“The best gifts in the world are not in the material objects one can buy from the store, but in the memories we make with the people we love”- Amanda Boyarshinov, Author and Blogger.
It’s amazing that the power memories can hold. Listening to a certain song, riffling through old photos or smelling perfume or aftershave that reminds you of someone can suddenly transport you back to a different time. Recently at the hospice our nursing staff have been working with patients to help them to create memory boxes which they can give to their families as a way to remember them by placing items which have a significance to them and their families.
A memory box is a container to hold special items belonging to you. The items in the box can help a family hold on to memories. A memory box can be as simple or elaborate as you like. You can make it using a shoe box, biscuit tin or gift box. Usually, there are people who can give you some helpful ideas and advice if you want it. There are health care professionals at the hospice, who have a particular interest in memory boxes. If you want help, ask a member of staff.
What goes into a memory box?
Before you decide what you want to put in your memory box, you may find it helpful to think about some different types of memories. These may include:
A special time you shared
Something you enjoyed or laughed about together
A memory that offers you or your family some comfort
Something you especially love about your family or your relationship with them
What you put in the memory box is a really personal choice. Anything that is important toyou or your family, or that helps to remind your family of a specific memory, can go into the memory box.
It’s sometimes difficult to know where to start. Here are some suggestions of things other people put in their boxes.
A photo of you with the family can be stuck on the lid. This provides a visual reminder of the connection between you and can lead the way into the box. It could be a coloured box, in your favourite colour. Or the box could be covered in some fabric important to you.
A bottle of aftershave or perfume that you use can trigger memories.
It can be nice to include a letter to your family, or some short stories about things you’ve done together.
A DVD recording could include a message from you or recordings of things you and your family have done together. Most camcorders can play straight on to a TV screen, so tapes or discs don’t need to be specially edited.
Anything recorded on an MP3 player, such as messages or your favourite music, can then be transferred on to a CD. Hospice staff will be able to help you make a DVD or CD.
Small cards with messages on them could include details of your favourite things. Examples include “I love you because .. “ thank you for .. “ “when we are not together what I miss most about you is … “ or “remember when …”
Anything that has a personal story attached to it can be included. This might include jewellery, cards, toys or tickets from places you visited together that hold special memories. It can help to attach a small note to the object as a reminder.
How is it used?
Grief is not about forgetting the person who has died, it’s about finding ways to remember them and take their memory forward. However, it can be difficult for family members to hold on to their memories.
Whatever you choose to put into a memory box can be used to tell your story of your life. These can be repeated again and again. So even young children can build up a story of memories that they may have been too young to remember by themselves.
Depending on the age of your child, they may want to look through their memory box alone and remember times when you were together. Or they may want to have a parent or relative with them to share the memories.
Some of the memories may make your family laugh or cry. That is all part of the process of remembering the person they have lost. So it’s important that other people who are involved in caring for the family are available to give them support.
You may want to choose a family member or close friend as your “memory holders” for your child as they grow up. A memory-holder can then add to the memories as the child grows up and answer any questions they might have about the person who dies.
Your feelings and support
Creating a memory box can be a sad thing to do. But it can also be satisfying to do something that will help your family to connect with memories of you and the time you shared, it also gives you a chance to reflect on your own memories and may make you laugh as well as cry.
Deciding to make a memory box can feel overwhelming, and it can be difficult to start. You may find it helpful to have a member of your family or a close friend to support you and help you gather the objects you want to put in your memory box.
Who can help?
Everyone has their own way of coping with difficult situations. Some people find it helpful to talk about their feelings with their partner, their family or a close friend. Or you may want to talk over your feelings with a health care professional who will be happy to support you.