Using poetry to express your condolences

I’ve written before about how hard it can be to sign a Guest Book. It’s an emotional, painful time – obviously for the family of the deceased, and no less for the person signing the Guest Book. And in the midst of that emotion, it feels so important to say the exact right thing that sometimes we freeze, unable to say anything at all.

Last time, I recommended our selection of pre-written sentiments, and I still think they can be the perfect solution in certain situations. Today I’ve got another great idea for Guest Book signers who can’t find the right words: poetry.

Poems are extremely popular in the Guest Book entries we review. There’s a lot of touching poetry out there on the subjects of loss and bereavement, Heaven and eternal love. I’m going to share a few of my favorite verses with you, but first let me talk about what poems can and can’t be published in a Guest Book.

At Legacy.com, we have to be extremely careful about violating copyright law. We can’t publish any Guest Book entries that include content we know to be copyrighted. If you’ve ever submitted a Guest Book entry that contained a poem and it never appeared online, it may well be because the poem was copyrighted.

How can you know if the poem you want to submit is copyrighted? Here are a few tips:

  • Of course, you can always try writing your own poem. It doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of not knowing what to say – but sometimes a rhyme and rhythm scheme can actually help break that mental block and get your words flowing. We welcome and encourage visitors to submit original poetry to Guest Books.
  • If you find a poem online, take a look at what the Web site says about the poem’s author. If it’s listed as “Author Unknown” or “Anonymous,” it may be free of copyright (but sometimes the Webmaster is incorrect and the poem is actually by a known author who has had it copyrighted). If an author is listed, it is more likely to be copyrighted.
  • You can also look on the Web site for information about permission to reprint the poem. Some Web sites that feature poetry will specify that their work can be reprinted under certain circumstances: with the author’s permission, perhaps, or only for personal use. If a poem can only be reprinted for personal use, it can’t go in the Guest Book, since Legacy.com is a public Web site. If the poem can be reprinted with the author’s permission, Legacy.com will need proof of that permission before we can print the poem in a Guest Book entry.
  • If you find a poem in a book, it is probably copyrighted.
  • Very old poems (more than a hundred years old) are more likely to be free of copyright law and publishable. However, there are rare cases in which there’s still a copyright on an older poem.

As you may have guessed, copyright law can be tricky! So it’s hard for us to say for sure that the poem you choose to submit to the Guest Book will be free of copyright law and OK for us to publish. To make it a little easier for you, we have included several poems in our selection of pre-written entries. Click here for instructions on how to find and use those entries.

Then there are some poems that aren’t included in our selection of pre-written entries, but that we know are legal for us to publish in our Guest Books. I’d like to share a few with you. Maybe one will strike a chord for you, and you’ll pass it along the next time you need to comfort a grieving friend. When you’re having trouble deciding what to say in a Guest Book, you can’t go wrong with poetry.

Death is nothing at all

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we still are

Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effect
Without the ghost of a shadow on it

Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolutely unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you at an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner

All is well.

Miss me but let me go

When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room.
Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little–but not too long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared,
Miss me–but let me go.

For this is a journey that we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all a part of the Master’s plan,
A step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick of heart
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss Me–But Let me Go!

Do not stand at my grave and weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die.

To read more tips on signing an obituary Guest Book, see our collection of guides – How to write a condolence letter.

About Linnea

I joined Legacy.com in 2000 as an obituary writer. In the years since, I've done a little of everything for our Operations team, from content review to customer service to creating web pages for funeral homes to training new employees to my current position, Content Manager. I love this position, because I get to write little bits & longer pieces - whatever's needed at the moment - and I get to proofread a lot, satisfying my inner nitpicker. And I love being on the blog team, because I get to write interesting features for the blog. I love to write! In my spare time, I... can you guess?... write. I'm hoping that one day I can add "published novelist" to my bio. I also enjoy working in my vegetable garden and cooking, baking, canning, making ice cream, and pretty much anything else in the kitchen. I love to read, compete in trivia contests, and attempt to keep up with my Netflix queue.
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