If you’ve been asked to do a reading at a funeral, it’s normal to feel unsure of where to start. Poems are a popular choice, as they can reflect complicated and changing emotions in just a few lines. They’re a great way to pay your respects and celebrate the life of the person you have lost. The classic funeral poems below could serve as a reading, a message in a book of condolence or could be kept close to bring you comfort.
Classic poems for funerals
Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep – Mary Frye
Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep is one of the most popular traditional funeral readings. Its rhyming verse is comforting, while its message offers consolation that death isn’t necessarily the end. It’s also a good choice of poem for memorials such as gravestones and cremation headstones.
“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!)”
Warm Summer Sun – Mark Twain
While only a few lines long, Mark Twain’s Warm Summer Sun has lots of warm and comforting imagery, giving a sense of a loved one’s return to nature. Short traditional funeral poems can be ideal if you’re less comfortable with public speaking.
“Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.”
When Great Trees Fall – Maya Angelou
When Great Trees Fall is an ideal reading for the funeral of a strong person who made a big impact on those around them. This classic funeral poem acknowledges the difficulty you might experience adjusting to life without them, while drawing strength from the positive changes they brought to the world. You can find a full version of the poem here.
“And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”
She Is Gone – David Harkins
If you want an uplifting funeral poem, She Is Gone by David Harkins could be what you’re looking for. The poem highlights various stages of grief, paired with advice that encourages a sense of gratitude and positivity. Feel free to change “she” to the pronouns of the person you’re reading for.
“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.”
Death is Nothing At All – Henry Scott Holland
This touching poem by Henry Scott Holland encourages us to remember and cherish the bond we hold with the person we’ve lost. Its final verse offers solace that you may meet again. You can find the full poem here.
“Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.”
More Funeral Poetry
There are many classic poems about loss, grief and the celebration of life. You may need to browse several different options until you find the one that feels right to you. You can find some more ideas in these articles:
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