17 Short Poems About Nostalgia and the Past

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Poetry has always described the finer points of life and death. Poems can help you process pain, grief, and loss during funerals, wakes, or memorials. The more nostalgic the poem, the better it can help you and your loved ones remember the deceased. 

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If you need poems about nostalgia to read at a funeral or want to think about someone you dearly loved, some or one of these poems should fit the occasion.

Nostalgic Poems for a Funeral Service or Eulogy

Nostalgic poems speak directly about the death and loss of a loved one. Grieving families often read short funeral poems to reflect on their loved one’s life during a funeral service.

1. "She/He is Gone" by David Harkins

This beautiful poem tells grieving families that they have a choice in how they mourn. The opening lines begin with, “You can shed tears because she is gone or you can smile because she lived.”

The poem encourages those left behind to think about all the ways their loved one remains with them and to live because their loved one lived.

2. "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" by Mary Frye

This poem puts the viewpoint of the deceased front and center, reminding the reader of their loved one's presence in memories, in thoughts, in laughter, and in love. As long as the reader can remember the deceased in those ways, then the deceased never leaves.

3. "Remember Me" by Margaret Mead

This hauntingly sweet poem encourages those left behind to think of their loved ones. The final line of the poem reads, “If you always think of me, I will never have gone.” Nostalgia and our memories may be all we have of our loved ones, but that keeps them with us.

4. "I Am Free" by Shannon Moseley

A different look at death, this poem encourages those who mourn to think of the deceased as free from the cares and toil of this world.

In one line, the deceased recognizes the pain their departure has caused but encourages those left behind to keep on living. The deceased says, “Perhaps my time seemed all too brief, don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.” 

5. "Let me Go" by Christina Rossetti

In another poem from the viewpoint of the deceased, the reader gets a hopeful look at death. Rather than mourn for loved ones, the author wrote, “Miss me a little, but not for long… Miss me, but let me go.” The author then encourages those reading to visit friends and laugh over memories.

Nostalgic Poems About Childhood and School

These poems would make beautiful additions to a memory book if you create one for someone who lost a loved one.

6. "Childhood" by Philip Vincent Sanders

This delightful poem reminisces the best part about living while young — the laughter, songs, and playfulness experienced during childhood. Toward the end of the poem, the author muses aloud his desire that childhood could last our whole lives.

7. "A Walk Through My Childhood" by Joseph Anderson

This is a thoroughly nostalgic glimpse at a childhood long past. The author reminisces about his home, his mother, his father, and the walk to his grandfather’s house. In the end, the author notes that “the scenes, just some of many in my memories still endure, as I go walking through my childhood on the roads of yesteryear.”

This poem offers an upbeat and sentimental look at childhood.

8. "Among School Children" by William Butler Yeats

A classic poem, this describes a scene from school as viewed by a 60-year-old man. As he looks on with a fondness for his own school days, he muses about the passing of time and the swiftness of adulthood.

9. "The School in August" by Philip Larkin

This charming poem talks about a schoolroom during the quiet days of summer when school is not in session. The lines reminisce about students who sat in empty desks, the teacher who stood at an empty chalkboard, and the floor without the pitter-patter of children’s feet.

You’ll feel the brevity of the school year period as you read this poem and makes you feel melancholic yet nostalgic at the same time.

Nostalgic Poems About Love

Next to songs about memories, poems about love offer some of the best things to read or listen to when grieving the loss of a loved one.

10. "I Wish I Could Remember" by Christina Rossetti

The first lines of this poem speak longingly of lost memories and the sweetness of budding love. Her poem starts, “I wish I could remember that first day, first hour, first moment of your meeting me” and ends with another fond wish of feeling again the first touch of her lover’s hand.

This poem inspires us to hold on to each memory we have of our loved ones and not take any time we have with them for granted.

11. "Last Night" by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

This sweet poem talks of how our memories often come unbidden at random times to reinvigorate us and remind us of those we love. His first line, “Last night, your memory stole into my heart” speaks to the way the memories of loved ones often feel both sad and happy, and brings a smile to our face yet tears to our eyes.

12. "Music I Heard with You" by Conrad Aiken

When you fall in love, it can feel as if the world looks brighter, sounds more beautiful (like music), and showcases other pleasant things. Aiken’s poem talks about the world feeling dull when you lose your love.

If you need a poem that helps express the depth of loss along with the sweetness of memories about the person you loved, this poem could fit well.

13. "Sonnet 43" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Browning’s Sonnet 43 carries in it the classic line, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” You can read this poem with someone, when missing someone, or when simply wanting to remember a love long lost and gone. A classic nostalgic love poem, there’s nothing that says "I love you" quite like Browning’s words.

Nostalgic Poems About Family

Next to the love of our spouses and significant others, the love of family feels like one of the most nostalgic things to think about. Just like some of the most nostalgic songs, these poems remind us of the comforts of home and family.

14. "The Stick-Together Families" by Edgar Guest

Families stick together, Guest reminds readers. They may live apart or living next door but it's important to remember that no matter how much they differ, each person in a family should remain available for each other.

15. "Life’s Scars" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Family members love us but can often wound us the deepest. Wilcox takes an insightful look at family dynamics and ultimately comes out on the nostalgic side, describing the careful balance needed in a family.

16. "No Children!" by Edgar Guest

For those who know and love the noise and clamor children make, this poem is sure to become a favorite. Guest describes life with children in a nostalgic and amusing way, noting how sweet it is to have them chatter at the dinner table, have their fingerprints on the wall, and their toys piled in a corner.

This poem can bring a tear to an empty nester’s eye or those reminiscing over a child long moved out and on with life.

17. "Human Family" by Maya Angelou

In this poem, Maya Angelou does a remarkable job of pointing out the fact that all of humanity forms one big family, no matter who we are, where we live, or what we look like. In a nostalgic look at the basic things that unite us and the commonalities we all share, she concludes, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” This is sure to give you warm thoughts for everyone you meet, whether related or not.

Thinking of Days Gone By

Nostalgic poetry focuses on remembering the good things about those we’ve loved and lost. Even if we can't get close to family members or friends due to timing or death, poems like these remind us that we’ll always have them with us in our thoughts and our memories.

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