My grandmother (referred to as Nenny by all eight of her grandchildren) lived a long life, full of love and adventures. She was the wise, generous and sassy glue that held my family together. When she died a year and a half ago, it felt like the foundation of my family had collapsed under me.
My family worked tirelessly over the next few days to arrange everything to properly honor Nenny. While my dad and his siblings planned the memorial service, my cousins and I were given the task of gathering photos for the memory boards. We dug through boxes, photo albums and computer files and pulled out every picture we could find of Nenny. We drank wine, shared memories and repeated her favorite saying over and over again.
Tears were shed, laughs were had and stories were told as we came across photos we had never seen before (some of which my father and his siblings wish would have stayed undiscovered). We found pictures of her crazy Halloween costumes, goofy faces and her overall love of the life she had. I learned so much about my Nenny through these pictures. I discovered how much she loved her children and her grandchildren, how much she and my Papa adored each other and how she was always unapologetically herself.
At first, I thought going through the photos would be difficult, but the more I discovered, the closer I felt to Nenny.
Doing something similar could help your client families grieve after the loss of a loved one. The following are ideas you can share with them on how to creatively incorporate photos into their celebration of life services.
Putting together a memory board, as my family did, can be an excellent way to begin the grieving and healing process. It gives the family a chance to dig through old boxes and albums of photos and discover pictures that haven’t seen the light in a very long time. The photos can be arranged any way the family would like; in a timeline fashion – telling their life story in chronological order – or grouped by friends, children and, if applicable, grandchildren. No matter how you arrange the photos, be sure to include every member of the family.
Online Photo Album
As you’re gathering photos, you may find that family members want to access and share digital photos through an online photo album. Consider asking extended family members or friends to contribute their own photos. This could open up the discussion of favorite memories or stories that go along with the photos. You never know what hidden gems could be discovered by old friends!
Consider attaching pictures to the strings of helium-filled balloons and floating them over the guestbook table. This can be an excellent way to incorporate an overarching feeling of hope and celebration into the service.
Creating a slideshow or video paired with the loved one's favorite music can be an excellent way to tell the story of their life. The slideshow can be incorporated into the service or played in the background for guests to view at their leisure. Consider distributing copies to guests as a keepsake to remember their loved one.
If the family wants to provide a way for guests to keep their loved one close to them, consider making keepsake photo pins or keychains with your favorite picture to distribute during the celebration. An alternative could be a personalized service program or bookmark with the deceased’s photo on them. This way, attendees have something to remember their loved one by every day.
Framed Photo “Guestbook”
In lieu of a guestbook, consider having guests sign a photo frame or mat with a picture of the loved one. If the family is expecting a significant crowd of guests, have more than one frame set up for attendees to sign or write their condolences.
This is only a short list of ideas to consider when incorporating photos into a celebration of life service. Keep in mind the needs and wishes of your client families and be as much of a resource as possible to help them with their grief. What creative photo sharing ideas have you used or seen? Share your ideas in the comments below.