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Funeral Poems – Finding, Reading and Writing

Published: November 1, 2023

Glowing candles

Maybe you are looking for a non religious funny funeral poem, or possibly modern poems for funeral. Choosing the perfect poetry for a funeral, a poem that will create the right tone can be challenging. When reading the funeral poetry, think how your audience will be feeling. A poetry reading provides an opportunity for everyone at the service to individually reflect on any subject you choose and the person whom they are saying goodbye. Whether you are searching for the “best funeral poem”, “poems dad funeral” or “poems for mum”, there are numerous choices to look at and find a suitable one to suit the deceased.

Poems spoken during a funeral can be very touching, but they might also be difficult to listen to. They force us to face our emotions, as hard as that may be, and can elicit a wide variety of reactions. One poem could generate a surge of optimism, while another may induce profound contemplation on the deceased’s life. What emotions do you want the audience to experience?

Short poems for funerals

Short poems for funerals or simply a portion from a more extensive work so that you can keep the audience’s attention throughout the reading; can often be easier to read when upset. Choose a poem that you feel comfortable and secure reading – some older poems utilise Old English and include difficult-to-pronounce words. Read the poetry aloud a few times before the ceremony, preferably in front of a family member or friend, to ensure you are completely prepared.

A short poem:

A Quiet Prayer – Unknown author

A loving nature, a heart of gold
The very best the world could hold
Never selfish, always kind
These are the memories you left behind
A silent thought, a quiet prayer
For a special person in God’s care
Man & woman singing from hymn book

You might also want to spend some time listening to recordings of the poems you have chosen.  There’s a good chance you’ll be able to find these for free on the internet.  Some readings of poems may be by professional actors while others may be by amateurs.  Both can give you inspiration for how to read the poem you have chosen to best effect.

Many funeral poems promote hope in the face of death, while others just recognise the loss and terrible sorrow. Think about the atmosphere you want to create and what you want the audience to think about.

An example of classic never forgotten funeral poems are:

Do not stand at my grave and weep by Clare Harner – published as ‘Immortality’

I will wait for youby Stephen O’Brien

Humorous funeral poems

Traditional poems are often serious in tone.  The most popular ones are usually tender, reflective, and loving but definitely not funny.  Over recent years, however, the emphasis at funerals has shifted from mourning a person’s death to celebrating their life.  As a result, there is a growing number of non religious funny funeral readings and more modern poems with a more uplifting feeling to them. 

Some great examples of these include:

Last will and testamentby Max Scratchmann

Deathby Sean Hughes

Deathby Joe Brainard

Untitled jisei – by Moriya Sen’an

Bury me when i die beneath a wine barrel in a tavern. With luck the casket will heal

Kelly Roper has become well known for creating humorous funeral poems.  Pardon Me For Not Getting Up is probably her most popular work.

Pardon me for not getting upby Kelly Roper

Why have poetry for a funeral?

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Poems can be included in a eulogy, or you can have a separate poetry reading. We tend to look for poetry during the most emotionally charged moments in our life, whether that’s falling in love or losing someone dear. It makes sense, then, that poetry can say what we cannot at a funeral. Whether it is a funeral poem for dad, another relative or for a close friend then a thoughtful poem can help bring the mourners together.

A memorial poem may also serve as a memorial to a loved one who has passed away. Whether you read poetry for a funeral in loss of a son or mother, ensure others remember them well. The poem might express something they cared about, your connection with them, be a memory of them, or be something soothing about the grieving process. 

Funeral readings such as poems can also provide you with more options than conventional or religious readings. Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Clare Harner (as mentioned above) and Remember by Christina Rossetti are two famous poems. Funeral Blues by WH Auden, made famous by the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, or something modern like Darling by Jackie Kay may also make the funeral seem more current or personal. These poems are noted below:

Remember – by Christina Rossetti

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 plann'd:
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.
Funeral blues - by Wystan Hugh Auden
Darling - by Jackie Kay

In addition to the huge range of poems available, you can also read the lyrics from songs.  These are often, effectively, poems that are usually set to music.  You can, however, leave out the music and simply focus on the words.  This can be a great way to include a person’s favourite songs if there isn’t time for them in the main ceremony. 

It is a good idea to read your chosen poem to a friend in a casual setting before you read aloud at the service. This allows you to see how it flows.

Young woman with book

As with poems, you don’t have to read the full lyrics exactly as they’re written.  You can simply quote extracts for them.  You can even adjust them to fit the deceased and/or the bereaved.  Since you’ll be reading them without music, you don’t have to worry about making the changes fit in with the tune.

How to choose a poetry for a funeral

Your loved one may have requested a particular poem at their funeral, but if they did not, where do you turn if you are not a poetry fan? How can you tell what ‘funeral poems for a friend’ should be? Or what ‘funeral poems for a husband’ they would have liked?

An anthology of poetry is a wonderful place to start. Read through all the options and choose one that seems appropriate. It may be about how you remember your loved one or something they would have enjoyed hearing at their funeral. It might just be something that speaks to you and that you know is just right. This may be a very emotional experience. The best way to choose is to keep the person you’ve lost in your heart and see which poetry appeals to you. This often means either religious or non religious funeral poems.

Another option would be to look online.  Think about what was important to the deceased in their lifetime and look for poems on that topic.  No matter what search terms you choose, you’ll probably get a long list of results.  You can then narrow these down to the ones that appeal to you the most.

Funeral poems for dad, sister, and mum

Alternatively, you could search online for terms reflecting your relationship with the deceased, for example, “poems dad funeral”, “funeral poems for dad”, “funeral poems for sister”, “funeral poems for mum”, and so on.  These types of searches will let you see what sort of funeral poems other people have chosen for their loved ones.  Again, you can then narrow these down to the ones you like the best.

A possible example:

Gone From Us – Unknown author

Gone from us that smiling face,
The cheerful pleasant ways,
The heart that won so many friends,
In bygone, happy days.

A life made beautiful by kindly deeds,
A helping hand for others’ needs.

To a beautiful life, Comes a happy end,
~She died as she lived, Everyone’s friend.

How to read poetry at a funeral 

Practice the poem at home to help you prepare for the reading. You don’t have to memorise it, but reading it aloud to get accustomed to the sound and form of the words will help you read it well on the day. As an example put the poem on the fridge to remind you to practice anytime you’re in the kitchen.

Also, try to sound as genuine as possible. It’s always best in your own voice, and don’t put on a special tone that you think sounds right. Slow down completely – most people hurry up while speaking in public, so take it gently. Whether this is funeral poetry for mother, funeral poems for granddad, or anyone else, take your time; everyone needs to hear what you have to say.

Taking a few deep breaths before stepping up to read may assist with nervousness on the day. And don’t be afraid to be angry or weep. It’s okay; you’re reading a poem for someone special at a funeral after all.  

Finally, there is no right or wrong poetry for a funeral, nor is there a ‘perfect’ manner to give a reading. If you discover a poem that describes how you feel about the person you love, it is the ideal poetry to share with everyone else who cares about them.

Some more potential funeral poems are:

If I should dieby Joyce Grenfell

Because I could not stop for deathby Emily Dickinson

Writing your own funeral poem

Handwriting in book

With so many religious and non religious funeral poems out there, plus countless songs, there’s sure to be something to suit the person and the occasion.  If, however, you want something truly unique and personal then you can write your own poem or have a poem written for you.  You could also ask other people to contribute their poems.

Remember, your poem for your loved one can be as public or as private as you want it to be.  If you’re comfortable sharing what you’ve written publicly, then you’ll probably find people are very happy to read it.  Even though a funeral is as individual as the deceased and their loved ones, the experience of attending funerals is essentially universal.

Alternatively, you can keep your poem for the funeral only.  That way it will only be heard by people who knew the deceased.  This gives you complete freedom to include private details only your audience would understand.  If you feel uncomfortable reading your own poem, you can ask someone else to do it or just have it printed for people to read themselves.

Church service

You don’t have to be a great writer to write a poem for someone you love.  There’s lots of help and guidance (and encouragement) online.  If, however, you really want a high-quality and special funeral poem for the deceased, then you can hire a writer to create one for you.

The practicalities of reading funeral poems

Once you’ve chosen your poems, you need to decide how to present them.  You can choose just to have them printed for mourners to read themselves.  It is, however, more common to read them out loud.  This not only helps people who may have difficulty reading, but it can also help to give the poems a greater level of impact.

If you’re not used to public speaking (or even if you are), the idea of reading funeral poems in public may make you at least a little nervous.  That’s quite understandable.  In general, however, you’ll just need a little preparation to give a great reading.  Try to learn the poems by heart.  You don’t need to read them purely from memory but it may help you to know that you could if you needed to.

Conclusion 

When searching poems for funerals you do not have to search in perfect English, for example “poems dad funeral” or “funeral poems for dad” will both produce results. For many a never forgotten poem means one which fits the deceased personality/lifestyle.

When reading out loud it is best to have your poems both in printed format and in electronic format.  Make sure that the printed version has large enough text for you to be able to read it comfortably, even if the lighting isn’t great.  With electronic text, you can adjust the size as you want.  You will, however, need to make sure you can read the screen in the available lighting.  You’ll also need to make sure that the screen stays on for as long as you need it to, hence having the printed back up.

Most funeral locations will provide microphones.  If possible, find out how they work in advance of your reading.  Ideally, go and check them before the day of the funeral.  Alternatively, consider bringing your own microphone.  If you don’t have one yourself, then you can of course hire one.

For more poem inspiration visit the Save Funeral Costs blog of funeral poems.

If you found this article interesting, and would like to learn more about how to save money on a funeral, locating quality low-cost funerals, low-cost headstones, natural burials, DIY funerals, free financial help from the Government and charities as well as bereavement support, then please visit Save Funeral Costs™

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