We all have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones throughout our lives. Sometimes we say goodbye to celebrate happy occasions, such as a coworker’s retirement. Other times, we say goodbyes in sadness, such as saying goodbye to someone who has died. (For more help with the process of saying goodbye, check out our post-loss checklist.)
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Goodbye Poems for a Friend
- Goodbye Poems for a Family Member
- Goodbye Poems for a Colleague
- Funny Goodbye Poems
- Goodbye Poems for a Funeral or After a Death
Regardless of the reasons you may need to bid a friend or family member farewell, you naturally want to do so in a way that captures your true feelings. That’s why you might consider using a poem to say goodbye. The words of literature’s greatest poets can help you convey emotions you may struggle to express on your own.
Whether you’re mourning a loved one, letting a friend know you’ll never forget them, or simply wishing a coworker best of luck in the next stage of their life, consider doing so with one of the poems listed here.
Goodbye Poems for a Friend
Friends come and go. While you can’t always avoid parting ways with your best friends, you can say goodbye with a poem that reminds them that your friendship will remain in your heart forever.
1. “Aloha’oe (Farewell to Thee)” by Queen Lydia Kamakaeha Lili’uokalani
Goodbyes don’t need to be permanent. Tell a friend you’ll meet them again somewhere down the road with this classic piece of verse.
2. “Ode I. 11” by Horace
You might want to say goodbye to a friend by giving them advice for the future. This farewell poem will help you do so. Use it to let a friend know the best way to live life is to live it in the present.
3. “The Party” by Jason Shinder
This poem uses the metaphor of a party to describe the bittersweet pain of saying goodbye to friends. It also reminds us that sometimes we simply can’t avoid parting ways with people we love, as much as we might wish we could.
4. “In Kyoto…” by Basho
Haikus capture worlds of feeling in the span of moments. Keep this one in mind if you’re trying to find a way to let a dear friend know you will miss them.
5. “Parting: 1940” by John Frederick Nims
Friends join us on some of life’s greatest adventures, but the adventures we share with friends must often come to an end. “Parting: 1940” addresses this sad but necessary aspect of life beautifully.
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Goodbye Poems for a Family Member
Just like friends, our family members won’t always play the same roles in our lives. From graduations to moves, the course of life changes our relationships with everyone from our children to our siblings. When these moments arise, perhaps one of these poems can help you say goodbye.
6. “At the San Francisco Airport” by Yvor Winters
Yvor Winters dedicated this poem to his daughter. It perfectly explores the feelings we experience when we realize family members grow and change, but love can last a lifetime.
7. “Live Blindly and Upon the Hour” by Trumbull Stickney
This is another option to consider when you’re looking for a graduation poem for a child or sibling. It shares simple but powerful advice about the value of living life to the fullest.
8. “See it Through” Edgar Albert Guest
When saying goodbye to a loved one, you might want to let them know they have the strength to succeed in all their endeavors. “See it Through” will help you do so with inspirational language.
9. “Waving Goodbye” by Gerald Stern
“Waving Goodbye” is yet another poem that touches on the feelings parents experience as they watch their children leave home. However, it expresses these emotions so powerfully that you could apply it to many other types of goodbyes between family members.
10. “The Road and the End” by Carl Sandburg
Family members must often say goodbye when one moves away to pursue their own life goals. Instead of treating this as a sad occasion, celebrate it with this poem about enjoying the adventure of life.
Goodbye Poems for a Colleague
Letting a former coworker or colleague know they’ll be missed can involve more than simply signing a “good luck” card. To truly tell a colleague you wish them the best, use a poem of encouragement.
11. “Retirement” by Henry Timrod
As the name implies, you might consider using this poem to wish a colleague a happy retirement. Yes, retirement also serves as a metaphor here, but the poem’s message about the importance of enjoying your life without work definitely fits the occasion.
12. “Don’t Quit” by John Leaf Whittier
Are you saying goodbye to a colleague with whom you are particularly close? If so, encourage them to achieve their career goals with this famous poem.
13. “Porch Swing in September” by Ted Kooser
“Porch Swing in September” is another poem that captures the essence of retirement with beautiful imagery and metaphors.
14. “And Leave Show Business?” by Ralph Burns
Sometimes we need to say goodbye to colleagues because they finally gathered the courage they needed to quit a job they were unhappy in. Let such a coworker know they made the right choice with this poem.
15. “The Halls” by Mark Halliday
It’s not uncommon for people to feel a little sad about the idea of leaving a job. They often wonder if their presence will be remembered. “The Halls” describes how the “fluorescent panels” of an old office may never be a home, but a friendship can be.
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Funny Goodbye Poems
Goodbyes don’t need to be overwhelmingly sad. A funny goodbye poem can help you (and the person to whom you are saying goodbye) laugh at what might otherwise be a difficult experience. Attendees at a loved one's living funeral might appreciate these, too.
16. “Lemonade” by Fawn Power
Also known as the “Lemon Poem,” this cute description of a lemon becoming lemonade also serves as a reminder that life changes may be unavoidable, but they don’t have to sadden us. Keep that in mind when you need to say goodbye to someone.
17. “Inventory” Dorothy Parker
This short but effective poem captures plenty of feelings in a few lines. Consider this subtle, smart choice if you want to focus on the importance of remembering the good times you shared with someone.
18. “For a Girl I Know About to be a Woman” by Miller Williams
If you’re saying goodbye to a young woman graduating from high school or college, say goodbye with a little bit of humor. This poem offers funny advice regarding the types of young men women should be wary of, but it does so with bittersweet love.
19. “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss
Don’t dismiss a poem simply because it’s for kids. The charm and humor of this Dr. Seuss classic make it an ideal goodbye poem for certain special occasions.
20. “The Correspondence-School Instructor Says Goodbye to His Poetry Students” by Galway Kinnell
This cleverly satirical take on goodbyes balances genuine sadness with sly humor. While it isn’t right for every occasion, you might use it when trying to say an authentic goodbye while also putting a smile on someone’s face.
Goodbye Poems for a Funeral or After a Death
Poems have the power to heal. You could include a poem in a eulogy for a friend, for example. You might also choose what poems your loved one wants to have read at their funeral when you start end-of-life planning. When these situations arise, consider the following options:
21. “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman technically wrote this poem about the passing of Abraham Lincoln. However, because it doesn’t specifically mention Lincoln, it could apply to any beloved or admired person who is no longer with us.
22. “All is Well” by Henry Scott Holland
Funeral poems often serve the same purpose as goodbye songs. They can provide comfort. That’s why this poem, in which someone who has died says goodbye by describing death as merely slipping “into the next room,” is a popular choice.
23. “The Journey of My Life” by Rabindranath Tagore
This is another poem written from the perspective of someone who has died. They urge friends and family not to mourn their passing, letting them know they lived a full and meaningful life.
24. “There is no night” by Helen Steiner Rice
This poem shares a simple but important message for those saying goodbye to departed loved ones: life can’t exist without death. Many need to hear this during difficult times.
25. “Remember Me” by Margaret Mead
We can’t prevent a person’s death forever. That said, we can keep them alive in our memories. Margaret Mead’s beautiful poem reminds us of that fact.
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Saying Goodbye with the Right Words
Great poets use words to capture the essence of human experiences. Sometimes, the experiences they focus on are bittersweet. That means their work can help you and others accept these moments. No matter what reason you have for saying goodbye, these poems will make the experience easier.