Grief is a part of life, and we will all know what it is to mourn at some point in our lives. Poetry often helps put into words those powerful and emotional feelings that can comfort or help us cope with death, grief, bereavement and loss.
The Bustle in a House, Emily Dickinson
The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth, -
The sweeping up the heart
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
When Death Comes, Mary Oliver
The First Time Percy Came Back, Mary Oliver
Turn again to life, Mary Lee Hall
Remember, By Christina Rossetti
Christina Rossetti was an English poet who lived from 1830-1894. In this poem, she wants her loved one to remember her after death. The word “remember” is shared five times, bringing attention to the importance of holding onto those memories, but the tone changes at the end. She then gives her loved one the permission to move on after her death. She hopes to be remembered, but she doesn’t want those memories to cause sadness to those she leaves behind. The form of Remember is a Petrarchan Sonnet.
Time Does Not Bring Relief (Sonnet II) By Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was considered one of the most skillful writers of sonnets during the 1900s. This poem is a Petrarchan sonnet that follows the rhyme scheme ABBA ABBA CDEECD. She writes of the pain experienced from the death of a loved one. Everything reminds her of him, and the passing of time does not ease the immense hurt she is experiencing, even though people said it would. Anyone who has lost someone they’ve loved will be able to relate to the raw emotion in this poem.
A Child Of Mine, By Edgar Guest
This famous poem by Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959) has been bringing comfort to grief stricken parents for years. Guest himself suffered the loss of two of his children. A Child of Mine is a popular poem to read at funerals of children. To lose a child is one of life's most awful experiences. Focusing on the gift of your few years together can bring a measure of comfort.
Do not stand at my grave and weep, Mary Elizabeth Frye
The original poem was written in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004) from Baltimore, MD. There are in existence many slightly different versions of the poem. This extremely famous poem has been read at countless funerals and public occasions. The author composed this poem in a moment of inspiration and scribbled it on a paper bag. She wrote it to comfort a family friend who had just lost her mother and was unable to even visit her grave. This is the only surviving poem of Mary Elizabeth Frye and quite possibly her only poem.
Death is nothing at all, Henry Scott-Holland
This poem is often read at funerals. The author, Henry Scott-Holland (1847 - 1918), a priest at St. Paul's Cathedral of London, did not intend it as a poem, it was actually delivered as part of a sermon in 1910. The sermon, titled, "Death the King of Terrors" was preached while the body of King Edward VII was lying in state at Westminster.
But not forgotten, Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967)
I think, no matter where you stray,
That I shall go with you a way.
Though you may wander sweeter lands,
You will not soon forget my hands,
Nor yet the way I held my head,
Nor all the tremulous things I said.
You still will see me, small and white
And smiling, in the secret night,
And feel my arms about you when
The day comes fluttering back again.
I think, no matter where you be,
You’ll hold me in your memory
And keep my image, there without me,
By telling later loves about me.
The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing - Kevin Young, Bloomsbury USA; (May 5, 2013)
The Art of Losing is the first anthology of its kind, delivering poetry with a purpose. Editor Kevin Young has introduced and selected 150 devastatingly beautiful poems that embrace the pain and heartbreak of mourning. Divided into five sections (Reckoning, Remembrance, Rituals, Recovery, and Redemption), with poems by some of our most beloved poets as well as the best of the current generation of poets, The Art of Losing is the ideal gift for a loved one in a time of need and for use by therapists, ministers, rabbis, and palliative care workers who tend to those who are experiencing loss.
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