Bereavement poetry is poetry that mourns the death of a loved one, and is frequently read at funeral proceedings or written especially for them. The poems generally deal with feelings of loss and sadness experienced by people who lose somebody who is close to them. Some bereavement poetry is somber in tone, but some are uplifting. The main aim of bereavement poetry is to help the living deal with the loss of the dead, and partially to romanticize their existence.
Bereavement, or grieving, is a psychological process consisting of five key stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The length of time it takes people to advance through these stages and to ultimately accept the passing of the dead can vary greatly, and some people have great difficulty in accepting the loss of somebody close to them. Funeral services usually help to give people a time to mourn the passing of the dead and bring together the family and friends of the deceased to deal with the loss together.
Poetry is an art form by which the writer expresses emotion or attempts to capture a scene through verse. Many different types of poetry exist, from Japanese haiku, which are made up of only three lines, to epic poems such as Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Poetry does not need to rhyme, although rhyming schemes are often employed by poets as a technique. Poems can be written on virtually any topic; for example, Rudyard Kipling’s “If” is written as if spoken from father to son on the topic of becoming a man, and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” is a chilling tale of a widowed man being haunted by a raven.
A common part of funeral services in the United States and other parts of the world is the reading of words of sorrow or poetry. Bereavement poetry is any poem written to mourn the loss of a loved one, regardless of the tone, style or length of the poem. Typically, however, bereavement poetry will be somber in tone, with a portion extolling the virtues of the deceased, and then moving on to the feelings of loss felt by his survivors. Other bereavement poetry focuses on helping the mourners move to an acceptance of their loss. W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” is a popular bereavement poem, featuring the evocative stanza: “He was my North, my South, my East and West / My working week and my Sunday rest, / My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; / I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.”