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A Comforting Smell
Written by Clara Hinton   |  Sep 20, 2001
Losing an older child, particularly a teen or young adult, changes the tone within a home dramatically. Friends who used to visit your child daily no longer are a vital part of your family life. The telephone no longer rings every ten minutes. There is no more juggling of schedules to get to basketball, football, and soccer games. In fact, home life can become very quiet almost immediately following the death of a teen, and a parent is left not knowing now to handle the awful silence.

As much as a parent fussed about giving up the car keys, putting up with messy rooms, and handing over money every day, anything in the world would be given to have the child back again. Everything that was a normal way of life has been greatly altered, and nothing seems familiar or comfortable any more. Child loss takes away so much!

During this adjustment period of grief, parents will often do things that may seem a bit odd to the rest of us. Some parents will not go near the deceased child's bedroom for months. It is left just how it was the day the child died. Other parents make almost a sanctuary of the home, placing remembrances of the child in every room of the house. Some parents will continue to set a place at the dinner table for the child months after the death. This is very strange to us, but is a very real part of a parent's grieving process.

Many parents will comment how much they miss just the smell of their child. Any of us who are parents know that each child has a distinct smell. Moms, especially, can close their eyes, hold a child close, and choose her child just by the smell of the child. This is an innate sense, an ability that mothers all have. When a child dies, there is a strong yearning to just savor the smell of one's own child.

It is not at all unusual or out of the ordinary for a parent to wear an article of clothing such as a flannel shirt or jacket of the child who has died. Just the smell of the child that is found on the shirt or jacket is comforting as it lingers with the parent. Equally true, it is not out of the context of deep grief for a parent to want to sleep with a stuffed animal that once shared the bed of their child. There is great comfort found in holding the "smell" of your child near.

Always remember that grief is expressed in many different ways. A longing to smell one's child is not at all out of line in the difficult journey of grief. The smell of your child provides much comfort during the early weeks of loss. To be able to experience that distinctive smell of your child found on an article of clothing is, in some small way, like being able to hold your child close just one more time.

We must allow parents to grieve without the burden of feeling different or foolish. Remind yourself often that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Wanting to smell the sweet smell of your child just one more time is certainly an understandable step in the journey of grief.
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