Funeral Poems and Readings

Including poetry or readings during funeral or memorial services is a tradition that dates back many years. During a time when our own words often fail us, poetry is a universal art form that helps provide comfort to those who grieve while also honoring the lives of those we have lost. Because of the powerful emotions poetry evokes, it’s a popular choice to include in a funeral service.

As you make plans for a loved one’s funeral—or for your own if you are planning in advance—one of the ways you can personalize the service is to include meaningful poems and other readings. What you choose to include should be as unique as the life you are honoring. Poignant celebrations of life have included everything from the reading of classic poems, famous quotes, contemporary music lyrics and even quotes from famous speeches or historic leaders.

What feelings do you want to convey?

As you consider funeral poems and readings, think about what you want the reading to convey. For instance, if you want to comfort those who are grieving, you will select a different poem than if you wish to celebrate your loved one’s role as a doting grandmother or honor the accomplishments of a veteran. Since poetry, song lyrics, quotes and other readings can play many different roles during the service, there are no right or wrong ways to incorporate them into the event. Some families want to express sorrow through the reading while others prefer to focus on the afterlife or comfort provided by religious beliefs. Talk with your family and let the overall plan for the celebration of life help guide your choices. By working with a Dignity Memorial® expert, together you’ll create a personalized event to honor a unique life.

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Funeral poems to fit your loved one

As you begin reviewing poems, don’t let the use of “he” or “she” stop you from using a memorial poem you love. Readings and poems are easily personalized by changing references to “she” or “her” to “he” or “him.” Similarly, you often can replace the word “you” with your loved one’s name and change out a relational reference like mother or father with grandmother or grandfather, or brother with sister. It’s perfectly acceptable to change the poem or reading to reflect the circumstances of the personalized funeral service.

To provide inspiration in your funeral poem selection, below are popular options including celebration of life poems, remembrance poems, bereavement poems and song lyrics for funerals.

Classical secular funeral poems (non-religious)

"When I Am Dead, My Dearest" (Christina Rossetti)
"Remember" (Christina Rossetti)
"Crossing the Bar" (Alfred Lord Tennyson)
"I Carry Your Heart With Me" (E.E. Cummings)

Contemporary secular funeral poems (non-religious)

"Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" (Mary Elizabeth Frye)
"A Death Has Occurred" (Paul Irion)
"She Is Gone/He Is Gone" (David Harkins)
"No Night Without" (Helen Steiner Rice)
"Let Me Go" (Janice Fair-Salters)
"Beyond the Sunset" (unknown author) (note: fitting for a spouse)

Christian funeral readings

Psalm 23
Ecclesiastes 3
Psalm 31 (note: fitting for a woman)
1 Corinthians 13
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
The Lord’s Prayer

Jewish funeral readings

Psalm 23
Yizkor in Memory of a Mother
Yizkor in Memory of a Father
Yizkor in Memory of a Wife
Yizkor in Memory of a Daughter
Yizkor in Memory of the Dear Departed Ones
Yizkor Meditation

Popular song lyrics for funerals

"Because You Loved Me" (Celine Dion)
"Wind Beneath My Wings" (Bette Midler)
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (Judy Garland)
"What a Wonderful World" (Louis Armstrong)
"Smile" (Natalie Cole)
"In My Life" and "Imagine" (The Beatles)

Find more funeral song ideas here.

Choosing a speaker for the funeral service

Once you have selected the poems and other readings that will be part of the funeral service, the next step is choosing who will speak during the event. In some religions and cultures, it’s traditional for a priest, pastor or other person of faith to deliver the readings. For some families, the tradition is for close relatives to speak during the memorial service. And in many families, there is no tradition to lean on to help with making this decision.

Many Dignity Memorial locations also offer the assistance of a certified celebrant to assist with your loved one's life celebration. Our Dignity Memorial experts recommend thinking about the life of your loved one, the people who were important to them and the content of the poems. Considering these three aspects will help you select speakers to offer meaningful tributes during the service.

Many people think that being asked to read during your loved one’s funeral is an honor and they will be eager and willing to help. But some others may be scared to speak in front of a large group, especially during such an emotional time. If a friend or family member doesn’t want to read during the service, remember it’s most likely due to feelings of stage fright or overwhelming feelings of grief.

Do you need help finding funeral poems?

Dignity Memorial funeral planning experts believe that every celebration of life service should be as unique as the life it is commemorating. Our commitment to helping families extends to every aspect of planning a personalized, memorable funeral service, including the selection of poetry and other readings.

To learn more about choosing poems and readings for funerals, contact your Dignity Memorial professional today.