What you need
Exacto Knife or Scissors
Optional – Cutting mat with a cork back ruler if you want the photos to have straight edges.
Memorial items – Gather meaningful things your loved one cherished, preferably smaller objects, like love notes (or handwritten notes), vacation souvenirs, ticket stubs, favorite or most used objects, photographs, and business cards. Also, consider things dear to your heart that bring loving memories of your loved one.
A memory shadow box keeps mementos that tell a visual story of your life with a loved one. It’s a personalized tribute to incredible adventures and memories. In addition, it can act as a reminder, such as healing after a loss, to keep you going on tough days. All you need to do is decorate it with meaningful keepsakes.
How to tell the story
I gathered my husband’s things after his passing but was unsure what to do with them. He was a hairstylist and a budding entrepreneur. He was adventurous and always showed his love through his actions. He also saved a lot over time.
I initially wanted to find one picture for his memorial, but after going through them all, I couldn’t pick just one. So instead, I tried to use my favorite pictures from significant events like trips and holidays to tell a story of our time together and found objects that visually coordinated with those occasions. This was to create a memorial shadow box, so most photos were centered around Douglas. You can include more photos of yourself in the shadow box. Honestly, it only needs to make sense to you as it reminds you of the good times, and you can enjoy it for as long as you want.
Ask for help
Grief is a difficult journey, especially when you are alone. So find a friend or family member to help you through this. Luckily, my friend Christie came to help me with the shadow box. She was great at helping me do layout options and cutting all the photos out perfectly. Throughout the years, Doug always asked if I was texting Christie whenever he saw me on my phone, so I knew he was smiling at us while we did this. It’s like creating a new memory with all of us.
We did many impromptu layouts within the shadowbox frame, often leaving them inside the box and revisiting them later with a fresh eye. This is similar to scrapbooking, randomly placing the photos first while adding the mementos around the images. We printed out photos of varying sizes and added white borders around them, so they don’t blend with overlapping images. Some photos were raised higher than others to give more depth to the shadow box. The process took about a week, and the most challenging part was selecting the right images to share. We used gorilla glue to stick the objects and photos on the mat once we were happy with the layout.
Results and Reflections
I was so happy with the outcome, especially finding all the special objects and photos that meant so much to me. Doug always made fun of me for taking so many pictures, but I am thankful to have preserved so many beautiful memories. I wanted to show the experiences we shared, what he was passionate about, and the love he showed me.
The memorial location took place at the English Garden in Dayton. It was a place we frequented and always so peaceful. I am grateful for the help and support from friends Emily and Christie, as it was a perfect day.
At the beginning of my journey through grief, I was concerned about losing my memories of Doug and not knowing what to do with the things he saved. This shadow box was a perfect way to preserve the treasured items that triggered the positive memories I shared with him throughout our time together.