The Ball in The Box

On Friday morning, (9th April 2021) His Royal highness Prince Philip died aged 99. 

I have a lot of respect for the work he’s done and the way he made his life useful and meaningful. He had a powerful impact on many lives. My heart truly goes out to his family and all the people whose lives he touched.

The news of his death wrenched me. I didn’t know him, never met him and he was kind of an abstract figure in my life, so the level of pain I feel seems disproportionate. 

I feel guilty about this and I hope it isn’t disrespectful to him to say that the sense of loss that I feel right now is not entirely about him. 

It serves as a reminder of the personal losses I’ve had in my own life. The non-abstract losses that still occasionally feel very raw. 

I’m pretty sure that this isn’t an experience that is unique to me – that many of you will be feeling that familiar rawness all over again – I just wanted to let you know you’re not alone in that. 

I also wanted to share the ball in the box analogy with you – in case you don’t know it – I find it really helps me to feel OK about not always being “over” my grief. 

This was originally posted on twitter by Lauren Herschel.

The Ball in The Box

Imagine your life is a box and the grief you feel is a ball inside of the box. Also inside the box is a pain button:

In the beginning, when the loss is so fresh and new, the grief that many people feel is overwhelming and large. It’s so large, in fact, that every time you move the box — moving through your every day life — the grief ball can’t help but hit the pain button:

The ball rattles around the box at random, hitting the pain button every time. This is how many people initially experience loss. You can’t control it and you can’t stop it. The pain just keeps coming pretty regularly, no matter what you do or how much others try and comfort you. The pain a person experiences may feel unrelenting and never-ending.

Over time, however, the ball starts to shrink on its own:

You still go through life and the grief ball still rattles around inside the box. But because the ball has gotten smaller, it hits the pain button a little less often. You almost feel like you can go through most days without even having the pain button hit. But when it does hit, it can be completely random and unexpected. Like when you’re staring at the person’s name in your friend’s list, or come across their favorite video or TV show. The pain button still delivers the same amount of pain no matter how large or small the ball is.

As time passes, the ball continues to shrink and with it, our grief for the loss experienced.

Most people never forget the loss they experienced. But over time, the ball becomes so small that it rarely hits the pain button. When it does, it is still as painful and hard to understand as it was the very first time we felt it. But the frequency of the hits has decreases significantly. This gives a person more time in-between each hit, time used to recover and feel “normal” again.

Time also allows our hearts to heal and to begin to remember the person as they were in life.

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