Sharing a religious sympathy poem with someone who is grieving is a thoughtful idea. But there are a few things to deliberate when choosing the most appropriate one, such as:
- Does it keep their memory alive in a positive way?
- Is the poem reflective of their religion or lack thereof?
- Does the poem reflect their character, career, hobbies, or nature?
- Will the poem enhance or bring light to the recipient?
Now that you’ve considered the poem’s subject, look at a few we discovered from various religious figures, influencers, and more. The lyrics below represent many beliefs, including those that are non-secular.
1. "That is Born Will Die" by Sogyal Rinpoche
Sogyal Rinpoche was a Buddhist teacher from Tibet who died in 2019. He was also the reincarnation of Tertön Sogyal Lerab Lingpa, a teacher to the 13th Dalai Lama.
2. "A Prayer for Angels" by Unknown
Each of the four religions of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam believe in angels in one form or another. That makes “A Prayer for Angels” suitable for those who follow any of these faiths.
3. "The Lord’s Prayer" by Matthew 6:9-13
Matthew penned The Lord’s prayer that was given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Therefore, it’d be appropriate for Catholic condolences as they follow the writings of the New Testament.
4. "In Pastures Green” by H. H. Barry
Barry’s poem is about putting one’s faith in the Hands of God. He writes that water may not always be calm nor the pastures green, but no matter the storm, God guides those that entrust in his help and wisdom.
5. "Bilbo’s Last Song" by J. R. R. Tolkien
Although J. R. R. Tolkien was a Roman Catholic, his writing influences included themes in Germanic mythology and even the Norse saga, Beowulf.
His books speak to various audiences, including those who believe in elves or the Huldufólk (hidden people).
6. "Death is Nothing at All" by Henry Scott-Holland
“Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room…”
Henry Scott-Holland was a priest during the reign of King Henry VII in England. His poem, which initially was part of a sermon, was delivered upon King Henry’s death in 1910.
7. Revelation 21:1-7
The final writings of the Bible are in the Book of Revelation. In Chapter 21, verses 1-7, John explains how God will bring heaven to Earth and Jerusalem to all His people as promised to those who believe in Him.
8. "Do Not Weep for Me" by Aramanthea
“…Therefore, the wise weep not.
But rejoice at the transformation of my Being.”
The final two lines echo the sentiment throughout this Wiccan poem. The narrator explains that there’s little reason to be sad when upon death, they are now one with flora and fauna; they are memories of the world—and the reader.
9. "When I Die" by Rumi
Excluded from Rumi’s praise is that while his father introduced him to Sufism, it was through theological studies that he gained the lens of Islam in his work. As such, they worked in conjunction to blend mysticism, Sunni laws, and an intuitive love for God.
10. Romans 8:35–39
“…For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the
present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
11. "A Soldier Came Home Today" by Rev. Bob Leonard
Rev. Bob Leonard’s poem isn’t overtly Christian-leaning and leaves no impression of the soldier’s particular branch of service. That means this funeral poem would be appropriate to send to any service member or military family member.
12. "Death is Not the End” by Sri Chinmoy
Sri Chinmoy followed Hindu traditions, but he believed his writings should be accessible for all religions. In the end, he felt his faith to be a love of God, rather than posited under any other definable title.
13. Untitled Poem by Kozan
For the Zen Buddhist:
Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going —
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.
14. Isaiah 43:2
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
15. "Pagan Eulogy" by Clive Culverhouse
Although Culverhouse’s poem is very similar to the previous poem, it stands apart because it personifies the nature of Earth. In it, nature is something with which people bond while discovering friendship and care.
16. "On Death” Kahlil Gibran
Kahlil Gibran was a notable philosopher, poet, and political influencer whose mysticism was influenced by several religions. His legacy includes over 100 translations of his work and cultural and musical influence, including memorials and honors worldwide.
17. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
Thessalonians is attributed to Paul the Apostle. In it, he writes that “those who fall asleep in death” or who have “fallen asleep in him” will be brought to God by Jesus in the end. Those who believe in God won’t experience the same hopelessness or grief.
18. “Excerpts on Death” from the Upanishads
“Before death, life is a seeker.
After death, the same life becomes a dreamer.
Before death, life struggles and strives for Perfection.
After death, the same life rests
and enjoys the divine Bliss with the soul.
Before death, life is God’s Promise.
After death, life is God’s inner Assurance.
This Assurance of God’s we notice while we fulfill God in our future incarnation.”
19. Page 44 by Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath’s legacy rests not in the opinion of a few but rather his influence. Both Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and Anna Akhmatova, the Russian poet who depicted suffering under Soviet rule, found insight in his poetry.
20. "The Blessing of St. Francis of Assisi” by Author Unknown
“The Lord bless you
and keep you.
May He show His face
to you and have mercy.
May He turn His countenance
to you and give you peace.
The Lord bless you!”
21. “Suttee” by Sarojini Naidu
The poem “Suttee” was written by an Indian political activist and famous proponent of women’s emancipation and civil rights, Sarojini Naidu.
She left behind a legacy of books, awards, honors, and notable mention among scholars, including this poem about love, grief, and the contrast of life and death.
22. “When I am Dead” by Christina Rosetti
Christina Rosetti’s poem works well for those who are nondenominational or agnostic. It does not allude to dwelling in the forest, nor does it demand remembrance because people often forget. Even the narrator has the option to remember or let go.
23. Psalm 103: 8-17
Psalm 103 works well if you’re a friend of the family or a close relative seeking to bring comfort in grief. It contrasts life on earth and that with God. Here, life is as momentary as that of a grass blade, but with God, life exists “from everlasting to everlasting.”
24. "Do Not Stand by My Grave and Weep” by Mary Frye
Another non-religious poem comes from poet Mary Frye. You may choose to type this poem in part or whole on sympathy eCards for any friend who does not follow any particular religion.
25. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
“To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”
In 1965, the Byrds released the song, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” which expanded the secular familiarity of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, verses 1-8.
The original work found in the Bible reflects on life but realizes that fate is up to God. The enjoyment of life is up to each of us.
26. John 6: 35-40
The Gospel of John contains the teachings of Jesus. In Chapter 6, verses 35-40, Jesus ministers to His people, explaining that those who follow Him will never be hungry, thirsty, or in neglect of God’s grace.
27. "Catullus 101” by Gaius Valerius Catullus
During Catullus’s time, the religion of Rome was polytheistic. In it, Catullus expresses anguish and pain, as well as the loyalty in brotherhood. It’ll work for anyone who practices outside of the twelve major world religions.
28. "Angel Wings” by Unknown
“Angel Wings” works for someone who experienced a stillbirth or miscarriage. In it, the unborn child offers recognition of their parents’ love and seeks to reassure them with the visual of wearing angels’ wings.
29. "She Shall Be Praised" from Proverbs 31: 10, 25-31
Proverbs 31 extolled the virtuous characteristics of a woman: honor, strength, wisdom, kindness, hardworking, and god-fearing. A woman like this, it says, has a value greater than rubies.
30. Untitled Poem by Gesshu Soko
For the Zen Buddhist:
…Slice the void in aimless flight –
Thus I return to the source.”
Poetry and Letters and Cards of Sympathy
Now that you’ve discovered the most fitting religious (or non-religious) poem for your friend or loved one choose an appropriate card to mail or send in a letter via email.
For any questions about end-of-life planning or some shorter religious sympathy quotes, Cake has numerous resources available for you to peruse.
- A Life Celebrant Lou. (2020). Funeral Poems & Readings. https://www.alifecelebrant.com.au/funeral-poems-readings/
- Ali, R. (2017). The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi. https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-erasure-of-islam-from-the-poetry-of-rumi
- Aramanthea. (2014). Do not Weep for me – Pagan Funeral Poem. from https://celebrantnicole.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/do-not-weep-for-me-pagan-funeral-poem/
- Poem Hunter. (2020). https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/pagan-eulogy/
- Thacker, E. (2016). Black Illumination: Zen and the poetry of death. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2016/07/02/books/black-illumination-zen-poetry-death/