Advice for how to make a memorial shadow box to remember a loved one who has passed to make a memorial shadow box

When a loved one passes away we often look for ways to honor that person’s life and to keep their memory alive.  A shadow box is one way to preserve and display precious memories.

When my father passed away unexpectedly two years ago, one thing I worried about was how to keep his memory alive so my young children would not forget him.  I searched online for ideas but couldn’t find anything, so I came up with a shadow box of mementos and memories.  I hope that my ideas and suggestions will help you if you are looking for a way to honor someone you have lost with a memorial shadow box.

how to create your own memorial shadow box

Suggestions and ideas for creating a memorial shadow box:

1.  Take your time.  There is no right or wrong way to do this, so don’t stress about making it “perfect”. In the beginning I couldn’t even look at my father’s picture as it was too painful, but once I started this project it actually helped me feel better.  Reflecting on his life, going through pictures, and deciding what items represented him best helped more than I thought it would.

2.  Go through photos and choose some favorite memories.  I chose to print mine on canvas photo paper to give them a softer look.  I used Mod Podge to adhere the print to a cardstock mat.

remembering your father who has passed away

3.  Choose items to include in the shadow box.  I found most of mine in and on my dad’s desk and in his bedroom.  These were little things that he had held on to over the years that had meaning to him.  Items such as medals, name tags, pictures, scribbled notes, wallets, belt buckles, etc. fit nicely in a shadow box.  Poems and excerpts from books (as I included) can also add to your display.

4.  Decide on your background.  Don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money buying papers or scrapbooking items.  Often things your loved one left behind, like old maps, ticket stubs, receipts, and collector cards can make a beautiful background.  My dad loved to travel and to work on cars, so I chose papers and stickers that represented his hobbies along with places we had lived in.

remembering my dad

5.  Arrange your layout.  Again, there is no right or wrong way to do this.  I placed my papers on the floor near my desk and began laying items on them.  I kept rearranging them until I was happy with the look.  This took me about two weeks of slowly coming back to the project and looking over it.

memorial shadow box for dad

6.  Assemble your shadow box.  I purchased mine at Hobby Lobby and went with one that had a fabric background.  This way I could use pins to attach everything so I can rearrange them or add to it easily.  Start with your background papers, and layer up.  I suggest that you wait until after you have hung the frame up to add heavier items that will sit on the bottom.

7.  Invite others to add to the memorial.  I hung my shadow box low enough that my children could see it.  They added the cars (gifts from my dad) to the box.

I hope these tips are helpful, and that you will find this project to aid you as you grieve a loss.  Feel free to comment or email me if you have any questions or need further ideas.


  1. Thank you for sharing. I will be working on one for my Father and was delighted to see you have your Father’s wallet w/license poking out. I was gonna do this also but wondered if it was ‘too much’. I now know it isn’t and that there is no wrong or right. Here is a saying from St. Bernard of Clairvaux that will be included in my memory box:

    “I can never lose one whom I have loved unto the end; one to whom my soul cleaves so firmly that it can never be separated does not go away but only goes before”.

  2. hi i am another SA blogger- I was just looking for tips on how to make a memorial shadow box and yours was the first one to pop up. its beautiful and great advice. i pinned this to do with the kids for dia de los muertos for a loved one. thanks!

  3. My dad just died a month ago. I am working on doing things for my mom and my sister. I am going to make a shadow box for each of them. He was a mechanic, loved racing and serving God through mission trips and helping people with their cars. I miss him so much but I know he is watching over me and my family. Thank you for sharing your idea, I really like it.

    • Angela, I am very sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing your memories of your dad. It sounds like he made the world a better place. This project brought me so much peace, and I hope it does the same for you. I walk by it everyday and it reminds me that my dad is still alive in spirit.

  4. I love this idea for honoring & remembering a loved one. I’m planning to do this in memory of my Mom.
    Thank you for your helpful tips & ideas.

  5. Where did you find the shadowbox? I’ve done some looking but wondered if you could save me a trip. What size is yours? It seems perfect…just right for my husband’s momentos.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. I bought that shadow box at Hobby Lobby. I’ll measure it but I think it’s maybe 12 x 18. They shadow boxes back in the custom frame areas of most big craft stores. I hope that helps!

  6. Love it thank you so much . I’ve been stressing on how to create a memorial box for my dad who past on his way to work by a drunk driver 🙁 my heart is so torn he was my everything I was a daddy’s girl 🙁 .. Anyhow thank you for Posting this helps me so much especially since my dad had the same interest as yours 🙂 ..

    • Andrea, I am truly sorry for your loss. I’m glad that this project will help you keep his memory alive. Big, big hugs to you!

  7. Omg thank you for this! I’m the least artistic or creative person there probably is but I wanted to make a memorial shadow box for my mom. The main things I want to use are her wedding ring, a lock/pendant necklace that has her ashes in it, a loc of her hair and a half a dollar coin she left me with my year of birth for good luck. I’ve been searching for tips and examples on how to make it look nice so I really really appreciate this! The hardest part for me with this project is that I don’t know what to use to make items stick or hang without falling. Pins weren’t able to hold up or support the weight of ashes necklace. Any others tips are deeply appreciated!

    • Apologies for the late reply; I’m just seeing this! Were you able to find a solution? I would suggest screwing a hook or gluing a plastic hook to the inside top of the shadow box and using that to hang a heavy necklace.

  8. Thank you for this advice. My father recently passed and I want to do a memorial shadow box as well. Your post was very helpful!

  9. Thank-you for sharing . My husband passed away in June and I want to make memorial shadow boxes for the children (4 of them !) . Your ideas are most helpful as each one of the children has created different memories with their Dad I now have a better idea of how to proceed with the projects .

  10. I am looking for secure ways to attach objects in a shadow box. For example, kitchen untensils that belonged to my Grandmother–a large frying fork, ice pick, table knife, my childhood jacks and ball, marbles….
    Any suggestions would be a great help as I’ve never done such a project before.


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