How the Physical Senses Define Grief and Our Experience of Loss

How do we define grief?  Everyone's experience is different, but the physical senses play as great a part as the emotions in my view.  Everyone feels a huge gap in their lives when they lose a beloved person or a pet close to them.  The lack of their physical presence is an enormous sensory loss.

How We Miss the Sight of a Lost Loved One

We can define grief in terms of the loss of seeing our loved ones.  We think if only we could see them again, their smile, the way they walked, even for a minute it would help.  We imagine we see them in a crowd. 

Missing seeing our beloved  is why many bereaved keep photographs around and find comfort in them. It keeps all the happy memories in mind and it keeps their familiarity intact.

Photo of deceased loved one in a frame

Grief When Familiar Sounds Are Missing

Our loved one's voice was an integral part of our lives.  The familiar shout "I am home" or the daily conversations about: "How was your day?"

Friends and family members have said this is a major part of their loss. Many cope by playing family videos.  It is painful to see your loved one laughing and happy, but can also provide comfort. Others talk to the photographs of their loved ones.

Whilst going about our everyday routines the noises we make can become familiar to our loved ones. Mum on her sewing machine or knitting needles clacking together. Dad whistling while cleaning the car or the lawn mower whirring away. A child playing ball or splashing in a pool. Your beloved pet's bark. All wonderful noises which became part of daily life.

The sound of silence is a heavy penalty we bear when we have lost a loved one. We have to fill the void with radio, TV or favourite DVDs playing when we live alone after a loss.

A familiar song, or piece of music can often send waves of grief crashing back when we least expect it.  But it is another one of those healing ways of getting in touch with our emotions and also feeling the closeness of our loved ones through well loved tunes. 

Brown Bakelite Radio by rollerboy76

Familiar Smells Can Bring Memories Flooding Back

I have known many people cry after smelling their mother's favorite perfume or their husband's after shave long after they have died. Sudden unexpected memories are often evoked by familiar fragrances. Even barbeque odours bring back memories of our spouses' cooking.

When a puppy is grieving for its mum, a blanket of familiar smells can comfort it. Similarly many spouses take a worn sweater belonging to their beloved to bed and get comfort from feeling closer to them again from a familiar smell.

See more about grief for pets

Grieving the Loss of Our Loved One's Touch

Whether we have lost a mother, father, spouse, child or pet, the physical presence where hugs, kisses, stroking or sex were natural parts of life can leave a huge gap especially for people living alone. This physical loss can be one of the most important aspects which define grief for many people. 

Where there are other family around the hugs and comfort they give each other in bereavement is an essential part of the healing process.  When there is loss of a pet, many find comfort in replacing the pet or looking after a family member's pet for a while. A pet can also be a huge comfort to those who have lost a partner and who would otherwise be living completely alone. 

For people living alone this loss is difficult but can be overcome by regular facials or massages giving comfort from touch.

Many widows and widowers who had happy contented sex lives find comfort in using vibrators or masturbating. Some older women may find this an offensive suggestion, but it is a natural part of life, one of the sensory elements of human life and it may be a comfort to some bereaved people.  It is also a great way of releasing endorphins into the brain, which are the chemicals which make us feel happy.  Another way of getting that endorphin hit can be through exercise.  

Read about grief and looking after your health

Whatever helps us to cope along the pathways of grief is a benefit.  We have to find what is a comfort to us and we are all different.  Everyone has their own comfort zones and knows what is best for them. In finding ways to define grief through the senses and understand what we are experiencing, we may finally achieve acceptance but we will never forget our loved ones.

Related Pages: 

Books on Coping with Grief

Expressing Grief through Writing

> > Define Grief

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Memorial Magnolia Tree

The Magnolia is one of the earth's oldest plants, with a spectacular flower which dates back 95 million years.  What a beautiful specimen to commemorate a life. 

These trees are grown by the foremost magnolia nursery in the country and they will send a variety most suited to the recipient's climate. 

The flowers in spring will bring joy to the bereaved and help to heal their heart.


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