What Does ‘Rest in Eternal Peace’ Mean When Someone Dies?

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When someone close to you dies, you’re likely to come across numerous euphemisms for death in the days and weeks that follow. A family friend might say they’re sorry your loved one “slipped away.” Someone else might mention that they hope the departed is “resting easy.” 

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One of the most popular and common death euphemisms is “rest in peace,” or its counterpart, “rest in eternal peace.” If someone close to you has passed away, you might hear family and friends express a wish for the departed to “rest in eternal peace.” 

You might see “rest in eternal peace” engraved on a gravestone, or even be considering it for your own headstone or the headstone of a family member.

And if you want to offer your own condolences to someone who’s recently lost a loved one, you might be thinking about using “rest in eternal peace” to express your sympathies. 

Before you put those words to use, though, it might be helpful to understand what “rest in eternal peace” means, as well as where the phrase comes from. 

What Does Rest in Eternal Peace Mean?

The phrase “rest in eternal peace” is euphemistic. It depicts death as a state of rest or sleep, rather than something final. 

At the same time, “rest in eternal peace” refers to a state of eternity. Eternity is forever, which makes “rest in eternal peace” sound more final than the simple “rest in peace.” 

The concept of eternity is also religious in nature. Many religions, including some denominations of Christianity, teach that the soul is eternal. It doesn’t cease to exist just because the body has died. Instead, the soul travels to an afterlife, where it may undergo judgment and eventually reach paradise, or Heaven.

In this way, “rest in eternal peace” may refer to the soul reaching Heaven in the afterlife, which is often depicted as a state of perfect rest. 

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Where Does Rest in Eternal Peace Come From? 

The phrase, “rest in eternal peace,” stems from Roman Catholic prayer. It’s closely related to the similar phrase, “rest in peace,” which also originates in Roman Catholocism. 

In prayer

This Catholic prayer uses the phrase “eternal rest,” as well as “rest in peace,” making it one of the primary origins of the phrase, “rest in eternal peace.” The “Prayer for Eternal Rest” is often used at funeral services at Catholic and Christian churches. 

Eternal Rest

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.”

The “Prayer for Eternal Rest” also has variations in the Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist churches, which change the wording slightly.

Rest in peace

The phrase, “rest in peace,” comes a Latin blessing with Roman Catholic origins: Requiescat in pace. The phrase, Requiescat in pace first appeared on tombstones around the eighth century. 

By the eighteenth century, the phrase commonly featured on Christian headstones and tombs. Its translation, “rest in peace,” and its acronym, “R.I.P.,” also started appearing more and more around this time. 

Following its origins, the phrase “rest in peace” has always been especially prominent amongst Roman Catholics. But the phrase, and its acronym, “R.I.P.,” have also gained widespread popularity, both in religious and secular circles. 

“Rest in eternal peace” is a version of the more common “rest in peace” that has even stronger Roman Catholic ties. But it’s also common amongst many Christian denominations. 

Popular Rest in Eternal Peace Messages

If you’re considering using “rest in eternal peace,” you can use some of the messages below as inspiration. 

1. “May her soul rest in eternal peace.”

This version of “rest in eternal peace” may be a good option if you’re looking for a simple-but-sweet headstone inscription. You can also add it to a sympathy message or card. 

2. “Our family is so deeply saddened by this loss. We can only hope dear Joe is at rest in eternal peace.”

You can use “rest in eternal peace” to send a sympathy message from your immediate family to extended family or friends. Just make sure the recipients won’t be put off by a potentially religious message like “rest in eternal peace.”

3. “My heart is with you in this trying time. May she rest in eternal peace.”

Using “rest in eternal peace” in this way is an option for sending your condolences to a friend or family member. 

4. “A good soul has ascended to Heaven, and now he rests in eternal peace.”

If you want to convey a religious sentiment of condolence and support in line with “rest in eternal peace,” you can use a message like this one. 

5. “He will always live on in my memory, and may his soul rest in eternal peace.”

You can pair a message like “rest in eternal peace” with a personal sentiment like this for a person you were close to.

6. “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

For a Roman Catholic or Christian sympathy message, you can use the “Prayer for Eternal Peace” itself. You might choose to write the whole prayer in your card, or just the first two lines, as written here. You can also change the “them” to either “he” or “she” depending on the deceased. 

7. “I wanted to express my sincere condolences for your loss. May your father’s soul rest in eternal peace.” 

You can say “rest in eternal peace” with a message like this for a co-worker, acquaintance, or more distant family member. 

8. “Flowers, thoughts, and prayers for a beloved friend who departed too soon. May you rest in peace.”

If you’re sending funeral or sympathy flowers, you can include “rest in eternal peace” as part of your attached note. 

9. “May he rest in eternal peace, and may his family find the strength to bear such a great loss.”

As you’re expressing your wishes for the deceased to rest in eternal peace, you can also express hopes for the surviving family members as they grieve. 

10. “No matter where she is now, I know she’s watching over you with love. May she rest in eternal peace.”

If you think the recipient would appreciate this type of message, you can help them picture the soul of the deceased looking over them. 

11. “Gone from sight, but never from my heart. May sweet Jen rest in eternal peace.”

In your sympathy note, you can let the family know that the deceased will never be forgotten. 

12. “R.I.E.P.”

If you want to write the acronym for “rest in eternal peace” on a headstone, you can use “R.I.E.P.” It’s a good alternative to the standard “R.I.P.” and conveys a more specific message. 

13. “May our beloved father, brother, and husband rest in eternal peace.”

A message like this is a way you can incorporate “rest in eternal peace” into an obituary or funeral notice, as well as a headstone inscription. 

How to Use ‘Rest in Eternal Peace’

“Rest in eternal peace” is a euphemistic phrase that can convey your sympathy and condolences. But it’s important to keep in mind that it’s also a phrase with religious connotations. 

Before you write “rest in eternal peace” on a sympathy letter or card, consider whether or not the family might find the message suitable. And if you’re thinking about including “rest in eternal peace” on a headstone, consider whether or not it suits the religious beliefs of the deceased. 

If you’re looking for a more secular version of the phrase, “rest in eternal peace,” consider these alternatives to “rest in peace.” 


Sources 

  1. Eternal Rest. Vatican News. www.vaticannews.va/en/prayers/eternal-rest.html
  2. Gill, N.S. “Meaning of Requiescat in Pace.” Thought Co. 21 January 2020. www.thoughtco.com/requiescat-in-pace-120922
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