I grieve for loved ones that I have lost in the everydayness of life. There isn’t a certain time put aside for grief, nor is there a particular place where a loss is best felt or healed. It is in the everyday aromas, sights sounds, tastes and touches that bring those I’ve loved and lost to mind. My mother loved to splash Jean Nate all over herself in the morning and at night. She passed away July 29, 2012 and I have yet to allow myself to pick up a bottle of Jean Nate and take a whiff. I know it would overwhelm me with nostalgia and specific memories that I might not be in the mood for. Yet, it is in the most unaware times that I am caught most vulnerable to waves of emotion. It is when I smell onions and celery cooking in butter. I am immediately transported back to the age of 5 standing on a kitchen stool straining to see what my grandmother was stirring in her pot on the stove.
According to The Neurobiology of Olfaction, editor Anna Menini, 2010, “One of the most characteristic features of odor memory in humans is the rather unique ability of odors to vividly trigger the evocation of emotional experiences.” The smell of gingerbread baking can transport someone to specific times in their childhood that bring fond memories of holidays as well as the smell of lilies can evoke troubling moments of being in a funeral home.
Grief comes to everyone differently at different times, yet it seems to be on a constant low ebb and flow. I don’t have my grandmother, who passed away when I was 8, on my mind often. However, when a conversation is brought up about grief she will appear in my mind and in my soul to be remembered and loved all over again.
Music is the second most powerful trigger of memory after aroma. Listening to Glenn Miller or Frank Sinatra’s voice in his early days bring wonderful memories of when I was very young and my parents played that music. In fact the big band era was the first music I ever listened to. The other senses have the ability to bring about memories of people and places that catch us unaware, but, there is nothing like hearing Elvis, Bing Crosby or Perry Como to instantly send us on a journey of memory that could possibly sooth a grieving soul just a little. There is healing in the everyday as well.
As long as we allow the memories to come along with the emotions then healing can take place. To pretend grieving is not occurring and attempting to ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’ will actually prolong the pain and suffering. The risk of loving someone is that one of you will go first. There is beauty in showing others how much the loss of a loved one impacts us. The loss of someone so dear will bring memory and pain. We must allow each other to show how much these people and pets meant to us. We are human beings not robots. The feelings come up and beg to be acknowledged. I would want people to be allowed to grieve me when I’m gone. What an honor it would be to be loved and remembered that way.
Debra Whittam is the author of “I'm I Going to be Ok?" For any media inquiries or questions please contact: Contact@DebraWhittam.com