If someone you know is grieving, finding the right words can be difficult. We’ve put together this collection of sympathy and condolence poems to help you find the words you want to say. If you find one that you like you could write it down in a sympathy card, perhaps with a short personal message. Or you could read it at the funeral as part of a funeral speech or eulogy.
Popular condolence poems
Immortality by Clare Harner
This is one of the UK’s most popular condolence poems. It’s often published under the name ‘Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’.
The poem is written from the point of view of a person who has died. It asks people not to grieve because the person lives on through nature. As the poem says, they’re there when the wind blows, the snow falls and the sun shines.
The original version was written by Clare Harner in 1934. You can read it here.
Let Me Go by Christina Rossetti
Christina Georgina Rossetti was a famous 19th-century poet. She wrote several poems about death and dying. ‘Let Me Go’ is one of her best-known pieces. It’s about knowing that death is coming and hoping that people won’t be sad for very long.
‘Let Me Go’ is quite a long poem. If you need a poem for a condolence card, you might want to choose a short snippet that you like. The first part of the poem is below – you can read the rest here.
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.
Sympathy poems for the loss of a mother
My Mother by Ann Taylor
‘My Mother’ is about being thankful for a mother’s love. It would make the perfect condolence poem for someone who’s grieving for their mum. Or you could read it at your mother’s funeral as a tribute.
Here’s the first part of the poem. Why not read the full piece and pick out a few verses that mean a lot to you? Some parts have religious references, so they may not be suitable for a non-religious funeral.
Who sat and watched my infant head
When sleeping on my cradle bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed?
When pain and sickness made me cry,
Who gazed upon my heavy eye,
And wept for fear that I should die?
Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me by Maya Angelou
This is a modern piece, first published in 2006. It uses powerful, poetic language to express the unique bond between a mother and her child. The poem starts in childhood, describes the poet’s difficult teenage years, then ends with a ‘thank you’ to her mother for always loving her.
You can read part of the poem here.
Sympathy poems for the loss of a father
An extract from Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Walden is a book about living a simple life among nature. This extract shows the author’s feelings on the subject. He believes some people are born to be different and should follow their own path, even if that means living apart from society.
While it’s not specifically about someone who has died, it would make a good tribute to a father who lived life by their own rules.
Why should we be in such haste to succeed
And in such desperate enterprises
If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
Perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears,
However treasured or far away.
Happy the Man by John Dryden
Even though this poem is quite old, it still feels relevant. It talks about the importance of enjoying each day as it comes. You could send it to someone who’s lost their father to remind them that their dad lived a full and happy life.
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.
A Boy and His Dad by Edgar Guest
‘A Boy and His Dad’ would be a good condolence poem for a son who’s lost their father. It tells the story of a fishing trip, but the main point is that you should treasure the time you spend with your dad. You don’t have to like fishing to find meaning in it.
Read the full poem here.
Sympathy poems for the loss of a brother or sister
Brother and Sister by George Eliot
‘Brother and Sister’ is a poem about sharing a happy childhood with a sibling. It’s probably too long to read aloud or use in a sympathy card, but you could choose a part you like and use that. It may be especially comforting for a sister who’s lost their brother.
An extract is below. The full poem is available here.
Long years have left their writing on my brow,
But yet the freshness and the dew-fed beam
Of those young mornings are about me now,
When we two wandered toward the far-off stream
With rod and line. Our basket held a store
Baked for us only, and I thought with joy
That I should have my share, though he had more,
Because he was the elder and a boy.
The firmaments of daisies since to me
Have had those mornings in their opening eyes,
The bunchèd cowslip’s pale transparency
Carries that sunshine of sweet memories,
And wild-rose branches take their finest scent
From those blest hours of infantine content.
The Broken Chain by Ron Tranmer
‘The Broken Chain’ is a religious poem that compares a family’s love to links in a chain. When a person in the family dies, the chain is broken. However, it will become whole again when the family members meet in heaven.
You can read the poem on Ron Tranmer’s website.
Short sympathy poems and quotes
These short pieces would make excellent poems for sympathy cards because they’re easy to copy out. We’ve also chosen a couple of quotes that could bring comfort to people who are grieving. You could write these after a condolence message or say them at the end of a funeral speech.
Time Is by Henry van Dyke
This poem is perhaps most famous for being part of Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997. It recognises that time moves slowly for people who are grieving but reminds them that love lasts forever. The poem is sometimes called ‘For Katrina’s Sun Dial’.
Time is too slow for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice,
But for those who love, time is
An extract from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
This is a very old poem by an 11th -century Persian mathematician. It has a bittersweet feel – it urges people to enjoy life while they can, but promises that death isn’t really the end.
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend
Before we too into the Dust descend
Dust unto Dust, and under Dust, to lie
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and—sans End.
An anonymous poem about grief
This short sympathy poem was written by an unnamed poet. Nonetheless, it has a powerful message. It says that people shouldn’t be ashamed to cry, because tears express our deepest emotions.
There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.
They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.
They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.
‘There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief’
This quote means ‘happy memories are the saddest memories when you’re grieving’. It’s said to come from the ancient Greek writer Aeschylus.
‘When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight’
This quote is taken from The Prophet, a bestselling book by Kahlil Gibran. It says that when we grieve, we feel sad because we’re remembering happy times.
More grief and sympathy poems
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