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Popular Poems for Funerals & Non-religious Readings

Last updated 8th October 2021

11 min read

Non-religious funeral readings are a beautiful way to connect to grieving loved ones, giving you the ability to make a non-religious funeral personal and unique. They help to capture the spirit of the person lost and express the feelings of the people left behind. Some can be mournful while others can be uplifting.

Fallen leaves on top of poem book

Like funeral songs, a well-chosen poem or funeral reading can offer comfort or raise a smile and will serve as a wonderful reminder of a loved one long into the future.

Whether you read from your lost loved one’s favourite literary classic or find comfort in the words of a popular children’s novel, secular funeral readings have the power to uplift, inspire and connect those attending the service.

Here’s a selection of beautiful bereavement poems, prose and extracts to help you in your search.

Popular bereavement poems

Short funeral poems

Non-religious and Humanist funeral poems

Religious funeral poems

Happy and funny funeral poems

Paying tribute to parents

Song lyrics as funeral verses

Book extracts as funeral readings

Popular bereavement poems

Here are some examples of popular funeral poems. All have beautiful and poignant meanings.

Funeral Blues

She Is Gone

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Remember

Funeral Blues – 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…

Read full poem

She is Gone – 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 she has left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her

or you can be full of the love you shared…

Read full poem

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep – Mary Elizabeth Frye

For over 70 years, this uplifting poem has been a common reading at funerals due to its beautiful message that those who love you are always with you. Although the poem has disputed authorship, it has been widely accepted that Frye wrote this poem for a young girl worried about her mother, becoming popular for its ability to resonate and inspire hope.

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.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain…

Read full poem

Remember – Christina Rosetti

Written in 1849, “Remember” is a Victorian poem beautifully covering the themes of mourning, life, memory and love. Told from the perspective of the lost loved one, the poem offers a great deal of comfort for listeners, asking friends and family to remember them but to also prioritise their happiness.

Remember me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you planned:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

Short funeral poems

Shorter poems can also be a good option for children who want to participate in the funeral service, or for adults who are too upset or nervous to say more.

They also make good wording for funeral flowers and sympathy cards.

If I Should Go

Though I Am Dead

Those Who Love

A Clear Midnight

If I Should Go – Joyce Grenfell

If I should go 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.

Though I am Dead – Anonymous

Though I am dead grieve not for me with tears

think not of death with sorrowing and tears;

I am so near that every tear you shed

touches and tortures me though you think me dead.

But when you laugh and sing in glad delight,

my soul is lifted upward to the light.

Laugh and be glad for all that life is giving

and I, though dead, will share your joy in living.

Those Who Love – Anonymous

It’s always those who love the most

Who most miss the one they love,

When comes the parting of the ways,

And clouds loom dark above;

But tears will pass, your skies will clear

Then will you smile again,

And comfort find in memories,

Which now bring bitter pain.

A Clear Midnight – Walt Whitman

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the

themes thou lovest best,

Night, sleep, death and the stars.

Non-religious and Humanist funeral poems

With Humanist and alternative funerals on the rise, poems are a great way to express feelings and offer comfort without any religious sentiment.

A humanist funeral is conducted by trained celebrants. It is usually a very personal ceremonies.

Non-religious funeral poems make a thoughtful addition to these ceremonies.

I Am There

Death is Nothing at All

The Road Not Taken

Sunflowers

I Am There – Iris Hesselden

Look for me when the tide is high

And the gulls are wheeling overhead

When the autumn wind sweeps the cloudy sky

And one by one the leaves are shed

I am there, where the river flows…

Read full poem

Death is Nothing at All – Canon 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…

Read full poem

The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost

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 travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Sunflowers – Rupi Kaur

despite knowing

they won’t be here long

they still choose to live

their brightest lives

Religious funeral poems

If your loved one wished for a religious ceremony, a reading or verse with their faith in mind would be a good place to start.

Psalm 23

Another Leaf Has Fallen

A Place Called Heaven

Psalm 23

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul;

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me;

Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;

Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Another Leaf Has Fallen – Unknown

Another leaf has fallen,

another soul has gone.

But still we have God’s promises,

in every robin’s song.

For he is in His heaven,

and though He takes away,

He always leaves to mortals,

the bright sun’s kindly ray.

He leaves the fragrant blossoms,

and lovely forest, green.

And gives us new found comfort,

when we on Him will lean.

A Place Called Heaven – Prayers for Special Help

I have a place that waits for me

A place I love, called Calvary

Where angels sing and rejoice all day

And children laugh, run and play.

Here the Masters holds my hand

As we walk through Heavens land.

This is the place Ive dreamed of for so long

So beautiful, so heavenly like the angels song.

Happy and funny funeral poems

There’s no rule that says a funeral reading must be serious or sad. A funeral can be a celebration of life and a fond farewell.

What’s wonderful is that uplifting funeral poems are frequently chosen by the deceased during their lifetime, to comfort those left behind.

What is Success?

When Great Trees Fall

Farewell My Friends

Afterglow

The Last Will and Testament of Jack Thackray

What is Success? – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This timeless poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson is perfect for those wanting to stay away from the topic of death and instead focus on life. It celebrates the little things in life, defining success as living kindly and proudly. This poem is a lovely way to celebrate the life of your lost loved one and leave people with a reflective smile on their face.

To laugh often and love much, to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affections of children;

to earn the approbation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends;

to appreciate the beauty;

to find the best in others;

to give one’s self;

to leave the world a bit better, whether by healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;

to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived,

this is to have succeeded.

"When Great Trees Fall" extract by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou uses the metaphor of great trees to inspire powerful imagery, symbolsing how death can have such a monumental impact and leave its mark. The final stanza of the poem, written below, is particularly poignant, explaining how pain is replaced by an ‘electric vibration’. This vibration reminds us that our loved ones are always connected to us, even when they are gone.

And when great souls die,

after a period peace blooms,

slowly and always

irregularly. Spaces fill

with a kind of

soothing electric vibration.

Our senses, restored, never

to be the same, whisper to us.

They existed. They existed.

We can be. Be and be

better. For they existed

Farewell My Friends – 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.

Those dear hearts who love and care…

And the strings pulling at the heart and soul…

Read full poem

Afterglow – Unknown

I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.

I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.

I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways,

Of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.

I’d like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun;

Of happy memories that I leave when life is done.

The Last Will and Testament of Jack Thackray – Jack Thackray

I, the under-mentioned, by this document

Do declare my true intentions, my last will, my testament.

When I turn up my toes, when I rattle my clack, when I agonise,

I want no great wet weepings, no tearing of hair, no wringing of hands,

No sighs, no lack-a-days, no woe-is-me's and none of your sad adieus.

Go, go, go and get the priest and then go get the booze, boys.

Read full poem

Paying tribute to parents

Losing a parent is hard at any age and for some it can be overwhelming to recount personal stories at the funeral.

A funeral poem is an alternative way to share your memories and convey how the person influenced you.

Funeral poems for mum

A Mother’s Love – Helen Steiner Rice

A Mother’s love is something

that no one can explain,

It is made of deep devotion

and of sacrifice and pain,

It is endless and unselfish

and enduring come what may …

Read full poem

Funeral poems for Dad

His Charming Ways Unknown

His charming ways and smiling face;

Are a pleasure to recall;

He had a kindly word for each;

And died beloved by all…

Read full poem

Song lyrics as funeral readings

If your loved one had a special place in their heart for music, a reading of one of their favourite songs, or one with particularly meaningful lyrics, can be a lovely way to pay tribute to them.

A song means something different to everyone who hears it. Reading one that reminds you of your loved one and their life is very personal and helps you say what you want to when you can’t find the right words yourself.

These readings make a great alternative to a traditional poem or verse for a funeral.

Goodbye England’s rose

In My Life

Wish You Were Here

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Goodbye England’s rose – Elton John

Goodbye England's rose

May you ever grow in our hearts

You were the grace that placed itself

Where lives were torn apart

You called out to our country

And you whispered to those in pain

Now you belong to heaven

And the stars spell out your name

And it seems to me you lived your life

Like a candle in the wind

Never fading with the sunset

When the rain set in

And your footsteps will always fall here

Along England's greenest hills

Your candle's burned out long before

Your legend ever will

Loveliness we've lost

These empty days without your smile

This torch we'll always carry

For our nation's golden child

And even though we try

The truth brings us to tears

All our words cannot express

The joy you brought us through the years

In my life – The Beatles

There are places I remember

All my life though some have changed

Some forever not for better

Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments

With lovers and friends I still can recall

Some are dead and some are living

In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers

There is no one compares with you

And these memories lose their meaning

When I think of love as something new

Though I know I'll never lose affection

For people and things that went before

I know I'll often stop and think about them

In my life I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection

For people and things that went before

I know I'll often stop and think about them

In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more

Wish you were here Pink Floyd

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,

blue skies from pain.

Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?

A smile from a veil?

Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?

Hot ashes for trees?

Hot air for a cool breeze?

Cold comfort for change?

And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.

We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,

Running over the same old ground.

What have you found? The same old fears.

Wish you were here.

You’ll never walk alone Gerry and The Pacemakers

When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

And don't be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm

Is a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart

And you'll never walk alone

You'll never walk alone

Book extracts as funeral readings

Whether they were lovers of literature or you're struggling to find the appropriate words, reading a book extract can encapsulate the history, relationships and qualities of your lost loved one. Novels resonate with a wide audience and can help those attending the funeral feel close to the person they've lost, making them a wonderful addition to any funeral. They are often non-religious and offer something different to the usual popular funeral poems.

Take a look at the secular funeral readings below to help you celebrate the unique story of your loved one.

Fahrenheit 451

No Matter What

Little Prince

Winnie the Pooh

Charlotte's Web

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This extract from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a beautiful reminder that we leave our mark in many ways, be it planting a garden or introducing a child into the world. Our loved ones will be remembered as their soul had a lasting impact on the lives of those surrounding them.

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.

It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

An extract from No Matter What by Debi Gliori

“Does love wear out” said Small, “does it break or bend? Can you fix it, stick it, does it mend?”

“Oh help,” said Large “I’m not that clever. I just know I’ll love you forever”.

Small said: “But what about when you’re dead and gone - would you love me then, does love go on?”

Large held Small snug as they looked out at the night, at the moon in the dark and the stars shining bright.

“Small, look at the stars – how they shine and glow. Yet some of those stars died a long time ago. Still they shine in the evening skies… love, like starlight, never dies”.

An extract from the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This beloved children’s story still resonates with adults and children alike, making it a popular secular funeral reading. The story explores the themes of love, loss, loneliness and friendship, and the extract below is certain to offer a moment of comfort for friends and family.

“People have stars, but they aren’t the same. For travellers, the stars are guides. For other people, they’re nothing but tiny lights. And for still others, for scholars, they’re problems. For my business man, they were gold. But all those stars are silent stars. You, though, you’ll have stars like nobody else.”

“What do you mean?”

"When you look up at the sky at night, since I'll be living on one of them, since I'll be laughing on one of them, for you it'll be as if all the stars are laughing. You'll have stars that can laugh!"

"And when you're consoled (everyone is eventually consoled), you'll be glad you've known me. You'll always be my friend. You'll feel like laughing with me. And you'll open your windows sometimes just for the fun of it ... And your friends will be amazed to see you laughing while you're looking up at the sky. Then you'll tell them, 'Yes, it's the stars; they always make me laugh!' And they'll think you're crazy. It'll be a nasty trick I played on you ..."

An extract from Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we're not together there is something you must always remember… You are braver than you believe. Stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is even if we are apart I'll always be with you.”

We hope this selection of funeral poems has helped inspire you. When faced with bereavement and speaking at a funeral, explaining how much the person was loved and the sadness felt over the loss can be hard.

A poem or short verse can help express these emotions and takes the pressure off finding your own words yourself.

If you’re thinking about funeral planning, a pre-paid funeral plan could be an option. Read more about funeral plans.

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

At the end of Charlotte’s Web, Charlotte teaches us meaning can be found in the beautiful friendships that we build throughout our lives. While you can’t control many things in life, including the end of our life cycle, you can be kind and help others - and, for that, you’ll always be remembered.

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

We hope we could help you to find the perfect non-religious funeral reading to commemorate your loved one. If not, feel free to use the above as inspiration to write your own poem or reading, making it even more personal to your loved one.

If you need to plan a funeral and would like our support, take a look at our funeral plans today.