Poems on Grief
This page is a collection of bereavement poems. Some of these poems on grief have been handed down through the centuries. Some were written by more recent poets.
Some bereavement poems that are meaningful to some may not be the one that speaks to you. Different poets connect with different images and concepts as do their readers.
As you read through these poems on grief, find the one that speaks most meaningfully to you. Notice what draws you and speaks to your soul. You may find it helpful to do some reflective writing about what the poem touches within you.
If you think there is a bereavement poem that should be added to this page, you can add a
bereavement poem here.
Because I enjoy short poems as well as the imagery of nature, I'll start with a few Japanese poems. These poems may or may not have been meant as bereavement poems, but do speak to the emotions of loss.
I shall miss you most
When twilight brings the rising mists
To hang upon the reeds
And as the evening darkens cold
With mallards' crise across the marsh.
- Author Unknown
In the empty mountains
The leaves of the bamboo grass
Rustle in the wind
I think of a girl
Who is not here.
In my loneliness
I step outside my hut and gaze
In quiet reverie,
But everywhere it is the same:
The melancholy autumn dusk.
How will you manage
To cross alone
The autumn mountain
Which was so hart to get across
Even when we went the two of us together?
- Princess Daihaku
The sun kept setting, setting still;
No hue of afternoon
Upon the village I perceived, --
From house to house 't was noon.
The dusk kept dropping, dropping still;
No dew upon the grass,
But only on my forehead stopped,
And wandered in my face.
My feet kept drowsing, drowsing still,
My fingers were awake;
Yet why so little sound myself
Unto my seeming make?
How well I knew the light before!
I could not see it now.
'T is dying, I am doing; but
I'm not afraid to know.
- Emily Dickinson
I MEANT TO FIND HER WHEN I CAME
I meant to find her when I came;
Death had the same design;
But the success was his, it seems,
And the discomfit mine.
I meant to tell her how I longed
For just this single time;
But Death had told her so the first,
And she had hearkened him.
To wander now is my abode;
To rest, -- to rest would be
A privilege of hurricane
To memory and me.
- Emily Dickinson
My last gift from John—
worn every day since he died.
Twenty-two months of hopes to find
treasures in the midst of pain.
I resolve to join the living.
Playing with children,
one earring disappears,
impossible to find.
Choosing to love and live
is no guarantee there
won’t be more loss and death.
But remaining buried in death
eliminates the possibility of life and love.
Sometimes even old treasures must die
to make room for the new.
- Janelle Shantz Hertzler
Seasons of Solace
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West.
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
- W. H. Auden
bereavement poems . . .
Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.
The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question 'Whither?'
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
- Robert Frost
ALL IS WELL
Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household world that it always was,
Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It it the same as it ever was, there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near,
Just around the corner.
All is well.
- Henry Scott Holland
bereavement poems . . .
DO NOT WEEP
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.
- Mary Elizabeth Frye
YOUR PAIN IS . . .
Your pain is the breaking of the shell
that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break,that its
heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder
at the daily miracles of your life, your pain
would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your
heart, even as you have always accepted
the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity
through the winters of your grief.
Much of your pain is self-chosen.
It is the bitter potion by which the
physician within you heals your sick self.
Therefore trust the physician, and drink
his remedy in silence and tranquility:
For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided
by the tender hand of the Unseen,
And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips,
has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter
has moistened with His own sacred tears.
- Kahlil Gibran
Read about my book of bereavement poetry,
Seasons of Solace.
To read more bereavement poems or for ideas for writing grief poetry, return to the main
grief poems page.
Return from Bereavement Poems to Journey-through-Grief homepage