My childhood years, like everybody else’s, were peppered with happy rhymes and poems. But as I grew up, the poetry of a more thoughtful nature became my night-time companion. Poetry can transform pain into beauty through just a few words.
If you have sought out these poems, I assume you’re dealing with some loss, and I am sorry about that. These verses below are a means to witness this grief and understand its universality This list comprises my favorite poems about grief, categorized for your convenience.
Short Poems About Grief That Give You Comfort
#1. ‘Tis Better To Have Loved and Lost – Alfred Lord Tennyson
I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
#2. Happy the Man – John Dryden
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.
#3. Music, When Soft Voices Die – Percy Bysshe Shelley
Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory –
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.
Grief Poems About Holidays When You’re Missing Someone
#4. Bone Deep – John Green
the ache lives.
Memories of you
like an old wound,
never fully healed.
#5. Holidays – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows;–
The happy days unclouded to their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;–a fairy tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream.
#6. Candles in the Night – Genesse Bourdeau Gentry
Candles flame in darkness,
flicker, steadily glow,
bringing light from shadows
and help to soothe us so.
Our daughter, like the candles,
gave our lives true light.
We use the candle’s beacon
to connect us in the night.
As we light the candles,
our wish and our request
is that she’ll see our signal
and know our love’s expressed.
As her light joins our light
our worlds touch and flame
As we put the candles out
we softly say her name.
Grief Poems For Loved Ones
#7. Mama Never Forgets Her Birds – Emily Dickinson
Mama never forgets her birds,
Though in another tree –
She looks down just as often
And just as tenderly
As when her little mortal nest
With cunning care she wove –
If either of her sparrows fall,
She notices, above.
#8. The Uses of Sorrow – Mary Oliver
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
#9. The Window – Rumi
Your body is away from me
but there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.
#10. Kindness – Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
#11. In Blackwater Woods – Mary Oliver
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Grief Poems For Friends You Lost Too Soon
#12. Farewell – Anne Bronte
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.
#13. When Great Trees Fall – Maya Angelou
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
#14. Death, Be Not Proud – John Donne
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
#15. Nothing Gold Can Stay – Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
#16. She Is Gone (He Is Gone) – David Harkins
You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Grief Poems For Pets Who Were More Than Family
#17. Her Journey’s Just Begun – Ellen Brenneman
Don’t think of her as gone away –
her journey’s just begun,
life holds so many facets –
this earth is only one.
Just think of her as resting
from the sorrows and the tears
in a place of warmth and comfort
where there are no days and years.
Think how she must be wishing
that we could know today
how nothing but our sadness
can really pass away.
And think of her as living
And think of her as living
In the hearts of those she touched
For nothing loved is ever lost –
And she was loved so much.
#18. Four Feet In Heaven – Alice E. Chase
Your favorite chair is vacant now
No eager purrs to greet me.
No softly padded paws to run
Ecstatically to meet me.
No coaxing rubs, no plaintive cry
Will say it’s time for feeding.
I’ve put away your bowl, and all
The things you won’t be needing;
But I will miss you little friend,
For I could never measure
The happiness you brought me,
The comfort and the pleasure.
And since God put you here to share
In earthly joy and sorrow;
I’m sure there’ll be a place for you
In Heaven’s bright tomorrow
#19. Four Feet – Rudyard Kipling
I have done mostly what most men do,
And pushed it out of my mind;
But I can’t forget, if I wanted to,
Four-Feet trotting behind.
Day after day, the whole day through
Wherever my road inclined
Four-feet said, “I am coming with you!”
And trotted along behind.
Now I must go by some other round,
Which I shall never find
Somewhere that does not carry the sound
Of Four-Feet trotting behind.
Grief Poems About Regret And Depression
#20. So We’ll Go No More A Roving – Lord Byron
So, we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.
#21. A Question – Robert Frost
A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth,
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth.
#22. A Lesson – Lang Leav
The girl who smiles all the time
is the one who’s never fine
The boy who surrounds
himself with friends
wishes that his life would end.
For those who say they never knew—
the saddest leave the least of clues.
#23. Depression Is A Great White Shark – Mia Pratt
Depression is a great white shark
who navigates the green sea of my emotions
ravaging parts of my aching heart
with his teeth absorbed in bitterness and loneliness
leaving behind shipwrecks of life struggles
and broken relationships in his wake
#24. The Widow’s Lament In Springtime – William Carlos Williams
Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before, but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
I lived with my husband.
Other Grief Poems to Heal Your Soul
#25. A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning – John Donne
As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No:
So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.
#26. In Memoriam A.H.H. – Alfred Tennyson
Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.
#27. One Sea-Side Grave – Christina Rosetti
Unmindful of the roses,
Unmindful of the thorn,
A reaper tired reposes
Among his gathered corn:
So might I, till the morn!
A Few Parting Words
Grief is common to all beings, uniting us all. Poetry is like the little window that is cracked open, letting in some light into that dark, closed room of grief. All we can do is to let that crack in the window widen, and with time, let more light in. Time is, after all, the greatest healer.
I hope you found some comfort in this collection of poems about grief. They have been my anchor in my times of despair.