When a loved one dies, it can be challenging to organize a funeral service. Religious songs traditionally feature at funerals, but not all people align with a spiritual practice or faith.
If you’re looking for non-religious funeral songs for a funeral or memorial service, here are atheist funeral songs that convey emotion and sadness without mentioning religion.
“Wind Beneath My Wings” By Bette Midler
Song Year: 1988
In the late 80s, Bette Midler released this song as a lead single for her movie Beaches. In it, her character’s best friend dies tragically.
Maybe this correlation makes the song a familiar rendition at funerals. Or it could be the touching, poignant lyrics that express gratitude and thankfulness for the support and love of someone cherished. This expression is probably what makes it such a fitting tune for funerals and celebrations of life.
“What a Wonderful World” By Louis Armstrong
Song Year: 1967
This iconic classic from R&B legend Louis Armstrong calls on listeners to appreciate the beauty of life in all its splendor.
It has an optimistic message that can be uplifting during times of grief and sorrow surrounding a death. No matter how tough things are and no matter how dark the road ahead might seem, there is always a reason to hope and celebrate life.
This simple song is a wonderful reminder of what we still have to live for, even when we have to say goodbye to someone dear.
“It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye To Yesterday” By Boyz II Men
Song Year: 1991
This emotional ballad puts into words how difficult it is to say goodbye to our loved ones when our time together in life is cut short.
Though it is hard to part with these beloved people in our lives, this song talks about how holding onto memories of the good times is a balm for the soul when faced with such tremendous losses.
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” By Simon & Garfunkel
Song Year: 1969
Though this Simon & Garfunkel classic is based on gospel music, it doesn’t mention any specific religious overtones. Instead, it talks about how life can get turbulent and out of control, like a rush of “troubled” water below our feet.
The song’s comforting words can almost feel like a promise from your loved one. Their memory will act as a safe place to wait out the turbulence and pain of life, a bridge to the other side of the grief and sorrow you may be experiencing.
“Candle in the Wind” By Elton John
Song Year: 1973
Elton John performed this famous song in memory of the glamorous movie star Marilyn Monroe. The metaphor of a candle in the wind represents her life.
In 1997 after the death of Princess Diana, the lyrics were reworked, and Elton John played it live for her televised funeral.
It is a beautiful song, and though it references Norma Jean and Marilyn, it can still resonate with mourning loved ones who miss their dearly departed friends and family members after a loss.
“My Way” By Frank Sinatra
Song Year: 1969
If someone in your life passes away who was unapologetically true to themselves while they lived, this song acts as a perfect anthem to celebrate their lives.
In the hugely popular song by the legend Frank Sinatra, the lyrics tell a story of a person at the end of their life who can look back on it without regret because they lived a life true to themselves and their ideas.
It is almost triumphant in its message of perseverance and taking on life on your terms, no matter what the world throws at you.
“Smile” By Nat King Cole
Song Year: 1954
When someone dear to you leaves this life, joy and laughter can feel like the most alien reactions in the world. But chances are your loved ones would not want you to forget to smile when you can.
Sometimes people telling us to cheer up in our darkest moments can be triggering, but there is something about Cole’s sweet voice that helps soothe your nerves and maybe can put a smile on your face.
This option is one of the best non-religious funeral songs to remind everyone that even though life and loss can be incredibly painful, you must never forget to smile and seek out the happiness your existence has to offer.
“Dust In The Wind” By Kansas
Song Year: 1977
This philosophical song touches on themes of moving on, letting go, and the inevitability of death.
It is a gentle composition, and the lyrics put into perspective how our lives are almost insignificant in the greater scheme of the universe. When facing grief and mortality, it can be hard to grasp. But this song helps us to remember that everything ends, even the lives of those we love deeply.
One day we will pass as well, and there is no reason to wallow in that fact because it is an intrinsic truth for all.
“I Hope You Dance” By Lee Anne Womack
Song Year: 2000
This uplifting track was released by Lee Ann Womack 23 years ago, but it still resonates with those grieving a loved one today.
It almost acts as a love letter from our loved ones who have passed, asking us to never take life for granted and to live it to the fullest.
This song is a fantastic reminder that we must live our lives without regret and experience all that it has to offer, good or bad.
“My Heart Will Go On” By Celine Dion
Song Year: 1997
This smash hit song from the Titanic soundtrack is one of the most recognizable songs in the world. It is also a wonderful song to remind us how our friends and loved ones remain with us in our hearts even when they are no longer here on Earth.
Dion sings of how, even after death, we can dream about them and relive our memories with them, keeping them safe in our hearts forever despite the distance of time, space, and even death.
The love in our hearts does not die, so those we cherish live on with us forever and ever.
“I Will Always Love You” By Whitney Houston
Song Year: 1992
Though Dolly Parton wrote and first performed the song, the soul version by Houston is probably the more famous of the two.
Either could work well for a funeral ballad, but Whitney’s soulful arrangement brings more visceral emotion to the performance that is sure to stir you and anyone memorializing a loved one.
This song deals with loving someone even though you know you have to part and how that love never leaves but lingers on in the heart forever.
“In My Life” By The Beatles
Song Year: 1965
Of all their myriad hits, The Beatles have a handful of songs that work well at funerals or memorials.
This melancholic classic talks about looking back at one’s life and taking stock of the ever-changing people, places, and things that populate it. It is a thoughtful tune.
It also talks about loving someone more than anything you can find in those bygone memories and how that love can make things new in life, pushing back the old and ushering in a new era.
That same love can help us persevere in times of trouble and grief, those memories of life and love never to be forgotten.
“Forever Young” By Bob Dylan
Song Year: 1974
Folk legend Bob Dylan wrote this folk song back in the 70s. It almost sounds like a prayer, though it is a secular piece and only mentions God in passing.
It expresses the desire to see a loved one flourish in life. For them to live happily and experience what life has to offer. To keep the joy and glow of youth even in old age, to live on forever in memory.
This song is another one that feels like a wish from our loved ones as they pass on, hoping for the best for the people they leave behind.
“Angel” By Sarah McLachlan
This tear-jerker can be emotionally charged for many people.
It is a poignant, touching song that can be cathartic to listen to when you have lost someone dear. It does mention angels, but otherwise, there is not much religious material in the song.
Mclachlan urges listeners to find some comfort from the troubles of the world that can seem overwhelming. Finding any comfort you can is important when grieving for someone close to your heart.
“Fields of Gold” By Sting
Song Year: 1993
Sting’s classic song about joy and the inevitability of loss is a touching tribute to those who have passed on before us.
It tells the tale of someone who has committed mistakes in the past but who looks to the future bright and hopeful for change and happiness.
No matter what happiness is found, there is always the looming specter of loss. But Sting sings of remembering someone when the west wind blows and bringing those golden memories to the forefront of our minds.
“Goodbye My Friend” By Linda Ronstadt
Song Year: 1989
Losing a friend can be devastating.
Often, you have fewer physical reminders of them, and sometimes you don’t have many people around you to share in your grief as you do with relatives.
This song by Linda Ronstadt perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to lose a dear friend and have to say goodbye even though you miss them dearly.
At the end of the song, Ronstadt gives herself permission to leave and move on after reminiscing and celebrating the life of a friend who is gone forever.
“I Will Remember You” By Amy Grant
Song Year: 1991
In this thoughtful ballad, Grant sings about which locations can bring back memories of a beloved person and how she will never forget them, even after they have parted ways.
It talks about how love never dies but is frozen in a moment forever despite whatever circumstances have forced people apart, even death.
“I’ll Be Seeing You” By Billie Holiday
Song Year: 1944
There’s something about Holiday’s voice in this song that is both soul-shatteringly sad and ethereally beautiful.
It perfectly captures what it’s like to look around the world and be reminded of a person you loved dearly.
It serves as a lovely reminder that even though they might not be here physically, we will still have a part of them with us in all the familiar places we shared memories and love.
“Life Is Eternal” By Carly Simon
Song Year: 1990
As one of the quintessential American singer-songwriters, Carly Simon seems to have a song for every occasion, even grieving.
This uplifting song deals with mortality and growing older. It begs the listener to think about life as an eternal cycle, of death as merely a horizon.
Simon sings about how death is not the end, only the end of what we can see and perceive.
“If I Could Be Where You Are” By Enya
Song Year: 2005
The new-age singer Enya is no stranger to writing heartfelt, emotional tunes. This one works well for the funeral or memorial of a loved one.
It puts into words the longing to be reunited with someone, even when you know it’s impossible.
Enya sings about how we all want so deeply to call our loved ones back from death, to be beside them just one last time because we are not ready for them to be gone.
“Dance With My Father” By Luther Vandross
Song Year: 2003
In this beautiful tribute to his father, Vandross sings about how all he wants to do is have one last dance with his father again, as he did when he was a child.
It is a wonderful song to hear for anyone mourning the death of a father or father figure, and Luther’s legendary voice makes it a heartfelt experience for all listeners.
“The Way We Were” By Barbra Streisand
Song Year: 1973
Though the song was written for the soundtrack of a romance film, this track can also serve as a touching memorial to a lost loved one. It is a simple song that talks about looking back on the good times when the bad memories or the pain get to be too much.
“Unforgettable” By Nat King Cole
Song Year: 1951
This option is the second Nat King Cole song on the list. It may be something soothing about his recognizable voice, but Cole’s rendition can help heal a hurting heart and pay tribute to a lost loved one at the same time.
“You’ll Be In My Heart” By Phil Collins
Song Year: 1999
Though it was used for the Tarzan soundtrack, Collins initially wrote the song for his daughter, to express how he loved her and would be there for her even when he passed on.
It’s a touching, inspiring song that pulls at the heartstrings but also renews a sense of love and hope that exists when you keep someone safe in your heart, even beyond the grave.
“The Rose” By Bette Midler
Song Year: 1979
A second entry for Bette Midler on the list, this song sings of love and its true nature. It is a song of optimism and perseverance, about how no matter what we go through, the seeds of love will continue to grow in us.
The rose represents how love, though sometimes painful, will always bear beautiful fruit. Even if we are mourning someone, our shared love will go on to produce something wonderful in the end.
“I Will Remember You” By Sarah McLachlan
Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan specializes in emotional ballads. Her second entry on the list deals with remembering someone who is no longer with you, and how you must live so you don’t regret life when it passes you by.
She urges you not to weep for the memories you keep but to cherish them and live life to the fullest, using them as fuel.
“You Raise Me Up” By Josh Groban
Song Year: 2003
Though the song has been covered by a myriad of artists, it is Josh Groban’s rendition that is most popular, and for good reason.
It is a touching, powerful ballad that sings about being strengthened and lifted by someone’s presence. Some people interpret the song as having religious overtones, but they are never expressly stated in the lyrics.
Best Non-Religious Funeral Songs, Final Thoughts
If you have a friend or loved one who has passed and you want to find irreligion funeral songs to give them a proper send-off, any of the non-religious funeral songs above could work.
Songs about grief don’t always have to be sad songs or deal with religion and faith.
These songs can bring catharsis and comfort to the grieving without adding religious imagery.