In this article, we’ll explore how memory boxes can help you during your grief journey. We’ll explain what they are, how to make your own and we’ll share ideas about what you could put in it. Plus, we’ll tell you more about our own online memory box tool that’s free for you to start using today.
What is a memory box?
A bereavement memory box can take on many different forms, and be filled with many different things, but ultimately, it’s a way for you to keep your special memories about the person you’re grieving for safe.
Why make a memory box?
Here are just a few of the ways in which making a memory box can help you during your grief journey:
It can encourage you to start sorting through the personal belongings of the person who died
When someone close to you dies, it can feel like your entire world has changed. Yet, often, the setting in which they lived or worked in can often look the same, and these glimpses of their mug in the cupboard or their hairbrush on the side can serve as painful reminders of their absence.
It’s one of the reasons why some people can sometimes try to avoid the task of sorting through the belongings of the person they’re grieving for, particularly if they’re worried about what feelings or emotions the process might bring up.
That’s where starting a memory box might be able to help, as it can become your safe space for the special memories you want to keep hold of. Being able to focus on this outcome, and create something that is truly meaningful to you and your grief, can help you to get through the task ahead.
It can help you to take time to reflect on your relationship and memories
Whether you reach for your memory box every week, every month or every few years, what’s important is that you’re using it in a way that feels right for you and your experience of grief.
Some people might find that they want to reflect on what’s inside their box more often during the beginning of their grief journey, while others might need time to get to a point where they feel ready to do this.
Often, the comfort of having a memory box comes from knowing it’s there, ready to be opened whenever the time feels right.
It can help you face a future without them
In the same way that you and your grief will change over time, so can the contents of your memory box. It can grow as you grow, perhaps with items from moments that you wanted the person who died to be a part of, or with letters containing the words you want to say to them.
Using your memory box in this way can ease some of the anxiety often felt in grief around moving forwards in life, as it can help you to feel connected to the person you’re missing.
How to make a memory box
Here are three simple steps to help you create your own bereavement memory box. You may want to use them as a guide to get started, or you may decide to use your own ideas instead. What’s important is recognising that there aren't any rules to this process - your box is individual to you and your grief.
1. Decide on what your ‘box’ will look like
A memory box doesn’t have to be a box; it can be a jar, a digital space online, or perhaps a drawer in your house. Put simply, it’s a designated space to keep your memories safe. You may want to decorate it with photos, or label it with the name of the person you’re grieving for, or you may want to save those details for the inside instead.
2. Decide what to put in it
There’s no right or wrong way to fill your memory box, but we know that it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start. Try to think about what feels important or significant to your experience of bereavement, or have a look through the ideas we’ve suggested below. And remember that you don’t have to fill it full of things straight away. Whether it’s got one piece of jewellery, a couple of books or tens of photos, it’s still going to be your private space for remembering the person you’re missing.
“Part of my coping mechanism in the early days after my husband died was to have a memory box. He was a big Harry Potter fan so it had to be a Hogwarts box.
I keep all his precious personal things in there, like his wallet, glasses, driving licence including his PSV badges, his favourite cap, the aftershave he loved, his electric shaver. Also in there are anniversary, birthday, Christmas & father’s day cards, his Bible, his favourite jigsaw and a tin full of all sorts of odds and ends that he kept in his bedside drawer.
I often look in the box, picking things up, holding them, smelling them. Sometimes there are tears, often smiles… it’s a connection that will never be broken, he will always be in my heart. I keep a journal where I write love letters to him too, and that’s also kept in my memory box.
I also have set up a virtual memory box on Grief Guide too, which has photos I saved that hold special memories, like our wedding day, the last model boat he made before he died, special holidays, the place where I scattered his ashes and many more - each accompanied with a few words of the love we have for each other.
He may not be physically here, but in my mind we are still married and always will be. His name is always added to cards and presents sent to our children and grandchildren. I still celebrate our wedding anniversary and his birthday, and the cards I still write to him after being displayed all eventually go in his memory box too.”
- a member of our Online Bereavement Community
3. Decide where to keep it
Grief can be unpredictable, and some days may be harder than others. That’s why keeping your memory box in a safe, accessible space is so important, as it means that you’ll always be able to reach for it when you need it. That might not be often, but it can be reassuring to know it’s there.
What to put in a memory box
A pebble from the beach you visited on holiday together, their glasses case, the pen they used, their favourite album…the list of things you can include in your memory box is endless. That’s what’s so special about it, and why it's such a personal and private way to connect with the person you’re missing.
You’ll find more specific suggestions for different types of bereavement boxes below, but know that these are just ideas you can use as inspiration for your own memory box too.
Memory box ideas for your parent:
- photos of your childhood memories
- their most cooked or loved recipes
- an ornament from their home
- their daily handbag or wallet
- tickets from the last football match or musical you saw together
Memory box ideas for your partner:
- a piece from their jewellery collection
- the cards they wrote to you
- the mug they always used
- the words you wish you could say to them
- their favourite book or film
Memory box ideas for your baby:
- their favourite teddy or blanket
- a lock of their hair
- the first babygrow they wore
- the scans from throughout your pregnancy
- a collection of the songs you sung to them
Introducing the Sue Ryder memory box
Members of Grief Guide can now create their own digital memory boxes and start collecting their memories using our new self-help tool. If you’re interested in creating your own, simply sign up today for a free account and you’ll get instant access to the exclusive feature.