Even if you don't typically love poetry, you may find that a particular poet speaks to you during a difficult time. Let us help you find the right verse for your situation by giving you a list to search online.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Poems About Letting Go of the Past
- Poems About Letting Go of Love
- Poems About Letting Go of Negative Emotions
- Poems About Letting Go After a Death
- Poems About Letting Go of Possessions
All of these poems involve letting go. Many of them explore the grief that follows a loved one’s death, but others discuss forgiveness or letting go of a toxic relationship.
We hope this list helps you find a poet or work that echoes the feelings you may experience or offers a bit of advice on how to continue with your life.
Poems About Letting Go of the Past
Instead of thinking of these pieces of literature as something that you dreaded reading in high school English class, think of them as song lyrics about moving forward in life.
When reading poetry, you don’t have to understand every line or nuance. Open yourself to the sound of the words by reading the verses out loud to yourself.
Read through some poems about letting go of your past.
1. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost
This often-quoted poem begins,
“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour,”
Once people realize that “nothing gold can stay,” they may be able to let go of the past and learn to live for the moment.
2. “Evening” by Charles Simic
A person who wishes to let go of the past seeks peace. “Evening” by Charles Simic says that listening to what the evening grass says may help.
The concluding stanza reads:
“At night, some understand what the grass says.
The grass knows a word or two.
It is not much.
It repeats the same word
Again and again, but not too loudly.”
3. “Poem for a Survivor” by Donald Justice
Sometimes a poet puts himself inside the poem he writes. Donald Justice uses this technique when he wrote “Poem for a Survivor." It begins,
“Holding this poem
Close, like a mirror,
I breathe upon it.”
“I give you chamois
To clear the surface.
I give you this sun.”
4. “Train Ride” by Ruth Stone
This poem uses the phrase “all good things come to an end." Then the poet changes her mind and gives many examples of how some things, like the “the vine-choked cypress, the oaks rattling last year’s leaves, the thump of the rails, the kite, the still white stilted heron” continue forever.
It may be easy for you to let go of the past if you focus on things that will never end.
Poems About Letting Go of Love
The poems highlighted in this section involve letting go of romantic love after a breakup or letting go of someone after death. They involve going on with life, perhaps with reservation. They may help those living in the past and refusing to embrace the life that comes “after.”
5. “In Memoriam A.H.H.”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote this long poem following a close friend’s death, who died unexpectedly at 22. The poem was one of the most popular at the time. Within the 133 cantos, the reader will find a reference to many emotions associated with grief.
One of the most quoted lines reads, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
6. “The Trees” by Philip Larkin
Just as the trees lose their leaves to renew in the spring, so can a person who has learned to let go of a relationship.
This poem concludes:
“Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In full-grown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.”
7. “We Never Let Go” by Jocelyn Soriano
This poem delivers an important message. The poet concludes her thoughts with this stanza:
“But we hold on to what is pure;
We cherish the truth we’ve found.
And what is beautiful shall always remain
Because we never really let go of love.”
8. “Recovery is” by Juansen Dizon
We would like to offer this modern poem to someone who needs to be told that you can leave a toxic relationship. This poet reminds the reader that the process will feel painful but worth it in the end.
Poems About Letting Go of Negative Emotions
This section will highlight a poem that says that death can’t control everything and two opposing poems about how people should deal with negative emotions in their lives. Hopefully, one of these works speaks to you.
9. “Death Shall Have No Dominion” by Dylan Thomas
Most people fear death, but this poem by the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas says that death can’t control everything. Instead, it can unify people who are divided by time and distance. It includes the line “though lovers be lost love shall not.”
10. “The human being is a guest house” by Rumi
Even though you may be trying to remove negative emotions from your life, this poem suggests that you invite them in, because eventually, you may learn from them.
This poem concludes:
“Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
11. “The Power of Optimism” by Mohini Puranik
This poem insists that you kick pessimism out of your life. The poem describes pain as something to defeat and suggests that the reader “turn yourself to the power of positivity.”
Poems About Letting Go After a Death
If you have watched a lot of movies about grief or have experienced it yourself, you know that you can handle the pain that follows a loved one’s death in many ways. Read through some poems about letting go after the death of a loved one.
12. “Never More Will the Wind” by Hilda Doolittle
This sad poem includes a rather matter-of-fact tone regarding a loved one’s death. The speaker reflects on all that the deceased will no longer experience, specifically the feel of the wind, sun, and rain. It concludes with the following stanza:
“Like a bird out of our hand,
Like a light out of our heart,
You are gone.”
13. “After great pain a formal feeling comes” by Emily Dickinson
Even though this poem may be about the grief of losing someone to death, it may also resonate with a person experiencing heartbreak of another kind. The “letting go” referenced in the last line of the poem compares with what a person feels when freezing to death.
Emily Dickinson did not title her poems, so they are often referred to by their first line.
14. “Let Evening Come” by Jane Kenyon
“Let Evening Come” uniquely speaks of how it will inevitably come, just as the sun eventually sets. The last stanza of the poem says,
“Let it come, as it will, and don’t
Be afraid. God does not leave us
Comfortless, so let evening come.”
Poems About Letting Go of Possessions
Are you feeling bogged down with the “stuff of life?” Read through some poems about letting go of your possessions so that they don’t possess you.
15. "Books, Paintings” by Ryszard Krynicki
The first stanza of this poem lists all the things that can be taken from us, including “wedding rings, photos, manuscripts, five liters of blood (together ten)..."
Everything is eventually taken,
“Except the independent,
Even if they only flow through us
Except sacred word,
Which even when written in dead languages of ice
Will see resurrection.”
16. “Question” by May Swenson
Part of the job of being a poet is to ask questions that other people may not have ever considered. In “Question,” the poet wonders what it will be like to let go of her body. It begins,
“Body my house
My horse my hound
What will I do
When you are fallen”
17. “Loss” by Ruth Stone
This poem describes a mourner who wanders their home in the middle of the night, looking at the possessions the speaker and the deceased once shared. The possessions were devoid of meaning:
“I would stare at the cornices, the dull arrangements of furniture.
It all remained the same.
It was not even a painting.
It was objects in space without any aura. No meaning attached.
Their very existence was a burden to me.”
Are You Looking for a Funeral Poem?
Although a few of these poems about letting go, like “Nothing Gold Can Stay” or “Never More Will the Wind,” might work at a loved one’s funeral, most of these poems will help you with the deeply personal process of “letting go.”
Turn to CAKE as your ultimate resource for planning your loved one’s funeral. We have dozens of articles that will help you pick the perfect verse for the occasion.