While you may not know it, March 21st is World Poetry Day, which provides us with a great opportunity to talk about the important role that poetry can play in the grieving process. Sadly, poetry readings are becoming less and less popular in everyday life, but they are still widely used in important rituals and ceremonies, including funerals. Our willingness to turn to poetry to mark events of great importance indicates that we still understand the power of poetry and are drawn to it, even though we only turn to it on rare occasions.

What’s So Great About Poetry?

A great poem captures essential truths about the human condition. Through the precise arrangement of a few carefully chosen words, the poet explores universal themes and attempts to encapsulate an aspect of human experience. Good poems are relatable. Writing it allows us to express ourselves to others, and reading it cultivates empathy and reminds us of what we have in common. Poetry reminds us of what it means to be human–to feel joy and pain, to laugh and to cry, to celebrate the wonders of life and to fear our mortality. In this way, it connects us to the people around us.

Reading Poetry to Enhance a Funeral Service

In a funeral setting, poetry reading can be a powerful ritual. It honors the life of the loved one and strengthens the bonds between those who mourn. Whether the poems chosen are mournful or inspirational and uplifting, they can serve as an opportunity to reflect on the life of the deceased. Funeral poems can help us search for meaning in the loss and can bring us into a state of contemplation. Poetry reading is a communal experience: it allows everybody who is present to share a profound moment together.

Therapeutic Benefits

Poetry can also be useful after the ceremony, in the weeks, months, even years after the loss of a loved one. Studies suggest that any form of reading can be therapeutic and poems can be especially useful because of its contemplative, even spiritual, qualities. The grief journey is not linear. Long after the loved one has passed, sporadic periods of intense grief can crop up. During these difficult times, it might be useful to consider reading some poems. The poetryfoundation.org is a great place to start.

Writing Your Own Poems

In addition to reading, you may also find it helpful to write some poems of your own. Grief experts consider grief journaling to be a healthy way to channel painful emotions. In many ways, writing poems can function as a sophisticated form of journaling. Writing is a healthy means of self-expression that allows you to better process your thoughts and to comprehend what you are feeling. The great poet Robert Frost once said, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” In short, poems helps us to better understand our emotions. Understanding what we feel is incredibly useful during times of grief, when we experience confusing or paradoxical emotions. Mourning through creative imagery can be incredibly cathartic. By putting your feelings into words, you open the door to self-discovery.

Using Poetry as a Place of Refuge

Not all of the poems that you use during the grieving process have to deal directly with death. Poetry can be an effective outlet for dealing with painful emotions. Additionally, it can also provide a refuge from the pain and stress that comes after a loss. Taking a few moments out of your day to read some soothing poems can be refreshing. Consider going to a favorite spot, where you can read or write peacefully without distractions. You may find that this activity calms your mind and relieves stress.

Try It!

If you have recently lost a loved one, consider utilizing poetry to help you on your grief journey. Whether you’re thinking about incorporating poems into a funeral service, looking for poems to read personally, or considering writing some poems of your own, find ways to take advantage of the benefits that poetry can offer.