8 (More) Grief Poems That Transform Pain Into Beauty

I think if there’s one emotion we all share through this pandemic, it’s grief. 

The thing about grief, from my experience with it and writing about it for 9 years, is that it’s a teacher. A healer. A helper. 

It sure doesn’t feel like it in the process, but looking back, there’s always gold in the midst of grief.

If you’re a funeral director or death care industry professional, this is something you’re very well aware of. You’ve witnessed the process of grief many times.

Our hope is that these poems can be an offering to your client families where your own kind words may reach a limit.

In 2019, we made a blog post titled “6 Grief Poems To Transform Pain Into Beauty” and it has since become one of our most read blogs of all time.

Given the amount of grief we’re all processing now, we thought we’d gather some more poems or you to enjoy, share, and explore below:


1. An excerpt from When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön:

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”

Pema Chödrön is a world renowned Buddhist nun made most famous for her book “When Things Fall Apart”. This book was my go-to in the middle of a traumatic breakup and it gave me so much strength in a time I did not believe I could ever be strong. This quote helps us remember  that the human experience isn’t a cake walk. It’s actually, almost by design, suffering. And it’s not actually sad, either. It just… is. This is a very Buddhist concept, but I really love it because I feel it is the first step in allowing our grief to exist in the first place.


2. Quote by This Hallowed Wilderness

I think so many of us have a hard time inviting grief into our lives. It’s not exactly a welcomed guest, so to speak. But Grief Coach known as “This Hallowed Wilderness” describes a relationship to grief we could all use some inspiration from. Her words felt like the warm glass of tea and honey she described above. Warming and inspiring.


3. Quote from Shel Silverstein’s “Everything On It

“There are no happy endings. Endings are the saddest part, so just give me a happy middle and a very happy start.” 

Shel Silverstein offers us another reminder that life isn’t a cake walk. For every beginning, there will be an ending. I think that’s one of the laws of life. But the endings themselves don’t define the experience. There is a beginning, a middle, and everything in between. Just like life. These are the moments to indulge, enjoy, and soak in.


4. Quote from “Carousel” by Rodgers and Hammerstein

“Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone.”

This quote hit me right in the heart on a rainy, gloomy day. It’s true that grief is something we walk with, but we must walk on. Hope isn’t an alternative to grief, but rather an attitude towards it. Whenever I forget, I must always remind myself that grief is a teacher in hope. 


5. Excerpt from Ram Dass’ teachings on grief

“Grief is not an event but a process. It is as individual as each of us and as unique as the person we’ve lost. If you don’t grieve fully, in a way that is true to your own heart, you may end up with cynicism about life and fear of future involvement, fear of any risk. Be kind to yourself. When it is time to let go, you’ll know. Then let go. The memories will still be there without the attachment. It’s not about returning to ‘normal,’ but becoming someone new, free to be present for whatever your life is now.”

Ram Dass, in his teachings, describes death in a way I had never heard before. He likens death to “taking off an old, tight shoe”. His lectures on grief and death are profound and I can highly recommend them if you need some inspiration on your journey. His excerpt above offers us an opportunity to really have our grief. That it’s ours to experience and grow through. It all comes back to just staying present with what presents itself. 


6. Poem from “The Sun And Her Flowers” by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur says it best. The human heart is so much stronger than we can imagine. And it’s in these moments of loss that we can feel the audacity of our strength. Sometimes it’s not until we’re forced to be strong that we can actually see our strength.


7. “Heavy” by Mary Oliver

“That time

I thought I could not

go any closer to grief

without dying

I went closer,

and I did not die.

Surely God

had his hand in this,

as well as friends.

Still, I was bent,

and my laughter,

as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.

Then said my friend Daniel,

(brave even among lions),

“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –

books, bricks, grief –

it’s all in the way

you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,

put it down.”

So I went practicing.

Have you noticed?

Have you heard

the laughter

that comes, now and again,

out of my startled mouth?

How I linger

to admire, admire, admire

the things of this world

that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –

roses in the wind,

the sea geese on the steep waves,

a love

to which there is no reply?”


Mary Oliver will forever inspire me through her poetry on grief, death, loss, life, and nature. If its a solace you seek for, I can highly recommend purchasing one of her books and keeping it on your coffee table for moments of overwhelm (this one is my favorite). Mary Oliver just passed into the Great Beyond last year, so may her poem on grief serve as a tribute to her beautiful heart which brought so much poetry into the world. 


8. In Lieu of Flowers by Shawna Lemay

“Although I love flowers very much, I won’t see them when I’m gone. So in lieu of flowers:  Buy a book of poetry written by someone still alive, sit outside with a cup of tea, a glass of wine, and read it out loud, by yourself or to someone, or silently.

Spend some time with a single flower. A rose maybe. Smell it, touch the petals.

Really look at it. 

Drink a nice bottle of wine with someone you love.

Or, Champagne. And think of what John Maynard Keynes said, “My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne.” Or what Dom Perignon said when he first tasted the stuff: “Come quickly! I am tasting stars!” 

Take out a paint set and lay down some colours.

Watch birds. Common sparrows are fine. Pigeons, too. Geese are nice. Robins.

In lieu of flowers, walk in the trees and watch the light fall into it. Eat an apple, a really nice big one. I hope it’s crisp. 

Have a long soak in the bathtub with candles, maybe some rose petals.

Sit on the front stoop and watch the clouds. Have a dish of strawberry ice cream in my name. 

If it’s winter, have a cup of hot chocolate outside for me. If it’s summer, a big glass of ice water. 

If it’s autumn, collect some leaves and press them in a book you love. I’d like that. 

Sit and look out a window and write down what you see. Write some other things down. 

In lieu of flowers, 

I would wish for you to flower. 

I would wish for you to blossom, to open, to be beautiful.”

I have to say, we included an excerpt of this poem in our last collection of grief poems, and looking back, that excerpt really didn’t do it much justice. These words bring hope, life, and grace to all the parts of us that might feel dark, heavy and contracted. I wanted to conclude this blog on this note because of the invitation offered: to bloom, and to be beautiful. Remember that wherever you are in your grief journey, that you are beautiful. 


What’s your favorite grief poem, quote or teaching? Share it with us below!

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