For such strong emotions as grief and loss, it can be hard to put your feelings into words when it comes to writing and delivering a eulogy at someone's funeral. That's where poetry can help.
Some poems offer advice and comfort to the reader and listener, some allow the reader to vent and express their emotions. Some are uplifting.
Below is a selection of popular poems, which could work well as funeral readings.
If none of these poems quite hit the mark, you might even feel like writing your own. This can be a great way to channel your emotions and help deal with grief. Click here to read more about the benefits of creative writing following a bereavement.
The Dash by Linda Ellis
One of the most popular contemporary poems to be read at a funeral is The Dash by Linda Ellis. The Dash represents a life lived and the legacy a loved one leaves behind.
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning ... to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
To hear The Dash read by the author click here
She Is Gone by David Harkins
This uplifting poem has become popular at funerals since its use during the funeral of the Queen Mother in 2002. A series of simplistic couplets encourages the reader to remember their loved one fondly and be grateful for having known them.
You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Another funeral favourite, this poem is written from the perspective of the deceased. It comforts the reader by telling them that the person who has died is always with them in spirit, and that matters more than where their body is buried.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
Remember by Christina Rossetti
This poem asks the reader to remember the deceased, and not to wallow too much in their grief. It also encourages the reader to not feel guilty for being able to live on and be happy.
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Five Minutes by Annmarie Campbell
A common feeling when someone dies is that the person left behind didn’t have enough time to say goodbye or say the things they wish they had said.
If I only had five minutes
the day you passed away,
I would have had time to tell you
all the things I needed to say.
Don't Be Sad When I Die, author unknown
In this poem, the author comforts the reader by reminding them that they were loved. The lines about “going home” to God make this poem a good fit for Christian funerals.
When tomorrow starts without me,
and I'm not there to comfort you,
please know that I still love you,
'cause I know you love me too.
Pardon Me For Not Getting Up by Kelly Roper
The light-hearted tone of this poem makes it perfect for a more uplifting send-off. It asks the reader to make a toast and remember a loved one with laughter.
Feel free to share a story at my expense
And we'll have a good laugh at the end.
Funeral by Rupi Kaur
This poem expresses the poet’s wishes for the funeral to be a joyful occasion, with the same level of celebration as you would expect for a wedding. This poem is ideal for a celebration of life and a more uplifting funeral.
when i go let it be a celebration
for i have been here
i have lived
i have won at this game called life
Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden
Grief can make you feel like the whole world has stopped, like nothing matters apart from the fact that somebody you love is gone. This poem describes the intensity of losing a loved one.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Alive by Winifred M. Letts
The poet describes enjoying life after a loss as something that requires bravery and conscious effort.
Alert, intent to give life all its due.
I will delight my soul with many things
Don’t Hesitate to Ask by Michel Faber
The hyperbolic language and surreal imagery of this poem gives the reader to express their raw emotion of grief and how all-consuming it feels to lose a loved one.
Would you mind driving me
headlong through the universe
at ten million miles an hour,
scattering stars like trashcans
scorching the sky?
A Fleeting Image by Avi Fleischer
Using colours and the imagery of painting, this poem describes the unique vibrancy of each life and how we are all changed through our life experiences. This poem could be an ideal choice for someone who was an artist.
The hues of our emotion paint a picture of our past,
as we hurtle toward a destiny that is not meant to last.
Loss by Winifred M. Letts
When you lose someone you love, it can feel like you’ve lost everything. This poem illustrates the feeling of not knowing how to continue without them by comparing it to losing the world itself.
I lost the master word, dear love, the clue
That threads the maze of life when I lost you.
When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou
Written for the funeral of fellow poet James Baldwin, this poem uses nature as a metaphor to describe how strong and unavoidable grief feels. The short lines stretch the poem’s length, echoing how time feels warped. The poem also reassures the reader that they will find happiness again, not despite their loss but because of the person.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
Remember Me by Margaret Mead
The author of Remember Me acknowledges the different feelings people have for the same person who has passed away.
To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return.
To the angry, I was cheated,
But to the happy, I am at peace,
Margaret’s Moon by Jackie Kay
This poem’s imagery describes a person’s soul being freed after death, making it more suited for a spiritual or religious funeral. Margaret's Moon explores the notion that a loved one who has died is everywhere you turn. This poem is beautiful and comforting, rather than painful or haunting.
Into the cairns, hills, the braes, barley,
The sea lochs and the sea and at last,
At least it seemed to me, you were free.