Grief is one of the most complex human emotions there is. It's almost impossible to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it themselves yet. It changes from person to person, and some people even experience relief with the passing of a loved one, especially if it was after a particularly long and harsh illness.
And grief can even overcome diseases like dementia. Twitter user Lauren Herschel took to the social media platform back in 2017 to share how her doctor explained grief. Her conversation with the doctor took place after she was shocked that her 92-year-old grandmother, who was in the early stages of dementia, was fully aware that Lauren's mother had passed away.
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
Lauren's doctor explained grief as a box with a ball inside it, along with a pain button.
In the beginning, the ball is so big that you can't move the box without hitting the button.
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, the ball shrinks, and you can start moving the box without hitting the button. The ball still hits the button some times, but less than it used to.
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
For most people, the ball never goes away fully, it just keeps getting smaller. Lauren explained how the analogy helped her family mourn the passing of her mom.
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.
The ball in the box proved popular on Twitter, with many sharing how grief has affected them, and how Lauren's analogy summed it up pretty well.
"Thanks for sharing the BALL IN THE BOX analogy," one user wrote. "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."
"I hope you don't mind," another added. "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."
Another commenter added:
!One thing I find amazing and horrifying is that we all have to travel this path of grief at some point in our lives. It is inescapable. All deal with it differently, & partly due to situation. My 21yo sister was killed 6.5 months ago. My ball is still incredibly big."
"But I'm hopeful that justice for her death, time and actually coming out of survival mode and getting help to face this will make it easier. Thanks for sharing. And sending you and your family."