Choosing a funeral poem
Finding the right words to say in commemoration of a loved one can be tough, especially when you have just experienced a bereavement. Like funeral songs, a well-chosen funeral poem can express the things that we often find difficult, providing comfort as well as serving as a touching reminder of a loved one.
Choosing the right funeral poem can be a difficult decision. If you have been asked to read a poem, you need to consider your audience and the way you would like them to feel whilst you are reading, as well as the personality of the deceased and the type of poem you think they would have wanted. You should choose a poem that you will feel confident reading; you may choose a short funeral poem, or just a few verses from a longer poem. Before the service, you should read through the funeral poem a few times to ensure you are prepared.
Here are some suggestions for anyone wishing to choose a poem for their loved one’s funeral.
Popular funeral poems
The following poems are among the most popular for a funeral. This includes ‘She is Gone’ which was chosen as the Queen Mothers funeral poem.
She Is Gone (He Is Gone) – David Harkins
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
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep – Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
(Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!)
Funeral Blues – W H Auden
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.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Let Me Go – Christina Rossetti
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not for long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that once we shared
Miss me, but let me go.
For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.
It's all part of the master plan
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know.
Laugh at all the things we used to do
Miss me, but let me go.
Don’t Cry For Me – Anonymous
Don't cry for me now I have died, for I'm still here I'm by your side,
My body's gone but my soul is here, please don't shed another tear,
I am still here I'm all around, only my body lies in the ground.
I am the snowflake that kisses your nose,
I am the frost, that nips your toes.
I am the sun, bringing you light,
I am the star, shining so bright.
I am the rain, refreshing the earth,
I am the laughter, I am the mirth.
I am the bird, up in the sky,
I am the cloud, that's drifting by.
I am the thoughts, inside your head,
While I'm still there, I can't be dead.
Short funeral poems
If you are nervous speaking in front of a large group of people, or are conscious about keeping the audience’s attention, you may wish to choose a short funeral poem. Sometimes just a few words and express a thousand emotions.
Love Shines Through – Anonymous
Like a shadow in the moonlight
Like the whisper of the seas
Like the echoes of a melody
Just beyond our reach
In the shadow of our sorrow
Past the whisper of goodbye
Love shines through eternity
A heartbeat from our eye
As Long As Hearts Remember – Anonymous
As long as hearts remember
As long as hearts still care
We do not part with those we love
They're with us everywhere
If I Should Go — Joyce Grenfell
If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor when I'm gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known
Weep if you must
Parting is hell
But life goes on
So sing as well.
Happy funeral poems
There are no rules that a funeral poem must be sad. There are several funny and happy funeral poems which can help celebrate the life of your loved one and comfort those left behind.
Afterglow — Helen Lowrie Marshall
I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.
I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.
I’d like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun;
Of happy memories that I leave when life is done.
A Long Cup of Tea – Michael Ashby
Death is too negative for me
So I'll be popping off for a long cup of tea
Do splash out on two bags in the pot
And for my god's sake keep the water hot
Please pick the biggest mug you can find
Size really does matter at this time
I'll pass on the lapsang with that souchong
And that stuff with bergamot
And stick with my favourite friend
You know the English breakfast blend
Breakfast! thanks for reminding me
There's just time before I fail
To stand on ceremony
Two rashers of best back, Should keep me
Smelling sweet up the smokestack
So, mother, put the kettle on for me
It's time, mother, for my long cup of tea
Death – Sean Hughes
I want to be cremated
I know how boring funerals can be
I want people to gather
meet new people
have a laugh, a dance, meet a loved one.
I want people to have free drink all night.
I want people to patch together, half truths.
I want people to contradict each other
I want them to say 'I didn't know him but cheers'
I want my parents there,
adding more pain to their life.
I want the Guardian to mis-sprint three lines about me
or to be mentioned on the news
Just before the 'parrot who loves Brookside' story.
I want to have my ashes scattered in a bar,
on the floor, mingle with sawdust,
a bar where beautiful trendy people
Will trample over me… again
Religious funeral poems
If your loved one was particularly religious, including religious funeral poem may be particularly important in remembering their life.
May the roads rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
A Place Called Heaven - Prayers for Special Help
I have a place that waits for me
A place I love, called Calvary
Where angels sing and rejoice all day
And children laugh, run and play.
Here the Masters holds my hand
As we walk through Heavens land.
This is the place Ive dreamed of for so long
So beautiful, so heavenly like the angels song.
God Saw You - Frances and Kathleen Coelho
God saw you getting tired,
When a cure was not to be.
So He wrapped his arms around you,
and whispered, "Come to me".
You didn't deserve what you went through,
So He gave you rest.
God's garden must be beautiful,
He only takes the best
And when I saw you sleeping,
So peaceful and free from pain
I could not wish you back
To suffer that again.
Writing your own funeral poem
You do not have to choose a traditional poem; if you’ve been asked to read a poem at a funeral but cannot find a poem that expresses the way you feel, you could write you own funeral poem.
Writing your own funeral poem means you can make it as personal as you like; you can include memories of your loved one, their personality traits, their habits and anything else than comes to mind when you think of your loved one.
Everyone will approach writing poetry differently - when you begin writing your poem, do not worry too much about the form and structure, just focus on getting your ideas on paper. A good place to start is to think about the message or the theme you would like to communicate. Is it a message of love and life, grief and loss or even the afterlife? Have a think about how you would like people to react to your poem. The message will affect this.
Once you have got your ideas down, it is easier to think about the structure of your poem. Are you happy with how your poem reads? Have you used a rhyme scheme? Read other funeral poems to find out what you like and don’t like, then try and adapt your poem to that style.
If you are struggling for ideas on how to structure your poem, the easiest option is to write in rhyming couplets. This is where the last word of every two lines rhymes, before moving to a different rhyme for the next two lines.
If you are planning a funeral for your loved one, you may find our guidance and advice area helpful. We’ve advice on choosing a funeral song, how to write an order of service and even how to arrange a memorial service.
For help arranging a funeral for your loved one, contact us today.