Social Etiquette and Good Manners/Tombstone inscription


What is the proper was to inscribe a headstone? I am divoriced, and was divorced at the time of my children's father passing. He had always had a strained relation with his mother. She took all funeral duties on herself. She wanted the girls at the visitation, the funeral, and the graveside (informal several days later) the girls 13 and 9 at the time did not want to go to anything but the visitation. I agreed and took them. His mother did not offer them a spot on the receiving line. I didn't care due to ages didn't know appropriateness. She was offended by their decision not to attend funeral. Neither wanted graveside. I did go. Later as the girls began to heal they asked to go to cemetery.  We went on his birthday. My oldest daughter feel to her knees when she saw the grave stone inscription. It read "(his name) dates loving son. There was no recognition of him having children. I do not know if I have the right to approach her about this. I being an ex did not feel it was my place to speak to any funeral arrangements, I would have helped pay if I had known she was going to do that. My oldest sees that as blame and being disowned. I wan to tell her the truth, is it typical to only put one famillial relation on the stone or should father have been included as a matter of ettiqute? Sorry for long question. There are many factors that play into this. I'm trying to find away to help explain or show my daughter she wheter she is or is not justified in her hurt by this incident.

Thank you.

Dear Cherrie:

Thank you for your question.
There are several issues about your situation that would like to address.  Children aged 13 and 9 should never be in a funeral visitation line unless they specifically request to be.  They also should have been respected when they said they didn't want to attend their father's funeral ceremony at the graveside.  

Regarding leaving off the gravestone that your ex-husband had children was actually, in my opinion, mean.  Grave stones have nothing to do with the deceased other than the fact that they are markers of the grave and are supposed to give appropriate information to the visitor.  What exactly goes on the grave is usually based upon family tradition however.  If your ex's father's grave has no mention of children but does mention his being a loving son, then that is the tradition his mother was following and you have to accept it.  However, if his father's grave mentions he was a father, your ex's gravestone should also mention this if keeping with family tradition.

I suggest you approach his mother if you would like to alter the stone.  Tell her that for the sake of his children currently living and future generations who will visit the gravesite, you would like to add "loving father" to his gravestone at your expense.  By all means don't expect your ex mother-in-law to pay for any additional wording on the stone.

There is no etiquette for a gravestone other than birth and death dates, full name and indication of faith followed (cross, Star of David, etc.).  All other wording is totally up to the family or the person who will be paying to have it engraved.  The fact that their Grandmother left off "father" on their father's stone was just selfish and in my opinion mean.  She wasn't thinking about her grandchildren's grief or interest, just her own.

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Cynthia W. Lett


Proper manners with friends,family,colleagues,neighbors and everyone else you know.


I have been an etiquette expert teaching and consulting on the subject worldwide since 1983. I started and serve as the Executive Director of the International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals and am considered a leader in the field of etiquette and protocol training and execution. I edited "Etiquette for Dummies" and have recently written "Lett's Talk - Everyday Etiquette Dilemmas and What to Do about Them". My book, "That's So Annoying:An Etiquette Expert on the World's Most Irritating Habits And What To Do About Them" was published in 2009 and is available wherever books are sold. I taught the Business Protocol class to Master's level students at the George Washington University, Washington, DC for seven years I served as Chief of Protocol for MCI Telecommunications for three years.

International Society of Protocol & Etiquette Professionals, ASTD, PCMA, National Speakers Association

I have been quoted over 700 times in the past 5 years worldwide. Publications include Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, NY Times, Washington Business Journal, USA Today, Associated Press, London Times, Newsweek Japan edition, Newsweek US edition and many many more.

I am a Certified Etiquette Professional (CEP) and Certified Protocol Professional (CPP) earned by examination through ISPEP. I have a Master's degree in hospitality law and undergrad degrees in Restaurant & Hotel Management and Public Relations/Interpersonal Communications from Purdue University.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who Worldwide,Who's Who of American Women, Distinguished Darden Professor (Purdue University).

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