It’s no secret that grief and coping with losing a loved one is hard as hell. No matter when we lose someone, or how we lose someone, dealing with grief is inevitably difficult. For many, it’s almost impossible to continuously deal with grief on an everyday basis—espeically when we lose someone we never imagined living life without.
For me, losing my father was almost impossible to overcome. Six years later, I still get hit with days where I can’t stop crying or missing him. There are times when I still think, “Damn, I really wish I could call him right now to tell him XY and Z.” Finishing my Master’s degree, I feel a special kind of grief, wishing I could see his face when I accept my diploma. And, I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. There are billions of people all across the world that share my pain.
Twitter user Lauren Herschel came up with a deep, insightful way to visualize grief by using an analogy that includes a box and a ball. In all honesty, it makes absolutely perfect sense for anyone who is dealing with grief on a regular basis.
Herschel said that she was told the analogy by a doctor while dealing with the loss of her mother. She had seen a woman in a store that reminded her of her grandmother and immediately began thinking of her mother, again.
After what has been a surprisingly okayish Christmas, I had a moment today in SuperStore. Saw a lady who reminded me of my 92yo grandma, who even in the early stages of dementia, completely understood that my mom died.— Lauren Herschel (@LaurenHerschel) December 29, 2017
I thought I’d share the Ball in the Box analogy my Dr told me pic.twitter.com/YfFT26ffU8
The analogy includes a box, a ball, and a pain button.
So grief is like this:— Lauren Herschel (@LaurenHerschel) December 29, 2017
There’s a box with a ball in it. And a pain button.
And no, I am not known for my art skills. pic.twitter.com/XDwCCdXVkc
In the beginning, when we first lose someone, Herschel says the ball is “huge.” Therefore, you can’t move the box without the ball hitting the pain button. It seems as though it’s permanently stuck on the pain button no matter what you do.
In the beginning, the ball is huge. You can’t move the box without the ball hitting the pain button. It rattles around on its own in there and hits the button over and over. You can’t control it - it just keeps hurting. Sometimes it seems unrelenting. pic.twitter.com/Wcas2p4vab— Lauren Herschel (@LaurenHerschel) December 29, 2017
Over time, however, the ball gets smaller and smaller. Therefore, the pain button gets hit less and less. Yet, when it does hit the pain button, it hurts just as much as it did in the beginning—it’s just less frequent.
Over time, the ball gets smaller. It hits the button less and less but when it does, it hurts just as much. It’s better because you can function day to day more easily. But the downside is that the ball randomly hits that button when you least expect it. pic.twitter.com/fevAttojBg— Lauren Herschel (@LaurenHerschel) December 29, 2017
Herschel added that for most people, the ball never goes away. However, as it hits the pain button less frequently, you have more time to recover in between.
For most people, the ball never really goes away. It might hit less and less and you have more time to recover between hits, unlike when the ball was still giant.— Lauren Herschel (@LaurenHerschel) December 29, 2017
I thought this was the best description of grief I’ve heard in a long time.
She also shared that some people find it comforting to have a way to verbalize their grief, sharing that her stepdad uses it to describe how he is feeling.
I told my step dad about the ball in the box (with even worse pictures). He now uses it to talk about how he’s feeling.— Lauren Herschel (@LaurenHerschel) December 29, 2017
“The Ball was really big today. It wouldn’t lay off the button. I hope it gets smaller soon.”
Slowly it is.
Many people online were grateful that Herschel shared the analogy, giving them a sense of comfort and hope to know they have a way to verbalize their own pain—and, that they’re not alone.
Thanks 4 sharing the BALL IN THE BOX analogy. My daughter died in July and we are adjusting to life without her. I know that people process grief differently & now I have a new analogy to share with my family. Currently we have different-sized balls and that's just the way it is.— Cathy Campbell (@ccampbel14) December 31, 2017
I want you to know that this is literally one of the best things I have ever read on Twitter... #theballgetssmaller ♥️♥️♥️— Lauryn Norton (@laurynnorton) January 19, 2018
I hope you don't mind, I kinda stole this and put it in a notebook I keep for mental health/self help stuff to refer back to. It resonates so much with me right now. Thank you for sharing. pic.twitter.com/Q9TjlCpuPX— angelica (@ReinaDeLaIsla) February 7, 2018
Please thank your doctor for us, for sharing this. (And thank *you* for sharing)— Barb. just Barb (@spicedrum) January 12, 2018
My Father died last week. This is very helpful. Thank you.— Christian Cullinane (@EndvrCoach) December 24, 2018
This is an excellent description of how grief works. I'm very sorry for your loss.— Colleen Vawter (@colleenv123) December 30, 2017
Yes, the ball does get smaller but when it hits that button, ouch.
Thank you. This is a great way to explain why even after years past the loss, wham-boom there’s the grief again over a song on the radio or a sentimental holiday (when the same song last week or the same holiday last year did not “hit the button”).— RAFinley (@RAFinley) January 11, 2018
That is such an accurate description. My dad died in 1978 and my mum in 2013 but the ball hit the button out of the blue when my son got into university and I couldn’t tell my parents. You don’t ‘get over’ the loss, you learn to live with the absence.— Peg Morris (@pegmorrisart) December 23, 2018
Thank you for this. My wife and I just lost our dog and he was the kid we never had. With me everywhere, work, running errands and I'm struggling. Just can't make sense of it. And it has brought up past losses of my brother, grandparents, coworker. I loved them all. Just too hard— Jimmy (@Ryatt34) December 23, 2018