Do you need ideas for a brief funeral reading or condolence message? These ‘rest in peace’ short funeral poems say everything they need to say using only a few words.
Have a look through and see if any catch your eye.
Short poems about the death of a loved one
We’ve picked out three short remembrance poems that pay tribute to a mum, a dad and a friend. You’ll also find a few you can use to remember any person, no matter your relation to them.
A poem for mum
Your Clothes by Judith Kroll
When you lose someone, it can often be hard to let go of their possessions. Judith Kroll explores this subject in ‘Your Clothes’, a short poem about memories and grief.
Kroll believes that her mother’s clothes are ‘artifacts’ and ‘empty shells’. Yet, at the same time, they still carry something of her memory – as do her daughters.
Read ‘Your Clothes’ on the Poetry Foundation website.
A poem for dad
My Father’s Funeral by Frank Ormsby
This short, sad poem is about the strange stillness we feel in familiar places after a person has died. In this case, it’s the poet’s father’s house, which has taken on an ‘unbearable tidiness’ since he passed away.
Read it here.
A poem for a friend
Poem by Langston Hughes
If you’re grieving a friend, it can be difficult to find words to express how you feel. ‘Poem’ captures that feeling perfectly. It doesn’t say much except that the poet has lost a friend he loved – but it doesn’t need to. That simple truth is poignant enough to stand on its own.
Read ‘Poem’ here.
More short poems about losing a loved one
Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson is best known for writing works of fiction, such as Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He wrote several volumes of poetry too.
In ‘Requiem’, Stevenson suggests that death is like going back home. He says he’s happy to die because he lived a happy life.
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
‘Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.’
Death by Bill Knott
Here’s something a bit different. ‘Death’ is a short funeral poem with an absurd sense of humour. The poet, Bill Knott, imagines being laid to rest with his hands placed over his chest. He says that this will make it look like he’s ‘flying into himself’.
You can read it here.
No Funeral Gloom by William Allingham
‘No Funeral Gloom’ is an old poem with a timeless message. The person in the poem says that when he dies, he wants people to focus on happy memories and not make a fuss.
No funeral gloom, my dears, when I am gone,
Corpse-gazing, tears, black raiment, graveyard grimness;
Think of me as withdrawn into the dimness,
Yours still, you mine; remember all the best
Of our past moments, and forget the rest;
And so, to where I wait, come gently on.
Short poems about loss and grief
Here are some more short poems about death. These ones focus on the people left behind and how they might struggle or come to terms with grief.
Separation by W. S. Merwin
‘Separation’ is a very short piece. This means it’s ideal for signing off a sympathy letter or card.
The poem uses a needle and thread to help explain grief. The writer feels that his loss has stitched itself into his life, in the same way a needle stitches colours into fabric.
Read it here.
To One in Sorrow by Grace Noll Crowell
Are you looking for a short sympathy poem? ‘To One in Sorrow’ could fit the bill. It’s written as a plea to a grieving friend, asking them to accept a little comfort and support. The message is, ‘I’ve been there and I understand’.
‘To One in Sorrow’ is a little longer than most of the pieces here. You might want to choose one verse instead of using all three.
You’ll find the poem here.
Little Elegy by Elinor Wylie
An elegy is a type of sad poem that reflects on the death of a loved one. In Elinor Wylie’s ‘Little Elegy’, we don’t know who that person is – only that she misses them very much. So much, in fact, that she feels that flowers won’t bloom and birds won’t fly now that they’re gone.
In other words, she feels as if her world is standing still.
Click here to read the poem. The video below is a musical version composed by Ned Rorem.
Short poems about life and the joy of living
Sometimes, when a person dies, it can help us see life from a new perspective. These poems are all about that. They have an uplifting feel and focus on celebrating a life well lived.
Life by Helen Steiner Rice
Helen Steiner Rice is famous for writing inspirational Christian poetry. This one isn’t very religious, but it’s certainly inspiring. It’s quite a simple poem that reads like a shopping list for life. Among other things, Rice mentions ‘laughter’, ‘calm’, ‘strife’ and ‘loving’.
Read it here.
A Brief Matter by Michael Ashby
This poem has a simple message: life may be short, but death can come in an instant. It reminds us to concentrate on living a happy life, rather than wasting time on things we don’t want to do.
You can read the poem on Michael Ashby’s website.
Short poems about Heaven
If you believe in an afterlife, you might take comfort in these short ‘goodbye’ poems.
Heaven — Haven by Gerard Manley Hopkins
‘Heaven — Haven’ is written from the perspective of a nun who’s thinking about Heaven. She believes it will be a peaceful place where she’s protected from the ‘storms’ and ‘hail’ of this world.
The poem might make a good tribute to someone who lived a hard life, yet still devoted it to God.
– A nun takes the veil
I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
God Saw You Getting Tired by Frances and Kathleen Coelho
Are you remembering a person who died from an illness? This short funeral poem might help you come to terms with your loss. It describes a person fading away because ‘a cure was not to be’. Her family is devastated, but they take comfort in the belief that God is looking after her. After all, God ‘only takes the best’.
Here’s a popular version of the poem.
To Heaven by Robert Herrick
All Christians want to live good lives and earn a place in Heaven. But what if you’re not sure you’ll be allowed in? In this humorous poem, Robert Herrick proposes a solution: if he’s turned away from Heaven when he dies, he’ll ‘force the gate’!
Open thy gates
To him who weeping waits,
And might come in,
But that held back by sin.
Let mercy be
So kind, to set me free,
And I will straight
Come in, or force the gate.
More funeral poetry ideas
We hope you found a short funeral poem that suits the person who has died. For more funeral ideas and help, visit our funeral planning advice centre.
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