Losing a loved one is difficult, and finding the right words to say goodbye can be even more challenging. References to religious passages and scripture are common in eulogies (tips on writing a eulogy here) and funeral services, but for those who do not have a religious affiliation, non-religious funeral readings can be a great way to pay tribute to a loved one. Below are 10 popular secular poems and passages for a non-religious funeral.
This first poem suggestion is by Joyce Grenfell. Grenfell has written many poems on death, but this is one of the most widely known and used at funerals.
If I should go 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.
This poem of unknown origin is another common funeral reading. It focuses on how the loved one will be missed but also honoured and cherished through memories.
Your gentle face and patient smile
With sadness we recall,
You had a kindly word for each
And died beloved by all.
The voice is mute and stilled the heart
That loved us well and true,
Ah, bitter was the trial to part
From one so good as you.
You are not forgotten loved one
Nor will you ever be,
As long as life and memory last
We will remember thee.
We miss you now, our hearts are sore,
As time goes by we miss you more.
Your loving smile, your gentle face,
No one can fill your empty place.
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This passage is great for those who would like to add a physical element to their eulogy. It outlines how many candles to light and what each candle symbolizes. The candles can be lit by one individual or could be part of a group activity.
The first candle represents our grief.
The pain of losing you is intense.
It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.
This second candle represents our courage.
To confront our sorrow,
To comfort each other,
To change our lives.
This third candle we light in your memory.
For the times we laughed,
The times we cried,
The times we were angry with each other,
The silly things you did,
The caring and joy you gave us.
This fourth candle we light for our love.
We light this candle so that your light will always shine.
As we enter this holiday season and share this night of remembrance
with our family and friends.
We cherish the special place in our hearts
that will always be reserved for you.
We thank you for the gift
your living brought to each of us.
We love you.
We remember you.
This poem has a lovely uplifting tone. It reminds listeners that their loved one is at peace now and that, even though they are not physically here anymore, they will continue to live on in their memories.
To the living, I am gone
To the sorrowful, I will never return
To the angry, I was cheated
But to the happy, I am at peace
And to the faithful, I have never left
I cannot speak, but I can listen
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard
So as you stand upon the shore
Gazing at the beautiful sea, remember me
As you look in awe at a mighty forest
And in its grand majesty, remember me
Remember me in your hearts,
In your thoughts, and the memories of the
Times we loved, the times we cried,
the battle we fought and the times we laughed
For if you always think of me,
I will never have gone.
This poem reminds loved ones that although death seems permanent, it does not have to end; the deceased's memories and legacy remain.
What though the radiance which was once so bright~
Be now forever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.
This poem also serves to remind mourners that death does not need to be an end. You can still talk to deceased loved ones, think about them, and reminisce about memories; death does not change their place in your life.
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away 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 you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
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.
Nothing is past; 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!
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This powerful poem focuses on the belief that our loved ones are not confined to their final resting place; they can remain with us and around us through our entire lives.
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 the snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn's 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 star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.
This poem comes from the perspective of the deceased. It thanks loved ones for their roles in the deceased's life and reminds them not to dwell in a state of grief because they are at peace now.
Think of me as one at rest,
for me you should not weep
I have no pain no troubled thoughts
for I am just asleep
The living thinking me that was,
is now forever still
And life goes on without me now,
as time forever will.
If your heart is heavy now
because I’ve gone away
Dwell not long upon it friend
For none of us can stay
Those of you who liked me,
I sincerely thank you all
And those of you who loved me,
I thank you most of all.
And in my fleeting lifespan,
as time went rushing by
I found some time to hesitate,
to laugh, to love, to cry
Matters it now if time began
If time will ever cease?
I was here, I used it all,
and now I am at peace.
This poem tries to put a more positive spin on death. It views death as a form of change instead of viewing it as a final and permanent part of life.
Dear lovely Death
That taketh all things under wing—
Never to kill—
Only to change
Into some other thing
This suffering flesh,
To make it either more or less,
But not again the same—
Dear lovely Death,
Change is thy other name.
This poem focuses more on the significance of the time before death. It is meant to encourage listeners to embrace life and live each day to the fullest.
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
From the beginning…to the end
He noted that first came the date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years
For that dash represents all the time
That they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
Know what that little line is worth
For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering this special dash
Might only last a little while
So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash…
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent YOUR dash?