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Funny Epitaphs for Cremation Urns and Cemetery Stones

by Jerri Haaven

Engraved tombstone with funny saying

Can you imagine this epitaph on an adult cremation urn?

Damn it’s dark in here

Or, how about,

Now I know something you don’t.

It looked like comedian Rodney Dangerfield wanted to lay at rest with his signature self-deprecating humor as seen in the photo above - "There Goes the Neighborhood".

These are true first-person gravestone epitaphs that have been cataloged. They make me wish I knew the rascals. The biggest laugh I had was with this one found in a Thurmont, Maryland, cemetery:

Here lies an Atheist. All dressed up and no place to go.

Yes, it took me a minute, too.

Adult cremation urn epitaphs – is humor okay?

At OneWorld Memorials, we are often asked for epitaph suggestions, especially for urns for adult ashes. And often a customer wants something that will elicit a smile. We sometimes do a bit of research to come up with a few suggestions. We found that messages on gravestones range from the serious to the downright hilarious.

It’s apparent that humor is often used as an effective coping mechanism. “Humor arises from potentially negative situations,” says behavioral scientist Peter McGraw of the University of Colorado as quoted on psychologicalscience.org. “That’s counterintuitive for obvious reasons: why does something so good originate from something potentially bad or wrong?” McGraw and other researchers showed subjects a series of images ranging from car accidents and corpses, to aggressive animals and even dental exams and then asked the subject to rate the intensity of positive and negative emotions. The same subjects were then asked to improvise jokes and reinterpret the photos before reporting on their emotions. Those who used humor benefitted by decreased negative emotions and increased positive emotions.

How much is too much?

“We’ll see.”  That’s the epitaph my brothers and I wanted on dad’s headstone when he passed away. Dad was not one to commit to a request or favor when asked. His standard response was, “We’ll see.” It drove us crazy as kids, but later in life it became an endearing phrase we’d hear and expect from him.

So, when planning a memorial celebration of life and his burial details, we felt that “We’ll see” would be perfect etched on his headstone, and incorporated into the memorial service. We ran into a roadblock during the process of fulfilling his wishes to be buried at a national cemetery. This kind of humor is not permitted on a veteran’s headstone. We had to select one of the national cemetery’s suggestions such as, “Forever in Our Hearts, Dad.” We scoffed at this knowing he’d be rolling his eyes, though certainly the sentiment was true. My dad was known for his humor, and we felt a bit let down that we could not entertain the notion of having, what we felt was, a humorous epitaph for him.

Personally, I think we generally don’t like to see people suffer or to be sad. We’d rather say something funny to help soften the situation. It makes me wonder if we’re more uncomfortable with the griever’s emotions than we are with someone’s death. Of course, there is a time and place for everything. After 9/11, for example, it was a week before any comedian or talk show host could utter a joke in the aftermath of a national disaster. 

In a weird way, death and humor walk hand in hand. Humor temporarily helps one disengage from the initial shock and grief of a tremendous loss. Eulogies are often laced with tidbits of humor, and could even lead to raucous laughter from memorial attendees because it helps to relieve the moment’s tension. Some have even described it as being “cleansing.” Who doesn’t love a good belly laugh to relieve stress?

Such sympathies are not limited to humans, pets are also fair game when it comes to loss and humor. The love of a pet can be especially strong and they often become an intimate part of our lives. One pet owner who lost their cat wanted this endearing epitaph on the urn after cremating him, "I came, I purred, I conquered".  It not only brings a smile to my face but also conveys a great deal of warmth and affection.

When my time comes, I’m faced with the same predicament as my dad because I have chosen to be cremated and buried with full military honors at a National Cemetery. Sadly, there will be no funny epitaphs on my headstone. But I can entertain myself with the notion that If I did have my way with my epitaph, perhaps the simple word, “Kaput” inscribed on a cremation urn like this cherry cremation box would be fitting. Or, I can imagine an inscription on this elegant artisan indigo cremation urn such as, “I was hoping for a pyramid.” This would surely entertain my family for eternity. There’s humor in that, right?

*Image can be found here:  http://bit.ly/2hYychg

Jerri Haaven is a freelance writer, and a certified Grief Recovery Specialist and Celebrant. When caring for her dad, who suffered from dementia and COPD, Jerri struggled with the negative side effects of his illness. She developed positive outlets to express herself and recover from her loss. Today as a certified Grief Recovery Specialist and Celebrant, she uses her skills to help people who are in the midst of their own personal story of grief and loss.

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