It can be hard to find the right words to express grief – especially if the family has asked you to make a funeral speech.
Don’t worry. You can choose from lots of beautiful poems to say goodbye at a funeral. This way, you can pay tribute to the person who has died using someone else’s words.
Here are some of our favourite poems for funeral services. Perhaps you’ll spot one that expresses the things you want to say.
Poems for funerals and wakes
This selection of poems includes uplifting and sad readings, so you can find something to suit the service.
A beautiful and popular poem
This poem by David Harkins is one of the most popular poems to say at a funeral. When Harkins wrote the piece in 1982, he called it Remember Me. It’s now more often known as “She is Gone”, “He is Gone” or “You Can Shed Tears”.
She Is Gone (He Is Gone) by 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.
A simple funeral poem for dad or grandad
This poem is easy to understand and looks at grief in a positive way. It doesn’t have to be about a father or grandfather – it could also make a suitable funeral poem for a partner or another family member. To make it about a woman, simply change “him” to “her”, and so on.
His Journey’s Just Begun by Ellen Brenneman
Don’t think of him as gone away
His journey’s just begun,
Life holds so many facets
This Earth is only one.
Just think of him as resting
From the sorrows and the tears
In a place of warmth and comfort
Where there are no days and years.
Think how he must be wishing
That we could know today
How nothing but our sadness
Can really pass away.
And think of him as living
In the hearts of those he touched…
For nothing loved is ever lost
And he was loved so much.
An uplifting funeral poem that celebrates life
This poem is often credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but this is a mistake. Its real author was an American woman called Bessie Anderson Stanley. She wrote Success in 1904 for a writing contest. When she died, the poem was inscribed on her gravestone.
Success by Bessie Anderson Stanley
To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent persons
And the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And to endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give of one’s self;
To leave the world a little better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch
Or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
And sung with exultation;
To know that even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived –
This is to have succeeded.
Short funeral poems
If you’d like a shorter reading, these poems express difficult feelings in just a few lines.
No Night Without by Helen Steiner Rice
Helen Steiner Rice wrote several poems that are suitable for funerals. No Night Without is one of her best-known poems about grief.
There is no night without a dawning
No winter without a spring
And beyond the dark horizon
Our hearts will once more sing…
For those who leave us for a while
Have only gone away
Out of a restless, careworn world
Into a brighter day.
Death by Joyce Grenfell
Like many of her writings, Joyce Grenfell’s funeral poem has a slightly humorous feel. It might be a good tribute to a person who didn’t take life too seriously.
If I should die 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.
Poems for specific faiths and cultures
A Christian poem about grief
Henry Scott-Holland was a famous priest and social activist. This is one of his most famous pieces of poetry. It might be suitable for a Christian funeral, or for anyone who believes death isn’t the end. It’s sometimes known as “Life Unbroken”.
Death Is Nothing at All by Henry Scott-Holland
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my own familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
An Indian funeral prayer
This traditional piece will work at any funeral, whether it’s religious or not.
When I am dead
Cry for me a little
Think of me sometimes
But not too much.
Think of me now and again
As I was in life
At some moments it’s pleasant to recall
But not for long.
Leave me in peace
And I shall leave you in peace
And while you live
Let your thoughts be with the living.
The Islamic funeral prayer
Here‘s a guide to praying the Janazah, the Muslim funeral prayer.
We hope you found the perfect funeral “goodbye” poem. Still stuck for the right words? Take a look at our guide: what to say in a funeral speech or eulogy.