The bereavement poems or grief poems below are all suitable for funeral readings.
They represent diverse points of view and feelings about that inescapable event we all meet in varying forms throughout our lives.
Sometimes it's a death of a friend. Sometimes it's family, and sometimes it's swift, or slow ...
Like life, death has many faces. These poems reflect that.
Finding just the right words to express how you feel is important. A good bereavement poem will fit you personally and give you comfort. Take your time. Read the poems slowly and let their words speak to you.
When you find one that seems right, try it on for size by saying it out loud. If you like it, keep it.
If you decide to use a poem in a eulogy or as a funeral reading please acknowledge its writer.
(Find out more about how to read a poem aloud. Step by step guidelines to help you read the poem you choose competently and confidently.)
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West.
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
W. H. Auden
To listen to the poem being read aloud, to find out more about: what it means, its figures of speech, its history, and to get a printable for your own use, go to Funeral Blues by WH Auden.
Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labour, and my leisure too,
For his civility.
We passed the school where children played,
Their lessons scarcely done;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.
We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.
Since then 'tis centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.
I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.
I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.
I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.
I wonder if when years have piled,
Some thousands, on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;
Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.
The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies,
Death is but one and comes but once
And only nails the eyes.
There's grief of want, and grief of cold,
A sort they call 'despair,'
There's banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.
And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,
To note the fashions of the cross
Of those that stand alone
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
O God within my breast.
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life, that in me has rest,
As I, Undying Life, have power in Thee!
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.
Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.
There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou, Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.
Life is but a stopping place,
A pause in what's to be,
A resting place along the road,
to sweet eternity.
We all have different journeys,
Different paths along the way,
We all were meant to learn some things,
but never meant to stay...
Our destination is a place,
Far greater than we know.
For some the journey's quicker,
For some the journey's slow.
And when the journey finally ends,
We'll claim a great reward,
And find an everlasting peace,
Together with the lord
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go - so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, 'There is no memory of him here!'
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
Edna St Vincent Millay
Your grief for what you've lost holds a mirror
up to where you're bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look and instead,
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as bird wings.
Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)
You might be covered
by eyelids closed
over your whole being,
or reach with desperation
for something alive
to hold onto.
Your fingertips will hide
in a fist. No more palms
open to life.
Humbled, the very ground
will seem so large. Someday
the earth will own you.
Or you see there's no time
to waste, and plow
into previously feared goals.
Try to be patient
if it takes you years
This is the exit from Eden,
when you have chosen life
while wanting to die.
This is the fall that gives
wisdom, perspective, gratefulness.
It is worth the crawl, back to life.
No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Then you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O, if, I say, you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse.
But let your love even with my life decay,
Lest the wise world should look into your moan
And mock you with me after I am gone.