When a loved one passes away, the emotions that follow the tragedy are often impossible to express.
Music articulates grief into something tangible to hold onto while navigating the rough road of healing.
Here are some top songs about death for funerals that may provide comfort, empathy, and understanding.
“Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton
Song year: 1992
Written in tribute to Clapton’s four-year-old son in 1991, “Tears in Heaven” is a heartwrenching lament on the questions parents are forced to ask themselves after the death of a child.
The gentle acoustics serve as a soothing backdrop for Clapton’s reflections but do little to mask the raw grief behind the lyrics.
“Beloved” by Mumford & Sons
Song year: 2018
Like many songs about death for funerals, “Beloved” emerged from lead vocalist Marcus Mumford’s personal experience of losing someone he cared about.
If the lyrics don’t impact you, the music video certainly will. It depicts the beauty of the last moments through a little boy’s eyes as he imagines the joy of spending one more day with his mother before she passes away.
“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan
Song year: 1973
“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is a quintessential funeral song for a good reason. The simple lyrics serve as a moving vignette of a dying soldier accepting the time has come to put his guns down for the last time.
Dylan’s lilting, nasally vocalizations sound like the wail of a dying man, further verifying this song’s long reign as an anthem for grieving.
“I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice
Song year: 2012
While losing a parent is something that most people expect to happen at some point in their lives, it doesn’t make the death any easier or less poignant.
“I Drive Your Truck” is Lee Brice’s tribute to his father. It turns a list of everyday objects, like an open bottle of Gatorade and a dirty ball cap, into a portrait of the man who is profoundly missed.
Brice struggles through the phases of grief in his country song, never quite reaching acceptance, a message that countless mourning souls can relate to.
“I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie
Song year: 2006
Bill Gibbard’s acoustic ballad is a raw, unedited masterpiece.
In it, he paints a picture of an agnostic, black void afterlife rather than a shimmering white gate. As he reflects on all the experiences he’s shared with his love, Gibbard reassures them that he would rather follow into the uncertainty rather than let them go it alone.
While dark at first glance, the message of love that transcends death is a compelling one that many will connect with as they mourn.
“Light Years” by The National
Song year: 2019
The National delves into the universality of not truly appreciating what one has until it’s gone in their song “Light Years.”
The title serves as a comparison point between the singer and their lost lover. She bounded through life with optimism and energy while he always dragged his feet and refused to commit.
After her death, however, it’s oppressively clear that the singer will always be light years behind her as he’s forced to move through life alone.
“Let It Be” by The Beatles
Song year: 1970
Like much of The Beatle’s discography, “Let It Be” is a contagiously optimistic song. Rather than urging people to cultural revolution or nonsensical musings set to carnival music, this 1970 track is a gentle reminder that accepting inevitable loss is the only way to move forward towards better days.
The repeated refrain of the song’s title serves as a mantra for those struggling to move through their losses and mourning, transforming three small words into a meditation on healing.
“Ronan” by Taylor Swift
Song year: 2021
Taylor Swift’s tearjerker “Ronan” is in much the same spirit as Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” acting as a reflection on the death of the titular four-year-old who spent his brief time on Earth running barefooted through hallways and playing with toy dinosaurs.
Swift crafted the ballad from blog quotes written by Maya Thompson, who kept a blog about losing her son to neuroblastoma. She then donated all the proceeds to cancer research.
For parents who have lost their little ones to terminal illnesses, this song encapsulates the excruciating, unrelenting grief they feel as they struggle to understand why this has happened to their family.
“I Grieve” by Peter Gabriel
Song year: 1998
Peter Gabriel’s realistic depiction of grief is beautifully painful as it follows a man through the aftermath of his lover’s death.
In the beginning, the song’s protagonist struggles with the fact that life carries on around him despite his utter devastation, the creatures moving through the city as if the world hasn’t been knocked off its axis.
By the last verse, he has accepted that processing his grief is the only road forward and embraces his sadness as a sign that their love is meaningful, though it looks different now.
“Sweet Old World” by Lucinda Williams
Song year: 1992
Suicide is one of the most challenging forms of death for loved ones, as anger toward the victim often spills into the mourning process. Lucinda William’s smoky, deeply empathetic rendition of “Sweet Old World” gives a voice to that guilt-tinged anger, begging the object of her grief to see all the soft, small joys they left behind.
As she croons about midnight trains and sweet kisses, an overwhelming tenderness reassures those left behind that their anger is a sign of their love for the person rather than something they should stifle out of shame.
“Gone Away” by The Offspring
Song year: 1997
Many songs about death build sweeping metaphors, dancing around the topic with flowery words and implications. The Offspring’s “Gone Away” takes no such scenic route, instead choosing to bluntly and realistically ache at the injustice of mortality.
The chorus is perhaps the starkest of all the verses as the singer lays out the futility of wishing someone could return once they’ve passed and how bleak the world feels in their absence.
“Naked As We Came” by Iron & Wine
Song year: 2005
“Naked As We Came” is haunting in its depiction of a lifelong romance between two aging lovers.
With their years, they’ve gained a pearl of humble wisdom and cheerful acceptance that one of them will have to die first, and in that acceptance, they’ve found joy in watching the seasons- both literal and metaphorical- pass by together.
It’s a song about death but also the richness of a life well-lived, stolen moments of sleeping in, and the fortunate of passing peacefully in the arms of the one you love.
“I’ll Be Seeing You” by Billie Holiday
Song year: 1944
The achingly sentimental and bittersweet ballad “I’ll Be Seeing You” perfectly captures Billie Holiday’s ability to express warmth and raw human emotion in every swinging articulation of her vocalizations.
The 1944 song is painful without being stark and sweet without being cloying as Holiday lists all of the places she’ll think of her lost loved one as she continues through life without them.
While sad at first listen, as if she’s doomed to be haunted by the loss forever, the singer imbues a sense of gratitude that she can draw from a well of shared moments and everyday objects to remember them by.
“Ocean Breathes Salty” by Modest Mouse
Song year: 2004
In turns angry and mournful, “Ocean Breathes Salty” is Modest Mouse’s lament on watching someone they love, obsessed with mortality, squander countless shared experiences to ascend to Paradise.
Meanwhile, the song’s protagonist bitterly wonders whether all those efforts were worth missing out on the physicality of being a living, breathing human.
Ending on a rather dour note, the song questions how someone who wasted their entire life waiting for what was next could enjoy an afterlife, should it exist.
“When I Get to Heaven” by John Prine
Song year: 2018
Perhaps one of the happiest, uplifting songs about death for a funeral is John Prine’s “When I Get to Heaven.”
Prine has a long, celebrated history as a man who profoundly and authentically understood the human experience. His folk-style songs centered around real people with stories, flaws, and questions without answers.
Never one to romanticize, he instead employed humor and good ol’ boy nuggets of wisdom to push his message of people just being people.
It made perfect sense, then, when his final album included a whimsical prophecy of how he would spend his days after death drinking cocktails, forgiving everyone who’d hurt him, and smoking a nine-mile-long cigarette.
Most tellingly of a life well-lived, the song features the background noises of his grandson giggling and his friends playing kazoos as he insisted they join him on the soundstage during recording. It’s Prine at his best, offering a wrinkled hand and gravelly word of hope about the joy yet to come.
Popular Songs About Death For Funerals, Final Thoughts
There’s an adage that everyone grieves differently, and while true, there’s a sense of loneliness in that quip.
When others don’t understand your anger, struggle, or somber peace, the genre-spanning range of songs about death reminds you that you are neither alone nor incorrect in your emotions.
We hope that in our list of 15 songs about death for funerals, you found something that connects with your healing process.