Awaken Your Senses, the Olfactory Edition

In the early stages of grief, you are shocked at how numb you feel. This is because your body is in physical shock. I can remember the first time I was actually able to taste food. It was at least two weeks after the loss. Someone brought over a double-chocolate-chunk-brownie-thing, and my tongue exploded as if I'd poured hot sauce on it.

All this to say, you need to help re-awaken your senses. Your body is grieving, too.

In this installment, we'll talk about the sense that stayed dull the longest - my sense of smell. I love to cook, but when I'd throw garlic into olive oil, I couldn't smell anything. Months later I tried to make pumpkin muffins for Thanksgiving morning. Nothing. I met as well have opened a box of Saltines.

Several of the grief books I was devouring suggested different things to awaken your senses - bath salts, baking bread, etc. At the same time, a few of my closest girlfriends told me they were lighting candles for me when they lifted up our shrinking family in their prayers. Then, it clicked. Candles.
Before our loss, I had quite a sensitive nose. I'm the type who gags when sitting next to strong perfume. I find most candles to have a sticky sweet smell that I don't want filling my home. I find Bath & Body Works so overwhelming that it burns my sinuses just to walk by, so I couldn't just go perusing for my favorite "flavor."

I asked for a coffee scented candle for Christmas, and it was such a godsend. Since then I light a candle when I feel that afternoon slump kicking in, when the baby wakes up an hour too early, or when I can't sleep. Candles are now a huge part if my spiritual life. The sensory experience - the smell, the warmth, the light - have really reawakened my prayer life in a new way. Growing up Lutheran, we only used candles at home during Advent, and I never really understood it. Now I see candles as Psalm 141 describes, "May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice."

When you light a candle to pray, it awakens all of your senses. You see the smoke rising to heaven. You're physically fighting the darkness that surrounds you. You're proclaiming hope in a dark world.

Some articles on candles and hope: Keeping Advent with Mary and When You're This Close to Giving Up Hope.

So maybe think to include a candle with the next casserole you take to someone in mourning?

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