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The Power of Smelly Memories in Grief Recovery

December 17, 2010

I’m not a perfume kind of gal, but if it came in Eau du Gingerbread, I might be tempted to spray a fine spray over me as I head out each day.

I had the next best thing this past week courtesy of my friend, Heather Grills, who had just returned home from Williamsburg, Va.  Thanks to Heather’s Facebook posts, I got to re-live my own visits to a beloved place, a town rich in history that reminded me of my own: days spent growing up in Norfolk, summers at Virginia Beach and regular school field trips to Williamsburg and Yorktown and Monticello and other historic destinations easily within a day’s drive.

All of those experiences and the memories of my father, his parents and siblings who’s roots were Southern through and through can be summed up in one sensory experience for me: the gingerbread cookies from the Williamsburg bakery.  I immediately requested a cookie souvenir from Heather’s trip and she came through.  Thanks, Heather!

A cup of coffee, the scent of a Williamsburg gingerbread cookie and Heather’s hospitality (that’s her in the photo with the cookies) was the perfect combination for a few special moments of memories. Taking that first bite took me instantly back to the love and support of my Virginia family and all they contributed to my character today.  I saw each face in my mind and said a silent blessing of thanks to them for the life lessons we shared through the years, though they are all deceased now.

There is another cookie that produces the same warm feelings of those on my mother’s side of the family: my grandmother’s sugar cookies that I helped her bake for over thirty years.  Each year I pull out her cookie cutters and recreate the memories of our times together in her kitchen and I give thanks again for each of the powerful women who have influenced my life through the years.

How can you evoke the senses of good memories for your customers and friends?  Perhaps they mention a special flower or their own version of a special food during their consult with you.  Why not send that item or food to them after the funeral as a “thank you” for their business and a token of your own sympathy?  I guarantee you it will be a remembered gift.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

heather December 17, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Margo enjoyed her gingerbread cookie heated up in the microwave topped w/ vanilla ice cream. Jeff and I made some memories in Williamsburg too. I associate strawberry shortcake with homemade drop biscuits with my Gram and have it every summer in Maine and remember the good times had with her.


Silvia October 31, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Thanks for this writing, I can absolutely agree with it. For me it is the smell of horseradish and dill > reminding me of my grandmother of my mother’s side. The smell of apples recalls my uncle, and cigars my father’s father. The memories coming up with these smells always bring a smile on my face and a sweet warm feeling into my heart.


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