Finding the right words for the funeral of someone you love can be really difficult. Words are important, particularly when we feel lost, confused or alone. They can convey emotions that are sometimes hard to express, and help us to reach out to others in the darkest of times, to connect, comfort and console. They can also provide light in the darkness.
To help you to find a poem that is right for you, we have gathered together on our Inspiration pages a carefully curated selection suitable for funerals, memorials and celebrations of life. There is a large selection, but here we bring you the ten most popular funeral poems on whiteballoon.
‘GOD SAW YOU GETTING TIRED’ by Frances and Kathleen Coelho
God saw you getting tired,
And a cure was not to be
So he put His arms around you
And He whispered, ‘Come to me’…
This is one of the most searched-for poems on our website. When we contacted Kathleen Coelho in February 2021 to find out more about its origins, she told us the story behind this poem, which was written by her mother, Frances.
Kathleen told us, ‘this poem was actually written in January, 1939 by my Mom for her mother. It was just before her 18th birthday when she wrote it. She took the poem out again when we lost my Dad many years ago, and she asked me to go over it and make some changes’. Kathleen made these changes and you can read the full version of this beautiful poem via the link below.
‘CROSSING THE BAR’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea…
Composed in 1889 when Lord Tennyson was 80 years old, and just three years before his death, Tennyson was perhaps contemplating the end of his life and the wish for a tranquil passing. It expresses a hope for a high tide ‘too full for sound and foam’, to allow for a calm and quiet crossing of the sand bar. The ‘bar’ represents the moment between life, death, and what lay beyond. For sea-lovers and land-lovers alike, this poem reflects on a journey that we must all at some point make.
‘DO NOT STAND AT MY GRAVE AND WEEP’ by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow…
Dating from the early 20th Century, in this poem Mary Elizabeth Frye is entreating the people who love her not to mourn her death, but to recognise that she is still with them, all around them, in nature, in everyday things, and in their memories. Mary, a florist, is said to have written this in the early 1930s, but authorship of this poem is disputed and it has also been attributed to Clare Harner, a poet who first formally published it in 1934.
‘FUNERAL BLUES’ by W H Auden
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…
Another firm favourite, not least due to its inclusion in the 1994 hit film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ where it was read, so movingly, by actor John Hannah. The poem beautifully, and heartbreakingly, captures the utter despair and depth of grief after loss.
‘DEATH IS NOTHING AT ALL’ by Henry Scott-Holland
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was…
Scott-Holland, a priest at St Paul’s Cathedral, delivered this as part of a sermon titled ‘Death the King of Terrors’ in 1910 following the death of King Edward VII. It invites the reader to understand that life goes on and that death does not separate us, it just changes the way our togetherness is experienced.
‘LET ME GO’ by Christina Rossetti
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?…
This and ‘Remember Me‘ are two of the most well known remembrance poems by Victorian poet, Christina Rossetti. Encouraging those left behind to focus on the living, rather than on mourning the dead, she presents death as a release and merely a stepping stone to whatever comes next.
‘FAREWELL MY FRIENDS’ by Rabindranath Tagore
It was beautiful as long as it lasted
The journey of my life.
I have no regrets whatsoever
Save the pain I’ll leave behind…
This poem by Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali polymath and winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature, is an ode to the beauty of life, friendship, and the comfort of happy memories. It is uplifting and positive, whilst still acknowledging the pain of grief and loss.
‘A LONG CUP OF TEA’ by Michael Ashby
Death is too negative for me,
So I’ll be popping off
For a long cup of tea.
Do splash out
On two bags in the pot,
And for my god’s sake
Keep the water hot…
This modern, lighthearted funeral poem is one of many written by poet and writer, Michael Ashby. His remembrance poems touch on everyday events, hobbies and funeral wishes, such as Funeralissimo, Cruising the Supernova and Life Goes On (I want fireworks). Funny, informal and sure to make people smile.
‘I CARRY YOUR HEART WITH ME’ by E E Cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
This poem by E E Cummings talks about the deep and enduring power of love and the unity that true love brings. Their hearts are one and love is undiminished by physical distance or partings. The speaker, in many ways, has lost their autonomy, since everything they do is in some way influenced by the intertwined nature of their beings. The punctuation and grammar (all lowercase and irregular spacing) is as the author wished it to be.
‘A CHILD OF MINE’ by Edgar Albert Guest
I will lend you, for a little time,
A child of mine, He said.
For you to love the while he lives,
And mourn for when he’s dead…
In this poem, the speaker, God, asks the parent to take care of his child for an unspecified amount of time. It is understood that having a child brings with it the possibility of the loss, but that the joy of loving and caring for the child, for however short a time, is worth the agony of having to say goodbye. Two of Guest’s children died, and this poem urges parents to find some comfort in the short but precious time they spent with their beloved child.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading these excerpts and have found amongst them something that touches you or feels right. We hope also that you have been inspired to read more and to discover the many other wonderful poems, readings and prayers on whiteballoon and elsewhere.