewing. Traditionally, the deceased is often dressed in their “Sunday best” suit or dress, but as times have changed, this aspect of the viewing has become more personalized. If your loved one didn’t express their wishes about the choice of clothing ahead of time, consider their religious and cultural background, favorite pieces of clothing, and interests.

Some religions and cultures have guidelines or traditions surrounding the deceased’s clothing, whether a particular outfit or a specific color. If your loved one was a person of faith, talk with their religious leader about typical funeral customs and requirements for a viewing. Additionally, if your loved one had a strong connection to their culture, you can opt for a traditional garment.

To create a more personal visitation, you can also choose clothing that was meaningful to your loved one. Did they have a favorite sports jersey they always wore? Were they a dancer who had a favorite tuxedo or dress? Did you always see them wearing their favorite leather jacket or sweater? If they were a member of the military, would they want to have their uniform on? These personal touches to your loved one’s outfit can help create a more meaningful experience.

As you gather clothing for your loved one, remember to include undergarments, shoes, and socks. While funeral homes often have these items on hand, providing them will make things easier for your funeral director.


Gold pearl earrings resting on white fabric

In addition to clothing, you can provide accessories for the viewing that your loved one typically wore. These small touches can help your loved one look more like themselves. If your loved one always wore glasses, a wig, a hairpiece, or a bowtie, you can include those items when you bring the clothing.

Jewelry is another item to consider. Did your mom have a favorite pair of earrings? Did your dad always wear his class ring? If they were a service member, do they have military decorations you can include? Keep in mind that hanging jewelry, like necklaces or earrings, may look different on someone who is lying down.

After the viewing, you can also request that these items be returned, especially if they are meaningful to your family. Whether you provide your loved one’s favorite watch or the bracelet they always wore, jewelry and other accessories can help make the visitation more meaningful.


makeup and eyeshadow palette with brushes and beauty blenders

While funeral homes will typically have their own makeup to use, every person has their own style, shades, and preferences regarding cosmetics. If your loved one regularly wore makeup, you may want to provide the funeral home with your loved one’s products for the mortuary cosmetologist to use while preparing the body for the viewing.

Additionally, it’s important to provide a reference photo of your loved one so the embalmer and the mortuary cosmetologist can accurately recreate your loved one’s hairstyle and makeup. Try to choose a current photo rather than an older one, and let your funeral director know of any specific requests you have.

As you gather the items for the viewing or visitation, consider your loved one’s preferences and talk to your funeral director about what you need to provide. They can give you ideas to make the viewing more personal and ensure no items are forgotten.

group of people of mixed ages, races, and gender, smiling with a positive mindset

Living Better: How Positive Thinking Can Improve Your Life

By Estate Planning, Living Well, Plan Ahead

As we get older, we tend to reflect on our lives and examine how we’ve lived. Did we live a meaningful life? Have we left behind a legacy that we’re proud of? While everyone has a different idea of what a “meaningful” or “good” life looks like, making small, positive changes, like creating a positive mindset, can help you feel more fulfilled and healthier.

group of people of mixed ages, races, and gender, smiling with a positive mindset

One way to make changes and create a positive mindset is to build a habit of positive thinking! Studies suggest that positive thinking can significantly improve physical and mental health. It’s not always easy to view the glass as half full, but with practice and persistence, you can cultivate a state of mind that will make you more appreciative of the good in life and more accepting of the bad.

Here are a few ways to build a positive mindset and improve your life!

Practice Contentment

Older happy couple sitting in a green field of dandelions

What does it mean to be happy? Most people don’t find happiness in a stable job, a large paycheck, or even fulfilling their biggest goals. Instead, the most significant factor that influences true happiness is contentment, being satisfied with your current situation.

Maybe you don’t have as much in your retirement savings as you would like. Maybe you never got to work at your dream job. Or maybe you’re experiencing more physical pain as you age. All of these things can be genuinely frustrating, but choosing acceptance and contentment can help you build a more positive perspective.

Instead of focusing on what you don’t have or dwelling on “If only” or “I wish” statements, try to find ways to be content with where you are. Adversity and hardship are a natural part of life, and learning to accept those negative experiences can help improve your health and create a more meaningful, enjoyable life.

Create a Habit of Gratitude

Young woman looking out a window and writing in a gratitude journal

Contentment is the ability to deal with life’s negative events, and gratitude is the flip side of that: the ability to focus on and cherish positive events. Studies suggest that practicing gratitude can reduce stress, lessen anxiety, and improve overall health, thereby increasing quality of life.

But often, it’s easier to focus on the negative aspects of life instead of the positive aspects, especially during hard times or when you’re grieving. Thanks to this negativity bias, practicing gratitude can be a struggle. However, if you build up a habit of gratitude by finding something to be thankful for every day, you can find positivity on even the most challenging day.

How can you build a habit of gratitude? One way is to spend a few minutes each day writing in a gratitude journal. You could also set aside time to say what you’re grateful for, like when you’re doing the dishes or driving to work. Whether you have big or small things that you’re thankful for, taking a few minutes to appreciate them can help you create a positive mindset.

Choose Your Thoughts Wisely

Young african american man thinking with his eyes closed and a smile on his face

What you think has great power. The thoughts you focus on affect your words, actions, and overall mindset. While we can’t always choose the thoughts that enter our minds, we can control what we do with those thoughts. When a negative thought about your appearance, personality, or past enters your mind, do you internalize it and dwell on it? Or do you dismiss it, shift your focus to positive attributes, or take time to remind yourself of what’s important?

In the same way, you can shift your inner dialogue to focus on positivity. When you catch yourself being overly critical of yourself or others, pause and evaluate your thoughts. Is your inner voice being helpful or just judgemental? Is there something more beneficial you can think about? The answer is usually yes!

This doesn’t mean that you try to suffocate negative thoughts and emotions. Negative feelings are a natural part of life, and letting yourself experience them is essential. But as you build a positive mindset, you can learn to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy thoughts.

Of course, having a positive mindset is not the only way to a better quality of life. Eating well, exercising regularly, and avoiding destructive habits are also important for your well-being. But by training your brain to think positively, you can get so much more out of life – and enjoy it more, too!

Close up view of a veteran's arm in uniform with American flag badge and flag in the background

Everything You Need to Know About Government-Issued Veteran Headstones

By Plan Ahead, Veterans

Whether you’re planning a funeral for a loved one who was a veteran or planning ahead for your own funeral, it’s important to learn about the burial benefits available to eligible veterans. One benefit that many veterans qualify for is a government-issued headstone, grave marker, or niche marker.

Permanent memorials, like headstones and markers, play an essential role in the grieving process and give loved ones a place to remember and honor the deceased. Depending on the level of personalization and the size of the memorial, the costs of a headstone can add up, which makes this veteran benefit worth exploring.

Veterans cemetery with government-issued headstone

But who is eligible for a headstone, and what types of headstones and markers does the government provide? Let’s look at the basics of veteran headstones!

Who is Eligible?

To be eligible for a government-issued headstone or marker, veterans or active-duty service members must meet specific requirements. Veterans or service members who did not receive a dishonorable discharge or who died on active duty may be eligible to receive a government-issued headstone if they either died on or after November 1, 1990 or are buried in an unmarked grave. National Guard members and Reservists may also be eligible but have different requirements.

Close up view of a veteran's arm in uniform with American flag badge and flag in the background

The government can provide memorial headstones or markers for veterans or active-duty service members “whose remains are not recovered or identified, are buried at sea, donated to science or whose cremated remains have been scattered” (National Cemetery Administration). Additionally, a veteran’s spouse or dependent children may be eligible for a government-issued headstone or marker.

If a veteran, active duty service member, or military spouse was buried in a private cemetery and already has a privately purchased headstone, the VA may provide a medallion. However, veterans must meet specific requirements, and a local cemetery official may need to approve the addition of a medallion.

A veteran does not need to be buried in a veterans’ cemetery to be eligible for a government-issued headstone or marker. Find the complete list of eligibility requirements on the VA’s website here.

Types of Headstones and Markers

Folded American flag on a table

The VA offers a variety of headstones, grave markers, and medallions for eligible veterans and active-duty service members. If you choose one of these government-issued options, remember that there are specific guidelines about cleaning government-furnished headstones and markers. Also, inscriptions and personalization options are more limited (see Inscriptions section below).

Additionally, check with your chosen cemetery to see if they have specific requirements for headstones and markers before submitting your request. If your chosen cemetery is a veterans cemetery, they may also place the order on your behalf.

Upright Granite or Marble Headstone

Often used at national veterans cemeteries, upright government-issued headstones are 13″ wide and 4″ thick. In private cemeteries, lithichrome, a type of stone paint, may be used to darken the lettering on the headstone. However, national cemeteries typically do not use lithichrome so the headstones look consistent as they age and weather.

Flat Granite or Marble Grave Marker

These stone grave markers weigh about 130 pounds and are 24″ x 12″. The government typically doesn’t use lithichrome on these markers, and the marker’s color may vary depending on the type of stone chosen.

Flat Bronze Grave Marker

Much like the granite and marble grave markers, the bronze grave marker measures 24″ x 12″. A base for the marker isn’t included, but bolts, nuts, and washers will be provided.

Bronze Niche Marker

For those who choose cremation and display their urn in a niche, the VA may provide a bronze niche marker. The niche marker will be 8.5″ x 5.5″, and mounting bolts and washers are supplied.


As mentioned above, the VA also offers medallions for eligible veterans with a privately-purchased headstone. There are two types of medallions: bronze or Medal of Honor. Each option has different size options to choose from and can be affixed to a headstone.

Read more details about government-issued headstones, markers, and medallions on this page.

Inscriptions on Government-Issued Headstones and Markers

government-issued headstone with flowers

When requesting a government-issued headstone or marker, remember that any inscriptions must adhere to the VA’s guidelines. The mandatory inscription will include the veteran’s legal name, years of birth and death, and branch of service. If the veteran is buried in a state or national veterans cemetery, the headstone will have the section and grave number.

Other than those mandatory items, you can add other inscriptions, like nicknames, unit designations, highest rank attained, awards, or information about war service. You can also request specific “emblems of belief.” However, these additions must be provided by the veteran’s next of kin or an authorized representative and approved by the VA. For more details on accepted inscriptions and how to request them, please visit the National Cemetery Administration Inscriptions page.

As you consider your options for a veteran’s headstone, monument, or marker, think about what’s most important to you. There are many government-issued choices, but you can always explore other memorial options if you would rather have something unique and highly personalized.

For other questions about government-issued headstones and markers, please see the VA’s FAQ page.

Learn More About Veterans’ Burial Benefits

Woman with a gray fuzzy sweater holding a small green bird and smiling

Protect Your Pet: 4 Steps to Create an Estate Plan for Your Pet

By Estate Planning, Pets

When creating an estate plan, most people think about caring for their families after they die. But what about your pets? How do you know that your pet will continue to be cared for?

There are plenty of crazy stories about the rich setting aside millions for their pets, but you don’t have to be a millionaire to make sure your pet is cared for after your death. Follow these 4 steps to create a plan to protect your pet!

DISCLAIMER: Individual circumstances and state laws vary. Only undertake estate planning with the help and assistance of an attorney licensed in your state.

1. Choose a Caretaker

Woman with a gray fuzzy sweater holding a small green bird and smiling

Who do you want to care for your pet when you’re gone? Picking a caretaker is an important first step.

Do you have a responsible friend or family member who gets along well with your pet? While you look for a possible caretaker, talk to the people you trust to see if they would be interested. Some people may have other pets, small children, or demanding jobs that could make them unwilling or unable to take on the extra responsibility.

If you don’t know anyone who can care for your pet, there are other options. Pet legacy programs around the world work to connect pets with loving families after they lose their owners. You could also leave your pet with a local no-kill animal sanctuary or rescue organization that will find it a new home.

2. Add Your Pet to Your Estate Plan

Small fluffy brown dog running in green grass

Once you’ve chosen a caretaker, you have several options for ensuring your pet goes to them. The most common ways to leave your pet to your chosen caretaker are with a non-legal arrangement, a clause in your will, a trust, or a pet power of attorney. Before deciding, consider whether there may be a conflict about your pet’s care among your family or any extra provisions you want to make, like setting aside money for your pet’s care (see point #4).

As you consider the best option for you and your pet, talk to your estate planning attorney. They can provide you with extra information regarding your state’s specific regulations and help you set up a plan that fits your needs.

3. Share Your Pet’s History

Vet holding a black and white bunny

Even if your caretaker is someone you know, they’ll need extra information about your pet’s history. To help with that, you can create a document with the necessary information. Consider adding details about your pet’s:

  • Vaccination history
  • Current and past medications
  • Medical issues (past and present)
  • Adoption papers
  • Any American Kennel Club or other breed registration information
  • Special dietary needs

Make sure to keep the document up-to-date when things change with your pet.

4. Set Aside Funds

Older woman petting a peaceful cat on her lap

Because pets are legally considered property, you can’t leave them money in your will. However, you can set aside funds to help pay for their food, care, and medical expenses as they transition to their new caretaker. One of the most common ways to do this is by setting up a pet trust.

If you choose to set aside funds for your pet’s care, consider the typical cost of their food, medical expenses, etc. By providing these funds for your chosen caregiver, you can lighten the burden of caring for your pet and ensure that your pet is cared for in the way you want.

While thinking about what will happen to your pet after you’re gone can be sad, remember that planning ahead can make the transition easier for them. Once you make decisions about your pet’s future, trust yourself and your choices. You know your pet best, and once you have an estate plan for your pet in place, you can rest easy knowing that they’ll be well cared for.

woman volunteer sitting next to an elderly woman on a couch

Hospice Volunteers: Why They’re Important and How You Can Help

By Hospice

Hospice volunteers play a vital role in end-of-life care. From sitting with patients to assisting behind the scenes, volunteers give their time and energy to help those navigating the final chapters of their journey. While this task can be emotionally draining at times, volunteers can make an extraordinary impact on the lives of hospice staff, patients, and the patients’ families.

Keep reading to learn about what volunteering with hospice looks like and how you can get involved!

What a Hospice Volunteer Does

young woman pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair

Most hospice volunteers serve hospice patients and their families by providing patient companionship and caregiver respite, allowing caregivers to have a break and attend to their own needs. Some volunteers provide transportation for patients or run errands on their behalf, while others sit with patients and talk to them, share their hobbies, and take care of their needs.

But there are also many other roles that volunteers can fill! Some hospice services need administrative help, like answering phones or filing paperwork. Other hospice volunteers help with community outreach and fundraising. Some people volunteer their professional services at a discounted rate or for free, like offering to help with landscaping, providing haircuts, or performing massage therapy.

If you have an interest that could benefit a hospice program, don’t hesitate to ask about it! You may be able to help in a way that your local hospice service hadn’t considered before.

Why Volunteers Are Important

young african american man talking to an elderly caucasian man who is sitting on a couch

Hospice workers have a big job, and there’s only so much they can do in a day! Volunteers help provide a deeper level of service for hospice patients. Plus, some patients don’t have family members who can visit them, and volunteers can help fill that gap and provide social support for patients. Interacting with volunteers can improve a patient’s quality of life.

Volunteers can also fill the critical job of providing respite for caregivers. Caring for someone who is terminally ill can be physically and emotionally exhausting, and volunteers can help caregivers have time to take care of their own needs and get a much-deserved break.

Even if volunteers don’t interact directly with patients and their families, their work is still important! Administrative volunteers help hospice services run smoothly, create a welcoming environment, and provide top-notch care and service for families.

Benefits for Hospice Volunteers

young female volunteer playing chess with an older man

Volunteering with hospice doesn’t just benefit the patient and their caregivers; it also benefits the volunteer. Serving others is fulfilling work, as is the knowledge that you are positively impacting someone’s life. As volunteers build relationships with the patients and families they care for, they hear stories, meet new people, and create deep connections that help them better understand those in different situations from themselves.

Additionally, hospice volunteers who help those receiving end-of-life care often learn to appreciate life more. Everyone has a limited amount of time in their lives, and interacting with hospice patients can encourage volunteers to appreciate what they have and strive to live a more meaningful life with the time they’ve been given.

How Can You Get Involved?

woman volunteer sitting next to an elderly woman on a couch

Every hospice program has its own unique needs for volunteers. While some hospice services require volunteers to be over the age of 18, others allow high school students to volunteer. Start by contacting your local hospice program and asking about their requirements and needs. You can also use the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization search to look for nearby hospice providers.

After you know more about your local hospice services, determine the amount of time you are willing to contribute and discuss your skillset with the program. They may suggest areas you can volunteer in or ways you can use your skills. After you’ve signed up and filled out all the necessary paperwork, they’ll typically provide training to help prepare you for situations you may encounter and to make sure you can care for patients well.

Becoming a hospice volunteer is more than just lending a helping hand; it’s an opportunity to impact the lives of those in end-of-life care. Giving your time and energy to those at the end of their journey can be a rewarding experience, and we hope that you’ll join the ranks of hospice volunteers who serve those in need with compassion.

scrapbook page in honor of a mom

11 Ways to Remember Your Mom on Mother’s Day

By Grief/Loss, Seasonal

After losing a loved one, some days are harder than others. Your grief may feel stronger on special days like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, or their deathiversary. If you’ve lost your mom, Mother’s Day might be a grief trigger for you.

If Mother’s Day is hard for you, you may prefer to skip it altogether. But even though your mom is no longer with you, you can still honor and remember her on this special day. Here are 11 ways you can honor your mom this Mother’s Day:

Do her favorite activity

close up of a person painting on a canvas

Activities provide a way for us to express our grief and physically process our emotions. Did your mom enjoy baking, painting, puzzles, or gardening? You can spend some time on Mother’s Day participating in your mom’s favorite activity.

While you may not master the violin or draw a masterpiece, doing something your mom loved can help her feel a little bit closer on a hard day. Alternatively, you could do something you always did together, like having a spa day or visiting a specific restaurant.

Visit her final resting place

man visiting his mom's grave on Mother's Day

While visiting a loved one’s grave may feel intimidating, it can help you in your grief journey. When you go to your mom’s final resting place, whether at her gravesite or urn niche, you set aside time to grieve and remember her. You can talk to her, bring flowers, or simply sit and reflect. If your mom doesn’t have a final resting place, you could visit a spot that was meaningful to the two of you.

Plant or buy her favorite flowers

woman kneeling in a garden and planting flowers

Because Mother’s Day is in the spring, it’s the perfect time for gardening. If your mom had a specific flower she loved, you can take a little time to plant some in your garden. Not only will you be able to enjoy the flowers all season, but their smell can also remind you of positive memories of your mother.

If you’re not big on gardening or don’t have a lot of space, you can also buy some of your mom’s favorite flowers to enjoy. Additionally, if you’re not sure what your mom’s favorite flower was, you can always get other meaningful flowers, like the flowers she wore at your wedding or a flower that reminds you of her.

Write her a letter

Woman writing a letter to her mom in a journal

Often, when someone we love dies, there are things we wish we could have said or changes in our life we want to tell them about. By writing a letter to your mom, you can release thoughts and emotions you’ve been holding inside. It doesn’t matter what you write or how well it’s written; expressing your feelings matters more.

Enjoy her favorite food

parent and child baking and holding cookie dough in a heart shape

What dish did your mom love to eat? What treats did she make that remind you of her? One way to remember your mom on Mother’s Day is by making a food she loved. You could make a full meal, a snack, or her favorite dessert. If you’re not particularly skilled in the kitchen, you could have a friend or family member help you, or you could hunt down a local restaurant or bakery that makes something similar.

Wear her favorite color

man wearing all yellow standing in front of a yellow background pointing at his shirt

One very easy way to honor your mom on Mother’s Day is by wearing her favorite color. In a way, adding her favorite color to your outfit is a way to bring her memory with you throughout the day. You could make the color the main focus of your outfit or incorporate it through accessories. You could also wear an heirloom or piece of jewelry your mother gave you. Incorporating something important to your mom into your outfit is a simple way to keep your mom close.

Look at photos or old home videos

Person pushing an old home video tape labeled "Family Vacation '98" into a VCR

Looking at photos of your mom or watching old home videos can remind you of the happy moments you shared. Pictures may remind you of memories that have faded into the background, and videos can bring back your mom’s voice.

Whether you choose to enjoy these old memories on your own or with loved ones, photos and videos can make your mom feel a little bit closer on Mother’s Day.

Make a scrapbook page

scrapbook page in honor of a mom

If you enjoy crafts, creating a scrapbook page for your mom can be a great way to celebrate her memory on Mother’s Day. You can incorporate favorite photos of her, mementos from events you attended, or stickers of her favorite flowers. You could add significant quotes: things she said that stuck with you, her favorite saying, or a selection from her favorite book or poem. By taking time to be creative, you’ll allow yourself to express your feelings and embrace your memory of your mom.

Share favorite memories and stories

woman sharing stories with her daughter

Stories have power, and by sharing them with others, you can relive them. If you have a favorite memory with your mom – something sweet, heartfelt, or funny – you can share it with a friend or family member or in a post online. If you have kids of your own, you can tell them about your favorite moments with your mom and maybe even recreate them.

You could also write down some of your favorite memories and stories! Whether you write them in a journal just for yourself or choose to share them with someone else, you can write your memories to cherish them forever.

Volunteer at her favorite charity

young man encouraging a boy with Down syndrome

As mentioned above, participating in activities can be a great way to process your grief. Giving your time to a cause your mom cared about can be a great way to honor her memory on Mother’s Day. While some organizations may be closed on Sunday, you could also volunteer the week before or after Mother’s Day.

Keep in mind that some charities may require paperwork or a background check, especially those that work with kids in need. Investigate ahead of time to learn what requirements your volunteer opportunity requires.

Make a donation in her name

Person placing money in a jar labeled "donate"

Did your mom have a cause that she often donated to? You could give a memorial donation in her honor to her favorite charity. Or did your mom die from a specific disease, like breast cancer or Alzheimer’s? You could support an organization that researches that disease.

Some organizations accept donations of useful items, like hats, toys, or blankets. Even a small donation can make a difference, and your generosity can be a great way to honor her memory.

Whether you choose to skip Mother’s Day or participate in a remembrance activity, remember to be patient with yourself. Losing your mom is hard, and it’s okay if you need time to grieve. Whatever you do, cherish the happy moments you shared with your mom and hold her memory close.

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