20 Short Sad Poems to Read, Reflect On & Share

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When you’re sad or down, it can help to know that you aren’t alone with those feelings. Sadness can be an incredibly lonely and isolating feeling. Realizing other people in the world have felt what you feel can give you a sense of connection.  

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Poets, in particular, are wonderful at distilling complex emotions into universal feelings. Whether you’re grieving a death, mourning the loss of a relationship, or just missing someone, you can find a sense of kinship in a good poem. Here are 20 of our favorite sad poems to help you feel a little less alone in the world.  

Sad Poems About Life

We live in uncertain times. Realizing this can make you feel angry, afraid, or sad. These poems about the sadness of everyday life may help you feel more connected to everyone else who is as scared and sad as you are. 

1. "Loss" by Carl Adamshcik 

Adamshick’s debut poetry collection was the recipient of the 2010 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets.

It’s not surprising considering poems like this that are so rooted and relatable. This particular poem came out of a collaboration with a visual artist. That might explain the sense of realism and concreteness it provides.  

2. "Ireland from the M50" by Dylan Moore

As we age, we come to realize two things that may seem conflicting. The first is that our world will never be the same one we grew up in.

It will change, inexorably, no matter what we do. The second is that after we are gone, the world will keep existing whether we are alive or not. There’s something isolating in the sense that the world is always evolving, and yet will be unchanged by our death. 

3. "Florence, Kentucky" by Adam Scheffler

In working-class towns, there is a lot of hardship and grimness to life. This poem examines the separate sadness of several individuals in a series of vignettes. 

4. "Poem for One Little Girl Blue" by June Jordan

Some people, it seems, cannot escape sadness. This may be a result of bad luck or misfortune. But in the case of some people, sadness seems to be an active choice.

This poem explores the actions of a woman who seems to relish in gathering grief around her.  

5. "Twenty Questions" by Jim Moore

As we move through life, we sometimes get seized by the reality of all the things we are missing out on. In this poem, Moore uses a series of questions to show that his narrator grieves for all the moments he has left unappreciated and all the experiences he has missed. 

Sad Poems About Death

If you’ve had a loved one die, you may be looking for funeral poems to do as a reading. Or, you may just be looking for something that taps into your emotions. These poems about death will move you. 

6. "The Sadness of Clothes" by Emily Fragos 

When a loved one dies, one of the most challenging things in the days that follow is figuring out what to do with their belongings.

Some belongings, like clothes, are very tangible reminders of your loss. This poem relates to that experience. For a similar tale about clothing and loss, listen to the song “This Shirt” by Mary Chapin Carpenter about the end of a relationship. 

7. “Dirge Without Music" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

When someone we admire dies, there is often anger intermingled with our sadness. St. Vincent Millay perfectly captures that unique blend of emotions.

She pays tribute to the “lovers and thinkers” we have lost. But she makes it clear that even though she grieves, she is not resigned to their loss. 

8. "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps best-known for his work as a pioneer of gothic fiction. He has thrilled readers with vengeful short stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado”.

But while “Annabel Lee” is about death, it is about the death of a beautiful woman who was clearly adored by the narrator. It’s evocative and strangely tender for such a master of horror fiction.   

9. "Heavy" by Mary Oliver

When someone we love dies, our grief becomes like a stone around our necks. If we’re not careful, it can drag us down beneath the surface until we drown. In this poem, Oliver talks about a friend who reminded her that the way we carry grief can submerge us.

We must learn to live with it and balance it if we want to carry on. Though the poem starts off sad, it reminds us by the end that there is still joy in the world if we remember to look for it. 

10. "Funeral Blues" by W.H. Auden

If you’re grieving someone you love, you sometimes want the world around you to just stop moving. It seems wrong for life to just go on when the center of your world is gone.

Auden lists some of the mundane things that become almost offensive in our grief. The clocks should stop ticking, the pianos should be silenced, and the stars should cease to shine because what’s the point of any of them? This poem is incredibly raw and powerful. 

Sad Poems About Love or Breaking Up

The ending of a relationship can feel like a kind of death. When it ends, you’re not only mourning the end of the relationship. You grieve for what might have been. These poems tap into the sadness of love lost. 

11. "The Sun and Her Flowers" by Rupi Kaur

When a relationship ends, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been set adrift. In this brief but powerful poem, Kaur explored the sense of loneliness that persists after a breakup.

When you go through enough relationships you have to wonder: am I the one who is the problem here? 

12. "Movement Song" by Audre Lorde

Lorde was a revolutionary writer, poet, and activist. She also had a major impact on intersectional feminism.

But she also had a gift for capturing the smaller moments in relationships. Here, she explores the slow erosion of a relationship that ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. 

13. "A Pity, We Were Such a Good Invention" by Yehuda Amichai

When you’re in a good relationship, you’re part of a unit. You become greater than the sum of its parts. After a relationship ends, you suddenly feel smaller and broken.

14. "Our Many Never Endings" by Courtney Queeney

Sometimes the worst thing about the end of a relationship is the mechanics of the breakup. There is often a protracted negotiation over how you split up the artifacts of your life together. This poem deals with the simultaneously prosaic and painful details of a split. 

15. "You Fit Into Me" by Margaret Atwood

Atwood is best known for intricate world-building in novels like The Handmaid’s Tale. But she can also devastate with just a few brief lines.

This poem is just sixteen words long, but it perfectly encapsulates how perfect a relationship can feel at the beginning, and how painful it can be at the end. 

Sad Poems About Missing Someone

It’s easier than ever to keep in touch with people no matter how far away they are. But nothing substitutes for physical closeness. These goodbye poems can help you cope with missing someone. 

16. "Heavy Summer Rain " by Jane Kenyon

This poem is rich with metaphors. Kenyon speaks of tracks left behind and grasses trampled, of blooms weighted down by rain.

But in the middle, she speaks clearly of missing someone “steadily, painfully”. It becomes apparent that the imagery bookending this sentiment is really about how we can feel someone’s impact even in their absence. 

17. "Unknown" by Brianna Joiner

Sometimes we can miss people even when they’re sitting right beside us. In this poem, Joiner writes about a friend who has changed so much, they almost seem like a stranger.

She wonders when they’ll become the person they used to be before they were changed by hurt. It soon becomes apparent the poet is speaking about herself, which you may relate to in your own sadness. 

18. "Emptying Town" by Nick Flynn

It’s hard to leave the town you grew up in and leave all your friends behind. It may be even harder to be the one left behind as, one by one, your friends escape your town. 

19. "I Loved My Friend" by Langston Hughes

Missing a friend is, in many ways, a universal experience. The specifics don’t matter: it’s just a feeling you know many others relate to. This poem is short, but it captures the simplicity of that yearning. 

20. "To My Oldest Friend, Whose Silence Is Like a Death" by Lloyd Schwartz

Sometimes the distance between friends is emotional instead of physical. If you’ve had a falling out with a friend, this poem captures that unique sadness.

Poems to Get You Through Challenging Times

If you are going through a difficult time, sad poems can help you feel like someone understands.

Whether you’re looking for grief poems to help you cope with death or poems about heartbreak at the end of a relationship, sad poems can help you feel a sense of connection. Feeling less alone in your sadness may paradoxically help you feel more uplifted. 

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