Obituary and Poetry: How to Honor Your Loved Ones with Words

December 29, 2023

Losing a loved one is one of the most painful experiences in life. Whether it is a family member, a friend, or a pet, we want to express our grief and pay tribute to their memory. One of the ways we can do that is by writing or choosing a poem for their obituary or memorial service.

Poetry can capture the essence of a person, their personality, their passions, their values, and their legacy. Poetry can also help us cope with our emotions, find comfort, and heal. Poetry can be a powerful way to celebrate the life of someone who has passed away.

But how do you find or write the right poem for your loved one? What are some of the most popular and meaningful poems for obituaries and funerals? How do you use poetry to honor your loved one's memory and share it with others? In this blog post, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about obituary and poetry, and provide some examples and tips to help you.

What is obituary poetry?

Obituary poetry, in the broad sense, includes poems or elegies that commemorate a person's or group of people's deaths. In its stricter sense, though, it refers to a genre of popular verse or folk poetry that had its greatest popularity in the 19th century, especially in the United States of America.

Obituary poetry was often published in newspapers, magazines, or pamphlets, and sometimes read aloud at funerals or memorial services. Obituary poetry usually followed a conventional form and style, and often included biographical details, moral lessons, religious sentiments, and expressions of grief and consolation.

Obituary poetry was a way for ordinary people to cope with death and bereavement, and to share their feelings and memories with their community. Obituary poetry also reflected the social and cultural values and norms of the time, such as gender roles, family ties, patriotism, and morality.

How do you choose a poem for an obituary or a funeral?

Choosing a poem for an obituary or a funeral can be a daunting task, especially when you are overwhelmed by grief and loss. There are many factors to consider, such as the personality and preferences of your loved one, the tone and message you want to convey, the length and format of the poem, and the audience and occasion you are writing for.

Here are some steps and tips to help you choose a poem for an obituary or a funeral:

Think about your loved one and what made them unique. What were their hobbies, interests, passions, beliefs, values, and achievements? What were their favorite poems, books, songs, or quotes? What were their most memorable moments or qualities? How did they touch your life and the lives of others?

Browse through some online resources or books that offer a variety of poems for obituaries and funerals. You can search by theme, such as love, loss, hope, faith, nature, or gratitude. You can also search by author, such as Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, or Rumi. You can also search by type, such as sonnets, haikus, limericks, or free verse.

Choose a poem that resonates with you and reflects your loved one's personality and spirit. You can also modify or personalize the poem by adding their name, changing some words, or inserting some details. Make sure the poem is appropriate for the occasion and the audience, and that it does not offend or hurt anyone's feelings.

If you cannot find a poem that suits your needs, you can also write your own poem. You do not have to be a professional poet or follow any rules or rhymes. You just have to express your feelings and thoughts from your heart. You can use some prompts or templates to help you get started, such as "I remember...", "I miss...", "I thank...", or "I hope...".

Before you finalize your poem, read it aloud and check for any errors or improvements. You can also ask for feedback from someone you trust, such as a family member, a friend, or a funeral director. You can also practice reading the poem in front of a mirror or a recorder, and adjust your tone, pace, and volume.

How do you use a poem in an obituary or a funeral?

Once you have chosen or written a poem for your loved one, you can use it in different ways to honor their memory and share it with others. Here are some examples of how you can use a poem in an obituary or a funeral:

You can include the poem in the printed or online obituary or death announcement of your loved one. You can either use the whole poem or a part of it, depending on the space and format available. You can also add a photo of your loved one or a relevant image to accompany the poem.

You can read the poem aloud at the funeral or memorial service of your loved one, either as part of the eulogy or as a separate tribute. You can also ask someone else to read the poem for you, such as a family member, a friend, a clergy, or a celebrant. You can also play a recording of the poem, either by yourself or by a professional narrator or a celebrity.

You can print the poem on a card, a bookmark, a magnet, or a sticker, and distribute it to the guests at the funeral or memorial service of your loved one. You can also add a photo of your loved one or a relevant image to the poem. You can also attach the poem to a flower, a candle, a balloon, or a keepsake, and give it to the guests as a token of appreciation and remembrance.

You can display the poem on a poster, a banner, a plaque, or a frame, and place it at the funeral or memorial service of your loved one. You can also add a photo of your loved one or a relevant image to the poem. You can also display the poem on a screen, a projector, or a slideshow, and show it to the guests during the service.

You can engrave the poem on a headstone, a marker, a urn, or a jewelry, and use it as a permanent memorial for your loved one. You can also add a photo of your loved one or a relevant image to the poem. You can also embed the poem on a QR code, a microchip, or a website, and link it to a digital memorial for your loved one.

What are some examples of poems for obituaries and funerals?

There are many poems that can be used for obituaries and funerals, depending on your preference and purpose. Here are some examples of poems for different categories of loved ones, along with their sources and authors:

Poems for Mom or Grandma

"Rain Light" by W.S. Merwin¹: This poem reminds us that even though we are hurting, we will be all right. Just as the flowers "wake without a question even though the whole world is burning," we will continue with life. Your own mom may have reminded you of this before she died.

"Woman's Dance Song" Temecula Native American Poem¹: In this poem, a woman writes about how nature predicts the death of a loved one. She sees and hears signs from the frog, condor, garter snake, and owl. Many people describe feeling premonitions about the death of a loved one, either through nature or another source.

"After Great Pain" by Emily Dickinson¹: In this poem, she describes the pain of losing someone to death. She compares the aftermath of death to the freezing of the senses, the stiffening of the heart, and the letting go of the breath.

"Talking to Grief" by Denise Levertov¹: In this unique poem, the speaker talks to grief like it is a dog. Even though it sounds strange, it actually reminds us that, like dogs, grief is our constant companion. We can try to ignore it, scold it, or comfort it, but we cannot get rid of it.

Poems for Dad or Grandpa

"When Great Trees Fall" by Maya Angelou²: This poem compares the death of a great person to the falling of a great tree. It describes how the world is shaken and changed by their absence, but also how their legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of those who loved them.

"Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" by Mary Elizabeth Frye²: This poem is one of the most famous and popular poems for funerals. It is written from the perspective of the deceased, who assures the living that they are not gone, but still present in nature and spirit.

"If" by Rudyard Kipling²: This poem is a father's advice to his son on how to live a noble and honorable life. It lists various virtues and values, such as courage, patience, honesty, and humility, that the son should aspire to. It is a poem that celebrates the wisdom and character of a father figure.

"Crossing the Bar" by Alfred Lord Tennyson²: This poem is a metaphor for the journey from life to death. It compares death to crossing a sandbar that separates a harbor from the ocean. It expresses the hope that there will be no sadness or farewell, but a peaceful and calm transition.

Poems for Your Brother or Sister

"He Is Gone (She Is Gone)" by David Harkins²: This poem is a variation of the famous "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep.”