Your Guide to Funeral Planning | 12.20.2020

6 Funeral Poems to Honor Loved Ones

6 Funeral Poems to Honor Loved Ones

Reviewed By: William Prout

Cross Checked By: Joshua Siegel

Poetry is often able to put our emotions into words when we cannot. If planning to read poems for funerals as part of a eulogy or memorial service, the right poem can provide comfort during a difficult time. Since finding the perfect funeral poem can be intimidating, here are 6 beautiful poems for funerals that capture the subtleties of life, grief and loss.  

  • A Meeting by Edith Wharton

Written by Edith Wharton, A Meeting describes stopping on a bridge and basking in a small moment with a loved one until you must pass by. The final line–“My life shall be your bridge”–makes this a special funeral poem because it reminds us all of how we carry the memories of loved ones with us and the importance of pausing our daily lives to simply remember. 

"On a sheer peak of joy we meet;
Below us hums the abyss;
Death either way allures our feet
If we take one step amiss.

One moment let us drink the blue
Transcendent air together—
Then down where the same old work's to do
In the same dull daily weather.

We may not wait . . . yet look below!
How part? On this keen ridge
But one may pass. They call you—go!
My life shall be your bridge."

Reference (public domain)

  • The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Perhaps Frost’s most well-known poem, The Road Not Taken speaks of forging one’s own path through life. While it may not be an obvious funeral poem, The Road Not Taken is perfect for a celebration of life, as it encapsulates one’s independence and joy in taking the road less traveled by. 

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

Reference Link: (public domain)

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  • For Keeps by Joy Harjo

Written by Joy Harjo, For Keeps depicts returning to the welcoming, open arms of one’s ancestors. During a time of grief, this can be a unique funeral poem as it seeks to find solace and joy in the connections we have formed in life and those from the past that have brought us to the present.

"Sun makes the day new.
Tiny green plants emerge from earth.
Birds are singing the sky into place.
There is nowhere else I want to be but here.
I lean into the rhythm of your heart to see where it will take us.
We gallop into a warm, southern wind."

Read more... Reference Link:

  • Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye

A popular funeral poem, Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep reminds us that those we have lost continue to live on in both our memories and the world around us. Mary Elizabeth Frye writes that we can find our loved loves through nature, that no one is ever really gone. 

"Do not stand
   By my grave, and weep,
I am not there,
   I do not sleep--

I am the thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints in snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle, autumn rain.
As you awake with morning's hush,
I am the swift, up-flinging rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the day transcending night.

Do not stand
   By my grave, and cry--
I am not there,
I did not die."

Reference Link: (public domain)

  • Dear Lovely Death by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes suggests that death is not final, that it is merely a conduit for change. Dear Lovely Death serves as a reminder that no one is truly gone but has taken on a different form. If read as a funeral poem, the final line, “Change is thy other name,” brings comfort by reshaping our understanding of death. 

"Dear lovely Death
That taketh all things under wing—
Never to kill—
Only to change
Into some other thing
This suffering flesh,
To make it either more or less,
But not again the same—
Dear lovely Death,
Change is thy other name.Dear lovely Death
That taketh all things under wing—
Never to kill—
Only to change
Into some other thing
This suffering flesh,
To make it either more or less,
But not again the same—
Dear lovely Death,
Change is thy other name."

Reference Link:

  • Untitled [This is what was bequeathed us] by Gregory Orr

Written by Gregory Orr, Untitled describes what has been left behind: the simple world in which we must live. If read as a funeral poem, its final line, “Sing me awake,” is a sort of call-to-action, a reminder to color the world with the memory of those who have passed, to bring them back through our hearts and voices.  

"This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
Left to us.

No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.

No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.

No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.

That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake."

Reference Link:

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How Do I Choose a Funeral Poem?

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