Nov 29, 2019
Using Memory Jars to Support the Grieving Process

For many, processing a loss or the bereavement of a loved one is a complex process, unique to each individual whether it be an adult or a child.

The grieving process sees the individual journeying through various stages: shock, denial, anger, depression, bargaining and eventually acceptance (Kubler-Ross, 1969). This process doesn't always feel logical and can become blocked. Reasons for this are varied but can include having questions that they will never be able to get answered, they may have regrets, fear their future or have other emotions which are underlying.

For some, they may be fearful of letting go of the pain of their loss as they may feel that they are forgetting their loved one however being able to celebrate the person that has been lost can be a significant move forward in the grieving process.

Memory jars are a technique that can be used in counselling that can be helpful to an individual to support them if they are stuck in the agony of grief. It can support them to try and make sense of their distress and to remember their loved one in a positive or celebratory way.

Memories are extremely important to both children and adults and are a way of maintaining the bond between the individual and the person that is deceased.  Footballer Rio Ferdinand has reported that the use of memory jars with his children have been extremely useful following the death of their mother in 2015. He says that the memory jar technique was a useful tool which allowed the children to remember their mum; he says that it enabled the children to talk about the happy moments they shared together when their mum was alive, rather than being sad and negative. He writes “that this kind of opened everything up” so that we could all talk together.

Memory jars can be a useful tool for adults and children in processing their grief. Detailed below are a few suggestions for making a memory jar.

How to Make a Memory Jar

There are various ways to make a memory jar. 

First, the individual chooses their jar – this may have a particular relevance to the deceased, i.e. their favourite coffee or brand of chutney, or they could just choose a decorative jar.

Whenever a special memory is remembered relating to the deceased then this can be popped onto a post-it note and placed in the jar. This can be done by the individual and the other family members and these can then be looked at any time to remember.

Secondly, some jars can be made with coloured chalk and salt. For this, you will need a glass jar, salt, coloured chalk, felt pens and 6 sheets of A4 paper.

1.    Fill the jar with salt and leave.
2.    Write down 5 things that you remember about the person that has died.
3.    Next to the five things, place a coloured dot.
4.    Taking the jar of salt, split this between 5 sheets of the A4 paper.
5.    Using the chalk, colour each pile of salt with the chalk.
6.    Gently add each colour to the jar, place plain salt between each layer, take your time with this so as not to let each colour run into the next.
7.    The jar can then be placed somewhere that it is seen often and the person can be remembered.

I hope that this information is helpful. If you would like more information or you feel that you may need some counselling to support you through bereavement or loss then please contact me.

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