Fenix Funeral shares with you: the top 50 funeral poems

Fenix Funeral shares with you: the top 50 funeral poems

by Martin Jackson2023-04-280

At Fenix, we’re committed to helping you through those challenging moments of life & loss. Our warm, compassionate advisers are here to help you every step of the way. Acting as your funeral director (or undertaker), we can handle every aspect relating to a death (including legal matters).

To help make this time easier, we put together this list of 50 poems that might be just what you’re looking for. For uplifting funerals that celebrate the life of a fun-loving and much-missed person, to more reflective and peaceful choices, we hope this list proves useful to just about everyone.

What’s included in this list

1. Traditional funeral poems (some of the all-time classics)

2. Modern funeral poems (from more contemporary poets)

3. UK funeral poems (from poets all over Britain)

4. Funny and light-hearted funeral poems (for more uplifting services)

Traditional funeral poems

“When I am Dead, My Dearest” by Christina Rossetti

A moving poem about death that gives a voice to the departed, speaking of the memories they will leave behind. A poem rich in tenderness and simplicity, it’s a common and moving choice across the UK.

When I am dead, my dearest,

Sing no sad songs for me.

“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson

A poem that describes death as a gentle, peaceful journey towards eternity – guided by a gracious and loving figure. With moving imagery and almost playful language, this poem is a popular choice. Dickinson is also a common choice for daughter to father poems after death. 

Because I could not stop for Death –

He kindly stopped for me –

The Carriage held but just Ourselves –

And Immortality.

“An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray

One of the most frequently chosen poems for funerals in the UK, this work mourns the death of those buried in a rural cemetery, reflecting on their quiet lives and untimely deaths. It speaks to everyone attending a funeral. Its traditional style makes it a good option for funeral poems for nan.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,

The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,

The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,

No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

“She is Not Dead” by Alfred Lord Tennyson

A poem that speaks movingly to the idea that death does not have to be thoughts of as an end – but can be imagined as a transition to an enduring afterlife. Many find this a suitable funeral poem for mum, or for any much-missed woman.    

She is not dead, she is just away!

With a cheery smile, and a wave of the hand,

She has wandered into an unknown land…

“Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Written in 1932, this poem can offer comfort and resilience to those left behind by the death of a loved one. Many who are looking for funeral poems for dad choose this poem as a way of remembering a father’s strength and determination throughout life.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep…     

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

When it comes to choosing poems for a friend’s funeral in the UK, this 1916 poem is a moving choice, as it speaks to the idea of a life well lived, and celebrates the kind of person who made the most of the choices and decisions they faced.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less travelled by…

“When You Are Old” by W.B. Yeats

Written in 1893, this poem is a meditation on the passing of time and the memories that endure beyond death – which makes it a common choice for people looking for poems about grief, and how we can all both endure and move beyond it. 

How many loved your moments of glad serenade

And loved your beauty with love false or true

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you…

“All Is Well” by Henry Scott Holland

People often search for the all is well funeral poem, and it’s this one they’re looking for. Professor Henry Scott Holland wrote this poem as an ode to living well, even after the death of a much-loved person in your life.

I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near,

Just around the corner.

All is well.

“Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden

A poem that speaks to the deep sorrow and loss that can be caused by the death of a loved one. It also gives a sense of scale – with imagery that speaks to the whole world coming to a standstill following someone’s death.

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.

“Death Be Not Proud” by John Donne

A common choice for poems for a grandad’s funeral, Donne’s poem challenges the power and finality of death – instead offering a vision of it being simply a transition from one life to another. A message of hope and comfort during a challenging time.

Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so…

“Crossing the Bar” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

From 1889, this is another poem that imagines the departed loved one speaking. Offering a poignant farewell to life, and a request for a peaceful transition to the afterlife, it’s a common choice for those looking for gone but not forgotten funeral poems.  

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

When I embark.

“Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

From 1951, this poem by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas is very commonly chosen as a funeral poem for a husband, as it conveys the idea that courage and resilience are often needed in the face of ageing and dying. A good choice for someone who was strong – and maybe even stubborn. 

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

“The Life That I Have” by Leo Marks

Many people look for the funeral poem with the line, the life that I have, and this is the source for it. It was written by Marks while he was mourning the death of his girlfriend Ruth, who died in a plane crash. It’s also a good choice if you’re looking for short funeral poems.

The life that I have

Is all that I have

And the life that I have

Is yours.

The love that I have

Of the life that I have

Is yours and yours and yours.

“I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died” by Emily Dickinson

This poem from 1890 reflects on the mundane moments that occur even at the end of a life. It’s a reminder that death is in fact a part of life and therefore a natural (if still sad) thing. Also very approachable and simple in its language. 

I heard a Fly buzz when I died;

The Stillness in the Room

Was like the Stillness in the Air

Between the Heaves of Storm.

“Ode to the West Wind” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

From 1819, this poem is chosen for many funerals in the UK (especially Humanist services), because it’s about the cyclical nature of life, and the hope that spring will come after winter. It should also be understood by everyone, even if they’re not familiar with the poem. 

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Modern funeral poems

“The Dash” by Linda Ellis

Written in 1996, this is another poem for a life well lived, which offers an original, approachable reflection on the idea that the mark we make on the world – represented by the dash between our birth and death dates – is more important than the length of our lives. It encourages us to live fully and make the most of the time we have.

But he said what mattered most of all

Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time

That they spent alive on earth.

“She Is Gone” by David Harkins

The poem she is gone encourages those who are grieving to focus on the life and memories of their loved one rather than on the fact of their death. This message of hope is found to be comforting for many attending funerals all across the UK.

You can shed tears that she is gone,

Or you can smile because she has lived.

“High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

From the early 1940s, this poem features a very famous quote that many find both reassuring and uplifting during a funeral, especially for those looking for a life well lived poem for a UK service.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things.

“When Great Trees Fall” by Maya Angelou

Written in 1978, this poem reflects on the idea that death is a natural part of life – and speaks about how those who have passed continue to live on in the memories of those of us who remain. Everyone should be able to follow the metaphor of the tree – and appreciate the beauty of it. 

When great trees fall,

rocks on distant hills shudder,

lions hunker down

in tall grasses,

and even elephants lumber after safety.

“One At Rest” by AJ Stanley

People in the UK often hear the One at Rest poem at another funeral and decide later they’d like to include it in a service they’re arranging for a loved one or family member. It’s simple, heart-warming, and relatively short.

Think of me as one at rest,

for me you should not weep

I have no pain no troubled thoughts

for I am just asleep.

“The End” by Simon Armitage

One of the most common modern funeral poems chosen in the UK, this is a poem that’s a direct, approachable reflection on the end of life and what comes after. It has a melancholic tone – but also a sense of acceptance and matter-of-fact resolve.

And the thing is, once you're dead, that’s it.

“By Herself and Her Friends” by Joyce Grenfell

Very short and so easy to read even on a sad occasion, this poem is also quite uplifting. It gives a voice to your missed loved one, and a clear message to everyone to live their lives to the fullest. Very simple in its language, it’s an easy poem to read – and understand. 

Weep if you must, Parting is hell,

But Life goes on, So sing as well.

“In My Father’s Garden” by Marenn Sigurdsson

A simple, touching poem from 2000 that offers a beautiful metaphor for the idea that the life and spirit of a loved one lives on. A funeral poem about loss that will touch the hearts of everyone in attendance - no matter how old or young they are. 

In my father's garden, there’s a plot of earth where my mother lies.

She still grows there, in the form of flowers and butterflies.

“Remember” by Joy Harjo

From the early 1980s, this is another poem that considers the idea that death is a very natural part of life, and that celebrates the strength and even joy that can come from remembering all that was good about a person’s life, and all the memories they left behind.

Remember the sky that you were born under,

know each of the star's stories.

Remember the moon, know who she is.

“On News of a Friend’s Sudden Death” by Felix Dennis

When searching for poems for a brother’s funeral, this poem appeals to all those who considered their sibling a friend; it speaks to that truth that no matter how someone dies, it often feels all-too sudden – as if someone was snatched away from us. 

How narrowly, from breath to breath,

We plait our rendezvous with death.

“The Morning After My Death” by Etel Adnan

A bereavement poem for a funeral in the UK that acknowledges the sadness of that absence caused by the death of a loved one, but also offers hope in the lives of all those who remain, and can remember them fondly.

The morning after

my death

we will sit in cafés

but I will not

be there

I will not be.

“Remember Me” by Margaret Mead

Many people in the UK search for the remember me funeral poem, and it’s this by Margaret Mead they’re looking for. A tender, heart-warming poem, it’s read at funerals all over the country. It’s also a good choice for those looking for garden poems for funerals.

As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity,

Remember me.

Remember me in your heart:

Your thoughts, and your memories,

Of the times we loved…

 “If I Should Go” by Barbara Crooker

This moving poem from 2010 speaks about death as being a journey, and encourages those left behind to find peace in the thought of a reunion one day. Simple in its language and approachable in tone, it’s a poem that can be read by anyone. 

If I should go before the rest of you,

break not a flower, nor inscribe a stone…

“But Not Forgotten” by Dorothy Parker

A deeply moving modern poem about a loved one wanting those who remain to go on with their lives, and to be happy and satisfied. Short, simple, and very heartfelt. This could work for a funeral for a lost partner, or as a losing a daughter poem for a funeral.

I think, no matter where you be,

You’ll hold me in your memory

And keep my image there without me,

By telling later loves about me.

“After a Loss” by Mark Strand

One of the more uplifting funeral poems, this piece from 1990 reflects on the idea that death is a natural event, and can be thought of as just another stage in the journey that we all follow. Simple in language and clear in meaning, it’s a common choice.

There will be a time

When I won't be around,

But the memory of me

Will be like a sound.

UK funeral poems

“Let Me Go” by Christina Rossetti

An English poet, Rossetti specialised in romantic and devotional pieces, and this poem is chosen by many in the UK, thanks to its messages about mourning, missing a loved one, and the power of memory to persist and sustain us all.

Miss me a little, but not for long

And not with your head bowed low

Remember the love that once we shared

Miss me, but let me go.

“Fear No More the Heat O’ the Sun” by William Shakespeare

Taken from Cymbeline, this verse speaks about finding resilience and strength in the face of death – asking all those left behind not to fear the world, but to make the most of it. Chosen by many in the UK as a loss of a son poem.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,

Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;

Fear not slander, censure rash;

Thou hast finish’d joy and moan;

All lovers young, all lovers must

Consign to thee and come to dust.

 “A Long Cup of Tea” by Michael Ashby

It doesn’t get much more British than this light hearted funeral poem, and it’ll bring a smile to everyone at the service. Witty and easy to read, this is a good choice for all sorts of funerals, as it can be appreciated by anyone, no matter what they think or know about poetry.

Death is too negative for me

So I'll be popping off for a long cup of tea.

“To Sleep” by John Keats

With heartfelt lyricism and a mournful feeling, this poem is suited to sombre funerals in the UK, where there will be much sadness about the death of a loved one or family member. Quite traditional in style, it’s not the easiest to read out loud. 

O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close

In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,

Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws

Around my bed its lulling charities.

“Music” by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Many people search for sympathy poems to be read at the funerals of people who spent their lives working with or in the arts. This poem brings together this sympathetic feeling with the idea of music – creating a strong association for all attendees at a funeral.           

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,

Are heaped for the beloved’s bed;

And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,

Love itself shall slumber on.

“Requiem” by Robert Louis Stevenson

This poem from the famous Scottish writer gives voice to the departed, and talks with strength about how the timing of a death can feel “right”, even when someone is deeply missed, because we all have to die. Which could be comforting for those mourners invited to attend their funeral.

Under the wide and starry sky 

Dig the grave and let me lie: 

Glad did I live and gladly die…

“I Am There” by Iris Hesselden

A simple, charming poem that will be easily understood by attendees young and old. This heart-warming poem speaks about how a loved one’s presence is felt long after they die. Simple language and also quite short. 

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…

“The Powder-Monkey” by Don Paterson

From 2003, this rousing poem is about a young sailor who dies at sea and is buried in the ocean. It’s a moving reflection on how death affects us all – and how we become one with nature again when we die.  Rich language, and strong rhythms. 

And the seaweed grew through his bones, like roots,

And his ribs became the reef, and his heart

A buried stone.

“Epitaph On A Friend” by Robert Burns

A short, raw and affecting poem from Scottish poet Burns. A popular choice for anyone who’s been asked to read a tribute to a much-loved and missed friend. Its short length is often appreciated too, if there are other readers to fit in. 

An honest man here lies at rest,

The friend of man, the friend of truth,

The friend of age, and guide of youth:

Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d…

“Blackbird” by David Harsent

From 2010, this poem is a moving reflection on loss, the passage of time, and the cyclical nature of life. The blackbird symbolises the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth – in a way that’s easy to grasp for all attendees.

And the world begins again

As if it never ended, as if the blackbird

Had never died.

Funny and light-hearted funeral poems

Funny and light-hearted funeral poems

“Pardon Me for Not Getting Up” by Kelly Roper

One of the most popular funny funeral poems, and rightly so. It adds some wit and light-heartedness to any service, and could be a great match if your loved one was always telling jokes, or was known for making people smile

Don’t worry about mourning me,

I was never easy to offend.

Feel free to share a story at my expense

And we’ll have a good laugh at the end.

“Anonymously Yours” by Pam Ayres

If you’re looking for poems for a sister’s funeral, and your sibling was someone who made people laugh and appreciate the good things in life, this could be the perfect choice. This poem often raises a smile amongst attendees. 

I don’t want a parade, or a fuss made,

Just a little plaque, at the side of the road,

Saying “Anonymously Yours”, in letters of gold…

“Death” by Sean Hughes

Written by the well-known comedian, it’s no wonder this poem brings a smile to the faces of those attending a funeral. Warm, considerate, and easy to follow, this is a good choice for funeral poems for a nan who always made people laugh

I know how boring funerals can be

I want people to gather

meet new people

have a laugh, a dance, meet a loved one.

“When I'm Gone” by Lyman Hancock

A tongue-in-cheek reminder that we shouldn’t take life too seriously – even after the death of a loved one. A popular choice for when you want to remember the good times and happy memories shared. Very easy to read and understand.

If there are any crying, just dry their eyes, 

for I'll only be out of sight, not out of mind!

“Afterglow” by Helen Lowrie Marshall

Short, touching, and easier to read than some poems, this is a popular choice for those who want only to pay tribute to a loved one without making a long reading. It’s about celebrating happy memories, rather than being too melancholic.

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.

“Life’s Too Short” by Roger McGough

A poem that’s a humorous take on the idea of ‘living life to its fullest’ – and a common choice for funeral services that aim to pay tribute to someone who lived life with a smile on their face. A common choice for funerals in the UK, given that the poet is from Liverpool. 

Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom.

So live each day as if it’s your last,

And one day you’ll be right.

“Funeral Blues” by Spike Milligan

This poem from the much loved Milligan is a humorous take on the traditional funeral elegy – it should raise a smile, and encourage people to remember and celebrate the good things from a loved one’s life.

Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,

Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves…

“A Glimpse of Heaven” by David Searles

A poem that reflects on the idea that death is a transition, and that your loved one has gone to a place of peace and happiness. With simple imagery and a short length, this poem can be read by anyone with ease.

And I know you've gone to a place that’s better by far,

Where the skies are always blue and the stars always shine.

“Do Not Stand at My Grave and Cry” by Kaitlyn Guenther

More on the uplifting side rather than funny, this poem encourages attendees at a funeral to remember your loved one in a positive light, and to celebrate their life – a moving reminder that even when someone dies, what they leave behind will never end. 

So, do not stand at my grave and cry,

Instead, go and live your life,

Do things that make you soar and fly,

And smile when you think of me.

“The Man on the Moon” by Michael Rosen

A humorous take on the idea of life after death, which imagines that your loved one has gone to a place – the moon – where they can be happy and free. Given that Rosen often writes for children, this is an unsurprisingly warm, easy, and uplifting poem. 

He’s up there, doing what he wants,

Eating sandwiches and drinking beers,

Singing loud and dancing with glee…

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