12 Funeral Readings for a Difficult Loved One

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Delivering a funeral reading is rarely an easy task. However, in some instances, this responsibility can present an even greater challenge than it normally would.

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The purpose of nearly all aspects of a funeral is to honor and show respect for the deceased. You may have trouble doing so if you need to deliver a funeral reading for someone who was a particularly difficult person in life.

There are many reasons you might struggle to avoid bringing up an individual’s more unpleasant characteristics when choosing and delivering a funeral reading for a difficult person. Maybe the deceased had anger problems and took their anger out on loved ones. Maybe they were not loyal to those around them. Perhaps they even consistently engaged in criminal behavior of some kind.

Those are just a few examples. Regardless, if you are looking for funeral readings for a difficult person, consider the following examples. They consist of poems, song lyrics, and even Bible verses.

Funeral Readings for a Difficult Parent or Grandparent

Relationships with parents and grandparents are often both happy and intensely challenging all at once. If you’re delivering a funeral reading for a difficult parent or grandparent, the following are options to consider:

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1. “We have been cut off…” by Wallace Stegner

This is the beginning of a passage from novelist Wallace Stegner. The entire passage explains how the natural gulf from one generation to another creates unavoidable rifts. Thus, you might use it as a way to explain that you understand it may have been difficult for a grandparent to truly relate to you and treat you properly because you had different experiences and perspectives, something which was not necessarily their fault.

2. “Independence Day” by Bruce Springsteen

This song’s title is misleading. The song is not about the Fourth of July. It’s about a father and son who could never get along. Finally, there comes a day when they can both be free from fighting with one another. Thus, the symbolic title “Independence Day.”

This does not mean the speaker in the song is celebrating this freedom. They are simply acknowledging that such a freedom is necessary for both parties, but also acknowledging that perhaps the reason they and their father never connected was that they were merely too similar.

This ensures that if you were to choose this song’s lyrics as a funeral reading for a difficult parent, you would be offering a respectful explanation for why you and your parent had a challenging relationship, instead of simply blaming that parent for all your troubles.

Funeral Readings for a Difficult Sibling

Not all siblings are friendly companions. Some can be quite cruel, distant, or otherwise difficult.

That doesn’t mean you have no reason to deliver a funeral reading for a difficult sibling. These are examples to consider if you want to address the troubled relationship you had with a sibling in an honest but gentle manner:

3. “Matthew 5:23–24” from the Christian Bible

This Bible verse is one to consider if you are delivering a funeral reading to an audience consisting primarily of Christians, or if you are a devout Christian yourself. Because it is short, you may want to use it as simply one part of a reading.

This verse suggests that someone can only truly follow God if they are at first willing to reconcile with their “brother or sister.” You could use it to express the belief that, even though you may have had trouble getting along with a sibling, you still believe it is important to move on and forgive them.

(For more religious funeral reading ideas, check out our guide on funeral scriptures. Our guide on non-religious funeral readings is also useful if you’d prefer that your comments at a funeral be strictly secular in nature.)

4. “Driven Across Many Nations” by Gaius Valerius Catullus

Most of this poem consists of someone speaking to their deceased brother and lamenting their death. That said, the poem describes the lost brother as being “wretched,” suggesting they were not always easy to get along with.

The poem acknowledges this quality while not dwelling on it. Thus, it may be the ideal funeral reading for a difficult sibling, as you might aim to strike a balance between addressing your sibling’s flaws while still being as respectful and tactful as possible.

Funeral Readings for a Difficult Spouse or Partner

Choosing a funeral reading for a difficult spouse may be a challenge for unique reasons. If someone was a spouse or partner, that means it’s likely you chose to be with them because you truly felt deep romantic love for them at one point.

Even if that love deteriorated over time as a result of their behavior, you may still want to remember the happy memories you shared when giving a reading at their funeral. These examples could help:

5. “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert

This poem about the end of a marriage touches on an important point that many overlook when relationships become so difficult they come to an end: Even if the relationship became one involving tremendous struggle and pain, that does not change the fact that the good times two lovers may have once shared were still worthwhile.

You may want to express this when delivering a funeral reading, striking a balance between admitting your spouse was difficult while also celebrating the beauty of your early days together.

6. “The Gift” by Sara Teasdale

This poem is one to consider if you want to deliver a funeral reading that celebrates the love you once shared with a partner or spouse without ignoring the fact that your relationship became difficult and fractured over the years.

It describes a couple who once loved each other deeply, but eventually realized that as they grew distant and caused each other pain, separating (in a way that may even suggest one of them has died) may be what was ultimately necessary for both of them to be happy.

Funeral Readings for a Difficult Child

Children often bring joy. That’s not to say they are incapable of doing the opposite.

Your feelings may be unspeakably complicated after the loss of a difficult child. The following readings could help you express such feelings:

7. “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

The lyrics to this classic song about the relationship between parents and their children primarily focus on encouraging parents to be good role models for their children. However, they also work as a funeral reading for a difficult child, as they explain how there will be times when children don’t understand their parents and parents don’t understand their children. What will always matter most is that both sides of the relationship know they love one another. 

8. “Gypsy” by Fleetwood Mac

Technically, this song is not about a relationship between a child and a parent. Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks has explained in interviews that the song documents her wish to return to the early days of her budding career before the complications of fame intruded.

That said, the lyrics are vague enough that they can be an appropriate choice for a difficult child’s funeral reading. It’s possible to read this song as a description of a troubled relationship between a parent who wants to reconcile with a child who insists on going out and living their own life, something many parents who have been estranged from their children can understand.

Funeral Readings for a Difficult Friend

Friends should be loyal and supportive. When they are not, it is natural to experience significant pain. These funeral readings for a difficult friend might help ease that pain to some degree.

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9. “The Answer’s at the End” by George Harrison

This is a funeral reading for a difficult friend that you might choose if you want to deliver a very short reading, as you would only need to read the first verse of this song’s lyrics to get your point across. It reads “Scan not a friend with a microscopic glass / You know his faults, now let his foibles pass / Life is one long enigma, my friend / So read on, read on, the answer’s at the end.”

It should be easy to see why this reading would be appropriate when delivering a difficult friend’s funeral reading. You could also use this section to conclude a longer reading.

10. “Shame” by The Smashing Pumpkins

The lyrics to this Smashing Pumpkins song can serve as a funeral reading given their poetic and simple nature. They describe someone who is going to “walk on home,” “walk alone,” and “walk so far [they’re] gonna wonder who [they] are.”

These lyrics suggest someone drifting so far away from the ones they love so much that they become a different person. However, the lyrics also have a hopeful quality, stating that “love is good and love is kind / love is drunk and love is blind” and that “love is good all the time.”

These simple words summarize the complexities of loving a friend even when they lose sight of what is important. The final lyrics of the song also subtly but effectively address the fact that this difficult friend caused others pain: “Hello, goodbye, you know you made us cry.”

Funny Funeral Readings for a Difficult Loved One

One of the best ways to deliver a funeral reading that addresses a loved one’s frailties without creating too much tension during the funeral is to turn to humor. Funny funeral readings for a difficult loved one include:

11. “Father” by Edgar Albert Guest

This humorous poem offers a light-hearted take on a quality that many difficult fathers possess: They insist they know everything, can do everything, and are never wrong, even when their incompetence is on full display. 

12. “Untitled jisei” by Moriya Sen’an

A jisei is a death poem in Japanese culture. This brief jisei involves the deceased asking that those they leave behind bury them under a wine cask in the hopes that maybe it will leak and they can drink some.

An alcoholic loved one can be a very difficult presence in your life. If you want to acknowledge this in a slightly humorous way when delivering their funeral reading, consider this reading. It’s a brief and funny funeral poem that gets your point across without making it the focus of your comments.

Funeral Readings for a Difficult Person: Showing Respect & Showing Your Feelings

Loved ones are not always who we need them to be. Choosing a funeral reading for someone who caused pain at times may seem challenging, but as this list proves, there are options that could help you say what you need to say in a respectful and appropriate manner.

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