Our memories are strongly connected to our sense. There has been scientific research on this subject, but as I stated in an earlier blog, I spent my weekend reading The Hunger Games and not researching for these blogs.
But we do not need a scientist to tell us that certain smells, taste, sights, and the feel of certain objects can bring back strong memories of past times and people who we have lost.
The smell of Old Spice, the sound of country music, the taste of blue jello, the sight of someone in aviator ray-bans, and the feel of my father’s old flannel shirts instantly remind me of my father.
Of course, these memories are broad and far-reaching. There are other sensory memories that can bring about specific moments with my father, moments that I have tucked away in my mind.
Sensory memories can be tricky, sometimes they are welcome in a time of need and other times they can be quite unwelcome.
About three years ago I spent some time in India and found myself very ill on a houseboat wanting nothing more than to go home when suddenly the smell of old spice and cigarettes came wafting through the door. (at the time I thought this smell came from my roommate on the trip Lauren, who was very accommodating while I was ill, but I have since concluded that it may have been part of a very strange fever dream) Nevertheless the reminder of my father was very welcome.
I was on a date with a boy, one of the first I had ever been on, when suddenly the boy’s scent overwhelmed me. He smelled like fuel stabilizer and cigarettes (I was going through a phase.) The same way my father smelt after he worked on his car (which he did on many occasions). This was before I really came to terms with my father’s death, and I don’t believe I even told this boy who my father was dead.
I was overcome with memories and emotions, sadness, fear, and a bit of embarrassment. I excused myself to the bathroom and tried to put myself together but it was no use. I spent the rest of the date on the brink of an emotional breakdown. Needless to say there was not a second date.
The point of telling you these stories is that sensory memories can come up at a time that isn’t convenient for us. Though I have worked through a lot of my emotions surrounding my father’s death and am pretty confident the scent of fuel stabilizer won’t send me into an emotional breakdown now I am still surprised by the occasional song on the radio or scent that reminds me of my father.
It’s important to give children a safe way to work through emotions involving all memories, especially those tied to our five senses. Letting children know that it is okay to feel sadness, anger, fear, and a myriad of other emotions as they come up and working through them can prevent surprises such as my ill-fated date night.
Even with all the planning in the world and activities to work through every emotion under the sun, sensory memories will still sneak up and surprise us. It’s an unfortunate part of being a grieving person, sometimes we just can’t help when a memory comes up.
I have no advice for such moments except to ride the wave, these moments are the price we pay for loving someone so much, and it’s a small price when you think about it.
- Don’t Rush the Grieving Process! (pattersmatters.wordpress.com)
- Children and Sensory Processing Disorders (examiner.com)
- Home-made Play Dough for Sensory Play (aspergersinfo.wordpress.com)
- Crazy Ideas about Grief (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- I’ve Been There: A Young Professional Supporting Grieving Kids – The Question (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- I’ve Been There: A Young Professional Supporting Grieving Kids – Using Literature to Faciliate Grief Discussion (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- I’ve Been There: A Young Professional Supporting Grieving Kids – Grief & Popular Media (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- Supporting Grieving Kids: Nobody Dies (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- I’ve Been There: A Young Professional Supporting Grieving Kids – Liz Hendrickson (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- Supporting Grieving Kids – Tough things we need to do (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- Supporting Grieving Kids – The Unimaginable (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- Grieving Teens and Permission (namasteconsultinginc.com)
- Supporting Grieving Kids – Developmental Understanding (namasteconsultinginc.com)