A Clearing in the Woods

Clearing in the Woods | Hansen-Spear Funeral Home - Quincy, IllinoisRecently I read a poem by Martha Postlewaite titled “Clearing.” In her poem Postlewaite invites the reader to “create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently…”

How those words speak to me!

The dense forest of the last year has included significant family losses, a change of address and changes in work. One of those family losses was the unexpected death of one of my sisters. It has been a hard loss – she was only 2 years younger than I. And we had grown quite close since the deaths of our parents. So, the forest of grief seems filled with undergrowth, decay and difficulty. There is no clear path for the road ahead. And Postlewaite invites me to create a clearing and wait!

And yet, that is exactly what I feel called to do. Instead of struggling forward trying to cut my own path with a machete, I need to slow down. Perhaps sit down. To make a small, safe clearing in which to take in the sights, sounds and scents of the forest around me. A clearing – a spot in the midst of the deep woods where I can wait out the feelings and deep sense of loss. Where I can be surrounded by and held in the forest – amidst old decay and new growth. A place where I can listen deeply for my own soul’s reply. A place where I can live with the sorrow for as long as it takes until new answers, new growth emerges and reveals itself to me.

Nearly a full year has passed since my sister’s death. It has been a year filled with unexpected sorrow and unimaginable joy. Changes have surrounded me because of her death – so much has been hard. Uncertain. Unexplainable. And some of the changes have felt like amazing miracles. They too have been totally unexpected. Joyful, even. From a clearing in the woods I can examine more deeply all of these changes – the sad and the beautiful.

As I pass the one-year mark since my sister’s death; finishing the many “firsts” of her birthday, holidays without her, and now the anniversary of her death – I feel connected still to the profound loss it is to lose a sibling. Her death has been teaching me many things. I’ve learned that our siblings are a deeper and different part of our family history than our parents; they are the ones who are part of our own story. Of her own sister a friend said, “my life began when you arrived.” I think this is so true – my life did begin when she arrived on the scene. And now, I face into the life I will carry forward in without her.

As my second year begins without my sister, I face into what my life is without her presence. I decide to take Postlewaite up on her invitation and make a clearing in which to camp in the middle of the dense forest of my grief. I make camp and try to wait with patience to discover what comes next.

What if you too could make a clearing in the forest of your grief. What if you could envision this safe place in which to rest, to listen to stories about your loved one, to watch and wait for signs of healing and new growth…perhaps the arrival of spring? Could you welcome your own feelings of loss, sorrow, discomfort, uncertainty and curiosity to wait with you in the clearing? What would you find that is beautiful and meaningful in the clearing within your loss?

I’ll wait here with you – let’s see what we can discover.


Deb Brandt (formerly Buehler) has blogged for Hansen-Spear Funeral Home in the past. She took time away from her writing after the death of her sister in 2017. She is a certified funeral celebrant, certified creative grief practitioner and professional writer. She works virtually and in-person with individuals and families as they tell their stories of grief and loss. Deb co-authored The Hollowed Heart; Inspiration for Women Awakening from Grief and Loss. You can learn more about Deb and her services at www.growingbeyondgrief.com or contact her directly at deb@growingbeyondgrief.com

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