Write and Read Grief Poems
for Healing

Writing Grief Poems

Before John died if someone had told me that one day I'd be writing a web page about poetry, I would never have believed her. How much less having a book published. See Seasons of Solace.

For much of my life, I rarely read poetry. I stumbled onto poetry writing largely by accident. It took an invitation to write my story in less than 100 words. Yes, one hundred. After a year of listening to my brain, repeat my misery for hours on end, I had to reduce it to a mere 100 words. Read about this exercise and the resulting grief poem.

I knew that writing was a significant and important way to get trapped feelings and emotions out of our bodies. I remember nights when I was anxious or upset about something. I would toss and turn and think for hours without sleeping. Eventually I would get up and write out all the things that were swirling around in my brain. After doing getting everything out, I was able to fall asleep.

After writing a few grief poems for classes, I started to pair them with different photos I was making. Immediately I saw similar emotions being expressed in both forms of art. One year for Christmas, I put some of these photos and poems into a digitally printed book for a few close friends. Everyone I shared this book with found it very meaningful--most of them were also grieving the loss of John as a friend.

That summer I had set aside time to work on an academic paper. Every time I sat down to try to work on it, I had poetry swirling around in my head. So on the wise advice of a friend, I decided to go with the energy. In that week, I wrote over 20 poems. Afterward I had a feeling comparable to those nights of writing out my emotions so I could sleep. I felt like I had cleansed my body of many stuffed feelings, and I entered a new space of healing. Read some of this grief poetry.

Read more about reasons to learn to write poetry.

For me, if I intentionally decide to sit down and write a poem, the page remains blank for ages. It has more to do with feelings welling up inside me that must come out. Sometimes they stew inside for days, weeks, months, until one day it comes together, and I grab a pen and start to write.

I think it has a lot to do with noticing. As I go through life, I notice feelings, statements, ideas that I want to keep pondering. Perhaps learning to write poetry has more to do with making space in your life for reflection and silence. Two books that I recommend for writing poetry for healing are Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words by Susan Wooldridge and Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making by John Fox.

Some people find it helpful to find a structure to work with as they start to write poetry. Haiku is an Asian form of poetry that only consists of three lines and seventeen syllables. I found it to be a helpful and easy structure to begin listening to and expressing myself. Read further about haiku here.

grief audio

Looking for Poetry Help?

Advice for writing and editing poetry can be found on this poetry help page.

Share Your Poems with Us

Are you writing poetry as a means of expressing the emotions of your loss? Or as a means of healing from the pain of grief? Or to honor the life of someone you miss? I and readers would love to read what you have written. On this page you can share a bereavement poem.

Reading Poetry

I also find that reading the grief poems of others helps me to connect with my own story. I gain greater self-understanding as I read how others express their life experiences. Poetry has a way of bypassing our logical thought process and getting straight to the heart. Poetry helps us find our centered place of peace. It opens us up to new life.

When a person is living with grief and trauma, they have a hard time focusing. I found myself listening to lectures and walking out of the classroom with very little idea of what was said. The same was true for books. Many people experience difficulty reading during grief. I found short poems the easiest. Mary Oliver is probably my favorite. You might want to try her book, Thirst, which includes poems written in response to the death of her partner.

Here are a few poems about grief that have been meaningful to me.

Here is another collection of bereavement poems that you might find helpful. I've included four translations of Japanese poems that I love for their simplicity and connecting emotion with the imagery of nature. There are also traditional English-language grief poems.

A newly added third page of bereavement verses.

As a Mary Oliver fan, I offer a page of five of Mary Oliver's poems on grief.

Young and old alike have found comfort in the poems and illustrations of This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort. Read some of the poems at Comfort Poems Death.

grief poems

Need to chat with a live person? Read our Online Grief Counseling Interviews.

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