Popular poems for funerals and non-religious readings
Last updated 14rd April 2023
12 min read
Funeral readings and funeral poems can help you make a religious or 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.
Like funeral songs, a well-chosen funeral poem or funeral reading can offer comfort or raise a smile, and can serve as a wonderful reminder of a loved one.
Whether you read from your loved one's favourite book or find comfort in the words of a famous song, both religious and secular funeral readings have the power to uplift, inspire and connect those attending the service.
Here's a selection of beautiful funeral poems, prose and extracts to help you in your search.
Popular bereavement poems
Here are some examples of popular poems for funerals that have beautiful and poignant meanings.
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...
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...
Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep – Mary Elizabeth Frye
For over 70 years, this uplifting funeral poem has been a common reading at funerals due to its message that those who love you are always with you. The poem is about a young girl who is worried about her mother, and has become 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...
Remember – Christina Rosetti
Written in 1849, 'Remember' beautifully covers the themes of mourning, life, memory and love – making it a fitting poem for funerals. 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 – 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, these types of funeral poems are a great way to express feelings and offer comfort without any religious sentiment.
A humanist funeral is conducted by trained celebrants, and is usually a very personal ceremony. Non-religious funeral poems can make a thoughtful addition to the service.
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...
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...
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
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 at their funeral, a reading or verse with their faith in mind could be a good place to start.
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 often chosen by the deceased during their lifetime, to comfort those left behind.
What is Success? – Ralph Waldo Emerson
This timeless poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson is perfect for those wanting to focus on life rather than death. 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 – Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou uses the metaphor of great trees to inspire powerful imagery, symbolising how death can have 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...
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 Jake Thackray – Jake 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.
Paying tribute to parents with funeral poems
Losing a parent is hard at any age. 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 your loved one 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...
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...
We hope this selection of funeral poems has inspired you. When faced with bereavement, 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 take the pressure off finding your own words yourself.
Song lyrics as funeral readings
If your loved one had a special place in their heart for music, reading 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 funeral readings make a great alternative to a traditional poem or verse.
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 your loved one liked to read or you're struggling to find the right 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 these readings 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.
An extract from 'Fahrenheit 451' – 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' – 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' – 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' – 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.”
An extract from 'Charlotte's Web' – E. B. White
At the end of 'Charlotte's Web', Charlotte teaches us that meaning can be found in the beautiful friendships that we build throughout our lives. While you can't control many things in life, 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.”
How to write your own funeral poems
It could be a nice touch to write your own funeral poem to read aloud. This means you can add a personal touch to the poem, including happy memories and stories.
When writing the poem, you can include snippets of your own favourite poems from this list. You could even take inspiration from some of your loved ones' favourite poems.
Find out more