21 Funeral Poems for a Loved One Who Died Suddenly

Updated

Sometimes families know that death is approaching, and they are given ample opportunities to say their goodbyes to their loved ones. However, in some circumstances, death occurs suddenly.

Jump ahead to these sections:

If you recently lost a loved one who was taken from you unexpectedly, here are some funeral poems you might consider for the services. But, even if you don't choose to have a poem read at your loved one's funeral, we hope that some of these poets' words give you a moment of peace. 

Funeral Poems for a Mother or Grandmother Who Died Suddenly

The loss of a mother is never easy, which is one reason that there are a lot of funeral poems for mothers. Consider reading one of these poems at your mom's or grandma's funeral. 

1. "Sudden" by Nick Flynn

The speaker in this poem laments,

"If it had been 
terminal, we could have cradled her
As she grew smaller, wiped her mouth,
Said good-bye. But it was sudden."

2. "I shall know why–when time is over" by Emily Dickinson

Perhaps you are questioning why your loved one was taken too soon. If so, here is a piece that might speak to you.

"I shall know why, when time is over,
And I have ceased to wonder why;
Christ will explain each separate anguish
In the fair schoolroom of the sky.
He will tell me what Peter promised,
And I, for wonder at his woe,
I shall forget the drop of anguish
That scalds me now, that scalds me now."

3. "When Tomorrow Starts Without Me" by David M. Romano

How will you face the first day without your mother? The words of this poem may give you solace as you learn to navigate life without your mom. Here are two stanzas from the poem. It is written from the perspective of the deceased. 

"I wish so much you wouldn't cry
The way you did today
While thinking of the many things
We didn't get to say

"I know how much you love me
As much as I love you
And each time you think of me
I know you'll miss me too."

Funeral Poems for a Father or Grandfather Who Died Suddenly

Of course, poets have had plenty to say about the death of fathers and grandfathers. Although these poems may not be found on lists of popular funeral poems for dads, the message in these pieces might speak to you. 

4. "The Race" by Sharon Olds

This modern poem describes the panic a person feels when trying to rush back to be present at their father's deathbed. The speaker experiences canceled flights, and when they finally arrive . . .

"I walked into his room
And watched his chest rise slowly
And sink again, all night
I watched him breathe."

5. "Death Is Nothing at All" by Henry Scott Holland

In this lengthy poem, the speaker is the deceased, who promises that they are "just around the corner." 

"All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!"

6. "Not How Did He Die, But How Did He Live?" by Anonymous

You might be frustrated when those offering sympathy focus on the cause of your dad's sudden death. Here's a poem that reminds us to celebrate a life well-lived.

It begins,

"Not, how did he die, but how did he live?
Not, what did he gain, but what did he give?"

Funeral Poems for a Sibling Who Died Suddenly

How do you cope after losing a brother or sister? Unfortunately, you may not have much time to focus on your grief and pain if you have to plan their service. So here are some goodbye poems to consider printing in the funeral program for your sibling. 

7. "After great pain, a formal feeling comes –" by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson tries to describe how the body and mind react to the news that a loved one has passed. The middle stanza describes how you may be feeling:

"The Feet, mechanical, go round–
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought–
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –"

8. "For My Brother: Reported Missing in Action, 1943" by Thomas Merton

We know that this poem's title will not speak to the specifics of your situation. However, if you lost a sibling while they were serving their country, the theme of this poem may speak to you.

The second stanza states:

"Where, in what desolate and smokey country,
Lies your poor body, lost and dead?
And in what landscape of disaster
Has your unhappy spirit lost its road?"

9. "Catullus 101" by Catullus (translated by Alfred Corn)

The entirety of this poem reads:

"Sped through many countries and as many seas
I've come, dear brother, to attend your mourning rites.
And bring the final tribute that a death requires,
Only to find myself addressing silent ashes.
Since fate has taken even you away from me –
Oh no, my brother, so unjustly stolen from me! –
Nevertheless, in keeping with our forebears' customs,
I tender grief's last offering to your memory
Drenched with fraternal tears of one who wept for you
And now, for all time, Brother, this salute, and this farewell."

Funeral Poems for a Partner or Spouse Who Died Suddenly

Funeral poems are written from a variety of perspectives. Some are written from the perspective of a parent who lost a child, while others may be written from the deceased's perspective. When selecting a poem for your loved one's funeral, you might pay attention to this – especially if you plan to recite it at the service. 

Here are some funeral poems for someone who lost a partner or spouse.

10. "The Wake" by Rita Dove

You'll notice that some funeral poems are uplifting and positive. This poem, however, speaks about the heartbreak of grief. 

It begins:

"Your absence distributed itself
Like an invitation.
Friends and relatives
Kept coming, trying
To fill up the house.
But the rooms still gaped –
The green hanger swang empty, and 
The head of the table
Demanded a plate."

11. "The Widow's Lament in Springtime" by William Carlos Williams

This poem describes the grief of a widow who lost her husband after being married for 35 years. She describes her grief as the feeling of wanting to 

"Fall into those flowers
And sink into the marsh near them."

12. "The One in Paradise" by Edgar Allan Poe

This grief poem by one of America's most famous poets ends with the following stanza:

"And all my days are trances,
And all my nightly dreams
Are where thy gray eye glances,
Amd where thy footstep gleams–
In what ethereal dances,
By what eternal streams."

Funeral Poems for a Child Who Died Suddenly

Please accept our condolences if you recently and unexpectedly lost a child. Here are some poems that may be appropriate for your loved one's service.

13. "On My First Son" by Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson was a contemporary of William Shakespeare. He wrote this poem after the death of his seven-year-old son and imagined the following epitaph:

"Here doth lie Ben Johnson his best piece of poetry."

14. "God Bless You Beautiful Children" by Michael Ashby

This sweet piece of poetry ends:

"Our days and nights are darker now
That your light has moved on
Go bless you beautiful children
We listen for your heavenly song."

15. "To Daffodils" by Robert Herrick

The speaker in this poem compares human life to the life of a beautiful flower.

"We have short time to stay, as you, 
We have as short a spring."

Funeral Poems for a Friend Who Died Suddenly

Has the family asked you to read a poem at a friend's funeral? It's probably best to let the family know the poem you chose for the occasion before you commit to it. 

16. "Books, Paintings" by Ryszard Krynicki (translated by Claire Cavanaugh)

This poem describes all of the belongings (including books and paintings) that can be taken from us when we suddenly die. But, the poem concludes that we leave one thing behind:

"Except the independent, 
Nameless words,
Even if they only flow through us
Except sacred word, which even
When written in dead languages of ice
Will see resurrection."

17. "A Litany in Time of Plague" by Thomas Nashe

Even though this poem was written in the 1600s, it certainly speaks to our current situation. 

It begins:

"Adieu, farewell earth's bliss,
This world uncertain is."

18. "Epitaph on a Friend" by Robert Burns

This short poem (or epitaph) reads as follows:

"An honest man here lies at rest,
As e'er God with His image blest:
The friend of man, the friend of truth;
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm'd,
Few heads with knowledge so inform'd:
If there's another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this."

Funeral Poems for an Aunt or Uncle Who Died Suddenly

You lost your aunt or uncle unexpectedly, and it is up to you to choose a funeral poem. The funeral director will help by providing you with a list of the most popular funeral poems of all time. However, here are some to consider that probably aren't on that list.

19. "Listen Lord: A Prayer" by James Weldon Johnson

This poem reads like the words of a preacher speaking at a funeral. It begins:

"O Lord, we come this morning
Knee-bowed and body-bent
Before thy throne of grace."

20. "Question" by May Swenson

The question asked in this poem is, "What happens to the spirit when the body suddenly leaves? Or "How will it be to lie in the sky without roof or door and wind for an eye?"

21. "There Is a Solemn Wind Tonight" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This poem describes the solemn feeling that overtakes a person after a loved one passes.

"The slender trees, the heavy trees,
The fruit trees laden and proud,
Lift up their branches to the wind
That cries to them so loud.
The little bushes and the plants
Bow to the solemn sound,
And every tiniest blade of grass
Shakes on the quiet ground."

Attain Peace Through Poetry

Even if you have never particularly loved poetry before, you might develop an appreciation for the genre after your loss. In fact, some of the poetry highlighted in Cake's blog may clearly and concisely put into words how you feel after a loved one suddenly dies.

While some of the poems may not be appropriate to share with others at your loved one's funeral, we hope some of the pieces may give you peace – at least for a moment.

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.