There are times during our grief that we must make a conscious choice to embrace the day. Despite our pain, we are glad to be alive. When we grieve, we often feel numb or frozen, so how can we remind ourselves that we are alive? One way to feel alive is by enjoying our five senses. Here are some suggestions to stimulate your senses when you need a break from the pain or feel desensitized.
Sense of smell
Visit a candle store and sniff the fragrance of every single one. Try closing your eyes and guessing what type it is. You will find some to be familiar, such as vanilla or apple. Other scents may be new to you. Of course, you will absolutely love some of the scents and not care at all for others, but using your nose will help you feel alive! You could also visit a health store and smell the various types of essential oils. Many people are using lavender oil diffusers because the fragrance can be soothing. Perhaps you will find an essential oil that helps invigorate you.
You could also stimulate your sense of smell, as well as your sense of touch by visiting a store, such as Whole Foods Market or Bath & Bodyworks and sampling the various lotions and scrubs that are offered, and practice self-massage at the same time. Rub the lotion around your wrist and massage each finger, as well as the skin between each finger. Massage each forearm. Take deep breaths and allow the fragrances to uplift you. Use the sinks to wash off, and then try another scented lotion.
There may be certain smells that remind you of your loved one that you find soothing. Her favorite perfume or warm apple cider that she used to serve. Maybe you have a shirt that still smells like your loved one. Try using your sense of smell to feel I don’t know about you, but the smell of freshly baked cookies always cheers me up! It might be time to bake a dozen. Or two. Invite a friend over for a chat to enjoy them with coffee or milk. This will satisfy your sense of taste, too, of course!
Sense of sight
Bright colors or your favorite colors can lift your mood, especially if it is winter and it’s been dreary outside. You could fill a large, clear glass bowl with lemons and limes. The yellows and greens will remind you of sunlight. After a week or so, you could also then stimulate your sense of taste by using the fruit to make homemade lemonade or lemon cookies. You could also splurge on a bouquet of fresh flowers that fill your home with beauty. Another suggestion is to cover your kitchen table with bright fabric that stimulates your sense of sight. Perhaps it is time to change your window curtains, or to open them if you have a pretty view that you haven’t gazed upon in some time.
Sometimes we just need to hang some artwork or rearrange some of our pieces so that we have a new appreciation for them. If you feel especially energetic, you could even paint a wall with a bold color as an accent wall. It is just paint, so if you don’t like it. Just re-paint!
You could get some fresh air and go for a walk. As you do, appreciate your sense of sight by searching for all of the things you see that are lovely. It could be a wildflower, a cardinal, the blue sky, and white, fluffy clouds. If you consciously look, you will be able to use your sense of sight to spot beauty.
You could use your gift of sight to re-read cards or letters you may have exchanged with your loved one or to look at old photographs once again. As you look at the pictures, try to see if there is anything you didn’t notice before or try to remember the day it was taken.
Sense of Taste
We often lose our appetite when we grieve, so perhaps it has been some time since you have really enjoyed and tasted your food. While you eat your next meal, make the choice to first use your sense of sight to appreciate the way the food looks, your sense of smell by allowing the aroma to waft into your nostrils, then when you take a bite, be aware of the texture and the layers of flavors. Chew slowly and savor the taste. Another suggestion is to take your time with a Hershey kiss. Look at the shape and the silver wrapping before removing it. Look at the little paper tucked in and at the chocolate itself. Pop it into your mouth and let it slowly melt, appreciating the silkiness and sweetness. Resist the urge to chew; just enjoy slowly.
Perhaps there has been a recipe you have been wanting to try. Invite a friend over and allow him to be your guinea pig! There may be fruits or herbs you have never tried before. Recently, I had a fried avocado taco. I had never heard of frying avocado, but it was absolutely scrumptious! If your appetite hasn’t returned, maybe there is a certain tea that you have never tried. Peruse the tea section at the grocery store. You will be amazed at the varieties. Chamomile or peppermint tea can be soothing.
Sense of Touch
Be creative in thinking about stimulating your sense of touch. Comfort can be found by getting wrapped up in a soft blanket. Rub your hand back and forth across the fabric and enjoy the feeling. Don’t be embarrassed to cling to a plush stuffed animal! It could just be that you need a hug! Don’t be afraid to ask for one. You could visit a new mom and offer to hold the baby while she takes a nap or gets a bath. Cradling the baby can satisfy your sense of touch while giving her a much-needed break!
Again, be creative. One woman told me that the bristles on one of her hair brushes reminded her of her husband’s whiskers, so she sometimes rubs her fingers across them, and it brings her comfort. I do love running my thumb across the smooth surface of a “worry stone,” so that is something you could try. Of course, you may have a pet that has been needing your attention, so take some time to pet its soft fur.
You could use a microwaveable heating pad to warm up various body parts. It can be quite soothing for any aches you may be experiencing. On a warm day, you could sit outdoors. For just a few minutes, you could close your eyes and lift your face to the sun and enjoy the feel of the warmth. Getting the vitamin D will help lift your mood, too! You could also use a hot or warm washcloth to place on your face or on the back of your neck.
I have a dear friend who knitted a scarf for me. When I miss her, I wrap my neck up in it and feel her love surrounding me.
Sense of Hearing
There are times when our sense of hearing is over-stimulated which is not helpful when we are grieving. So, first turn everything off! Cell phones, tablets, TV- off! Sit with your feet flat on the floor to ground yourself and close your eyes. Enjoy the silence. You could turn off all the lights and also stimulate your sense of smell by lighting a candle.
There are many websites where you could find your old favorite songs. There might be one of you haven’t heard in many years that would bring you joy to listen to. Or, you could find a CD with sounds of nature or a flute playing a soothing melody. Close your eyes and appreciate being able to listen to the music.
On a pretty day, you could visit a local nature trail and find a bench. Close your eyes and listen for sounds. Children’s laughter, the chirping of birds, a plane flying overhead.
You may have a recording of your loved one’s voice on your voice mail or somewhere. You could listen to it again. Remember to practice self-awareness and only do this if it is helpful to you now.
Using Your Whole Body
Taking care of your physical health is essential, especially while you are grieving. Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine. In addition to using your senses, it may be helpful for you to stimulate your whole body. Maybe you haven’t exercised in awhile. Go for a brisk walk and be grateful for the way your body functions and how your muscles feel as you use them. Perhaps you would like to try yoga, a dance class, or get a massage. Or, you could always blast the music in your living room and have a private dance party! Stimulating our physical bodies help us to feel alive.
I hope you try a few of these suggestions to stimulate your senses to help comfort yourself and to bring about healing in your grief. I bet you could come up with a few of your own awesome ideas, as well.