“I’ve come to know that memories were the best things you ever had.” This is a line from one of my favourite songs by Ben Howard – Old Pine. My mum loved listening to Ben Howard; apparently he lived near us and she could have sworn that she met him once in the village corner shop.
When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to see Ben Howard live for the first time, I remember trying to convince a friend to come with me because “You aren’t going to remember the time you saved £25.00, you’re going to remember the time you were front row at a Ben Howard concert!“. Needless to say, we had a great time. It’s something I’ve always been mindful of. And now, after losing my mum, memories have never been so valuable to me.
For the third part of this 3 part post I am going to tell you about my time with Balloons. In total I had 6 sessions with Balloons. I really valued my time with my grief counsellor, and I’m thankful for what I was able to take from it. She suggested that we make a memory box, and that sounded like a really good idea and ended being the most valuable thing that I took away from our sessions. I had researched Memory boxes previously, but couldn’t find anything related to bereavement – just cute little boyfriend/girlfriend memory boxes. Also, I knew that I wasn’t going to do this at home on my own. It simply wasn’t a priority as I was feeling so overwhelmed by my sense of sadness and all of the responsibilities I had to take care of, like changing the bank accounts for the bills, informing the pensions, etc. So I welcomed any idea that would help me to preserve any happier memories with my mum. If you are grieving a loved one, I welcome you to create your own memory box.
My grief counsellor brought in a few boxes to choose from. I chose a really colourful gift box, the type you get from Paperchase. It was really important to me that it looks nice on the outside, so I’d be able to put it in my room. To the unobservant eye, it just looks like a nice storage box.
I started by collecting photos of Mum and old birthday cards that she gave me. Over time I have added more such as:
- a notebook where I am able to write letters to her. Again, I chose a really nice notebook that I could dedicate to this.
- I keep one of her scarves in there too, it’s soft to touch and it smells of her perfume. She had so many scarves that she was able to match with any outfit; so it’s a good accessory to have in my memory box as a reminder of this.
- A little rose quartz heart to remind me of our many trips to one of our favourite towns.
- An amber broach that she used to wear to remind me of her love of amber.
- I have a piece of paper with her handwriting – I find her handwriting really comforting to read, knowing that she held that piece of paper and she had those thoughts to motivate that writing regardless of how insignificant it might be.
- As many old birthday cards or postcards as I could find.
- Photos of happier times.
- Photos before she even had her own family, knowing that she was a real person with her own real memories.
- A playlist of favourite music.
- An un-finished list of memories that I can add to.
As with the other memory technique I shared in my last post, this too takes time and perseverance. Sometimes, I feel beside myself with anger that all I have is a stupid cardboard box – it’s not enough. Of course, it isn’t enough. All I want is my mum. But in those really dark and angry moments, it’s important to remember that these little trinkets and cards that are safely tucked away in this box simply serve as keys that can help you to unlock greater memories.
All you need to do is write down a little memory; it doesn’t need to be detailed: for example, our mum loved DIY and we painted our rooms once. This small and somewhat vague memory about DIY can ignite a bigger memory for me. For example: the time that we opened the boot of the car to load the shopping in and a tin of white paint fell out and spilled on to the road, leaving white marks that would be there for years – Oops!
I read the list of memories and when I am feeling less angry, I can add to it. Sometimes I am even able to laugh at particularly funny ones like “Number 55) When I was 12 years old and Mum tried to burn her post in the sink and the whole bungalow filled with smoke. I told her it was a bad idea.”
I recently started listening to Ben Howard again. We don’t have our Mum anymore, but we have our memories. They are invaluable and truly some of the most precious things I own and no one can take them away. The methods I have shared recently help me to preserve and strengthen my memories that I made with my mum. My memory box is a place where I can store them safely and it helps to calm my anxiety about them floating away and being forgotten. Every now and then, I take time for myself to go through this little box. I remind myself, that while it feels so dark and this grief is so painful, it serves as a testament to our unique and strong relationship where we were able to share such special and unforgettable moments. And my goodness, weren’t we lucky.