Poetry somehow manages to convey things that other forms of expression can’t.
And it is no different when the topic is something that affects us all: death.
Whether it is as a person who is grieving a loved one or someone who is staring down their own death, poems can stir up thoughts and emotions to help us all deal with the inevitable.
Here is our pick of the 10 most beautiful and comforting poems about death and dying.
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1. Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye
This inspirational poem about the death of a loved one invites us to look for them all around us in the beauty of the world.
Written as if spoken by the deceased, the poem tells us that whilst their body may be given to the ground, their presence lives on.
This comforting, heartfelt message doesn’t mean that we can’t miss someone, but it reminds us that we should notice them there with us still.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
2. There Is No Night Without A Dawning by Helen Steiner Rice
This short poem is a popular choice for funerals because it reminds us that despite the death of someone we cared about, the darkness of our grief will pass.
Whilst death is hard to bear at first, this poem tells us that those who have died have found peace in a “brighter day.”
That’s a reassuring thought for those who mourn.
There is no night without a dawning
No winter without a spring
And beyond the dark horizon
Our hearts will once more sing…
For those who leave us for a while
Have only gone away
Out of a restless, care worn world
Into a brighter day.
3. Turn Again To Life by Mary Lee Hall
This beautiful poem was perhaps made most famous for having been read at Princess Diana’s funeral.
It urges the listener – the griever – to not mourn for long, but to embrace life once more.
It tells us to look for those who are also in need of comfort and to take up the mantle left to us by the dearly departed.
If I should die and leave you here a while,
be not like others sore undone, who keep
long vigils by the silent dust, and weep.
For my sake – turn again to life and smile,
nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
something to comfort weaker hearts than thine.
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine
and I, perchance may therein comfort you.
4. Farewell by Anne Bronte
This is another well known poem about death that reminds us not to think of it as a final goodbye.
Instead, it encourages us to cherish the fond memories we have of our loved one so as to keep them alive within us.
It also urges us to never let go of hope – hope that we will soon find joy and smiles where now we have anguish and tears.
Farewell to thee! but not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of thee:
Within my heart they still shall dwell;
And they shall cheer and comfort me.
O, beautiful, and full of grace!
If thou hadst never met mine eye,
I had not dreamed a living face
Could fancied charms so far outvie.
If I may ne’er behold again
That form and face so dear to me,
Nor hear thy voice, still would I fain
Preserve, for aye, their memory.
That voice, the magic of whose tone
Can wake an echo in my breast,
Creating feelings that, alone,
Can make my tranced spirit blest.
That laughing eye, whose sunny beam
My memory would not cherish less; —
And oh, that smile! whose joyous gleam
Nor mortal language can express.
Adieu, but let me cherish, still,
The hope with which I cannot part.
Contempt may wound, and coldness chill,
But still it lingers in my heart.
And who can tell but Heaven, at last,
May answer all my thousand prayers,
And bid the future pay the past
With joy for anguish, smiles for tears?
5. If I Should Go by Joyce Grenfell
Another poem written as if spoken by the departed, it urges those left behind to remain who they are and not let grief change them.
Of course, it is always sad to say goodbye, but life has to go on and you have to keep on living it to the best of your abilities.
If I should die before the rest of you,
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone.
Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must,
Parting is hell.
But life goes on,
So sing as well.
6. I Felt An Angel – Author Unknown
This poem about loss is not attributed to anyone in particular, but it is a true gift, whoever the author was.
It tells us never to overlook the presence of a deceased loved one – the angel described in these words.
Even though they may not be with us physically, they always remain with us in spirit.
I felt an angel near today, though one I could not see
I felt an angel oh so close, sent to comfort me
I felt an angel’s kiss, soft upon my cheek
And oh, without a single word of caring did it speak
I felt an angel’s loving touch, soft upon my heart
And with that touch, I felt the pain and hurt within depart
I felt an angel’s tepid tears, fall softly next to mine
And knew that as those tears did dry a new day would be mine
I felt an angel’s silken wings enfold me with pure love
And felt a strength within me grow, a strength sent from above
I felt an angel oh so close, though one I could not see
I felt an angel near today, sent to comfort me.
7. His Journey’s Just Begun by Ellen Brenneman
Here’s another uplifting and inspirational poem about death that encourages us to think of a loved one not as gone, but as on another part of their journey.
It doesn’t specifically talk about an afterlife, but if that is what you believe, this poem will be of great comfort to you.
If you don’t believe in such things, it also talks about a person’s continued existence in the hearts of those they touched.
Don’t think of him as gone away
his journey’s just begun,
life holds so many facets
this earth is only one.
Just think of him as resting
from the sorrows and the tears
in a place of warmth and comfort
where there are no days and years.
Think how he must be wishing
that we could know today
how nothing but our sadness
can really pass away.
And think of him as living
in the hearts of those he touched…
for nothing loved is ever lost
and he was loved so much.
8. Peace My Heart by Rabindranath Tagore
When someone we care about dies, peace may seem a long way off in the future. But it needn’t be, as this poem shows.
If we seek not to resist the passing, but to see it as a grand resolution to something beautiful – a life – we can have peace even as a loved one drifts away.
It calls us to accept that nothing is permanent and to respect that life giving way to death is the natural way of things.
Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light your way.
9. If I Should Go Tomorrow – Author Unknown
Another poem of unknown origin, it calls us to look upon death not as a goodbye, but as a transition in how we communicate with our loved ones.
No longer may they be here with us, but their love can always be felt – the heavens and stars in this verse possibly representing the world around us.
If I should go tomorrow
It would never be goodbye,
For I have left my heart with you,
So don’t you ever cry.
The love that’s deep within me,
Shall reach you from the stars,
You’ll feel it from the heavens,
And it will heal the scars.
10. Crossing The Bar by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
At first glance, this poem might appear to have little to do with death, but the metaphors it uses speak clearly of the transition from life to death.
The ‘bar’ refers to a sandbar or submerged ridge between the ocean and a tidal river or estuary and the author hopes for a tide so large that there will be no waves on this ridge.
Instead, as he embarks on his journey out to sea (or death) – or as he returns from whence he came – he hopes for a peaceful journey and to see his Pilot’s (God’s) face.
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.