When asked to talk about someone who has died, some of us get anxious and overwhelmed with the task. After all, gifts of words are sometimes the hardest to give, especially if you’re not used to expressing how you feel and what you think in front of people.
If you’re not comfortable with directly talking or writing about how you feel about your loved one, one alternative is through poems.
Why poems work for funerals
Poems are forms of writing that use figurative language. Poetry is a “form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language,” according to Wikipedia.
What makes poems so apt for funerals is they are expressive and therapeutic. They make you use your imagination to remember special memories about your loved one who has died. Complex emotions are naturally evoked as you begin to gather your ideas and use beautiful, meaningful words to paint pictures of your thoughts and feelings to communicate to others.
In addition to being naturally expressive and creative, poems are ideal for funerals because they help develop a sense of empathy, and help listeners to see the meaning and beauty of life — something that moments of grief and loss call for.
How to prepare a poem for a funeral
Remember that there are no hard and fast rules for writing a funeral poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme or follow a certain style. Here are some quick tips:
Think of your theme. What is the theme of your poem? Of course, it is about the person who's died, but you need to be specific. Is it about a particular experience with him during a summer holiday? Or a time where this person helped you get through a difficult situation?
Make a list of descriptions that remind you of the person. The description doesn’t have to be literal. Metaphors and similes can be useful here. "She was as graceful as a swan" is a simile. "My husband was always the rock in the family" is a metaphor. Take care, though, to stay away from commonly used phrases that may diminish the meaning of your poem.
Think of elements that remind you of the deceased. This could be a color, a song, a living thing found in nature, a place, or something else entirely. Whatever you use should spark a positive connotation and association with your loved one.
Aim for between 20 and 30 lines. Oprah.com suggests writing a poem between 20 to 30 lines, with each line being at least 10 syllables long.
Read poems, psalms, and other forms of poetry for inspiration. The best time to write a poem is when emotions are high and you feel inspired to write. But if you find yourself staring on a blank document for hours, try getting inspiration by reading poems or listening to songs. You can also go through the deceased’s photos, social media pages, or online memorial pages to help you remember precious memories, which may well move you to start writing.
If you are looking for poems for funerals that you can read or include in your speech, you can check out sites like Lasting Post or Poets.org. Both sites have a database of funeral poems with different themes to choose from.