It was shared with her by a doctor.
Attempting to explain grief, and the ways mourning comes and goes at will, can be incredibly difficult. How do you sum up a sadness that is constantly shifting and often out of grasp? Death and loss, while normal, still don’t settle into our brains lightly, so it makes sense that we’re sent into a jolt of non-linear emotional grappling.
The Twitter user Lauren Herschel quickly went viral for her thread on grief, wherein she shared the visual analogy of “the ball and the box.”
After what has been a surprisingly okayish Christmas, I had a moment today in SuperStore. Saw a lady who reminded m… https://t.co/SMiD5DS7QW— Lauren Herschel (@Lauren Herschel) 1514590556.0
The theory was first shared by Herschel’s doctor, who uses it to describe how grief is triggered in the brain.
So grief is like this: There’s a box with a ball in it. And a pain button. And no, I am not known for my art skills. https://t.co/XDwCCdXVkc— Lauren Herschel (@Lauren Herschel) 1514590733.0
In the beginning, the ball is huge. You can’t move the box without the ball hitting the pain button. It rattles aro… https://t.co/oK2avI0RLK— Lauren Herschel (@Lauren Herschel) 1514590821.0
Over time, the ball gets smaller. It hits the button less and less but when it does, it hurts just as much. It’s be… https://t.co/ORDBacXRBd— Lauren Herschel (@Lauren Herschel) 1514590941.0
For most people, the ball never really goes away. It might hit less and less and you have more time to recover betw… https://t.co/9zElihWZ7h— Lauren Herschel (@Lauren Herschel) 1514591138.0
Essentially, the theory sums up grief as a ball in a box with a pain button. The ball is largest immediately after a trauma or loss, which means almost any action can trigger the pain button. But, as time goes on, the ball often gradually shrinks and the pain button is activated less often.
While it may get smaller, the ball of grief usually lasts forever, and sometimes the pain button will be activated when you least expect. Also, it’s not unusual for certain pain button triggers to cause the ball of grief to grow larger for a period after you thought it had permanently shrunk.
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 feel… https://t.co/Vmy2ettTtN— Lauren Herschel (@Lauren Herschel) 1514591333.0
The thread quickly filled up with people sharing how grief has affected them, and how well the analogy sums up a nearly indescribable process of healing.
@laurynnorton I’m glad you liked it! It’s awesome so many people are finding it useful and accurate— Lauren Herschel (@Lauren Herschel) 1516337379.0
@LaurenHerschel @laurynnorton Thanks Lauren! I lost both parents within 9 days. I’ve got two balls in my box. This… https://t.co/8RNZhoZRsp— Jeff Davenport (@Jeff Davenport) 1521856577.0
@jeffdavenport @laurynnorton That must have been tough. I lost my dad 22 years ago & that ball had gotten a lot sma… https://t.co/67MML2RyxI— Lauren Herschel (@Lauren Herschel) 1521857194.0
As one woman so succinctly put it, we all have to experience grief eventually, so we might as well have the language for it.
@LaurenHerschel But I'm hopeful that justice for her death, time and actually coming out of survival mode and getti… https://t.co/XWyMTTJwWk— E Gibson (@E Gibson) 1515743457.0
@emegibson I’m really sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what it is like for you. These things definitely make pe… https://t.co/NxXWk7adLQ— Lauren Herschel (@Lauren Herschel) 1515808822.0
@LaurenHerschel I hope you don't mind, I kinda stole this and put it in a notebook I keep for mental health/self he… https://t.co/e2RCPUwU1r— angelica rodriguez 🏳️🌈🇵🇷 (@angelica rodriguez 🏳️🌈🇵🇷) 1518025665.0
@LaurenHerschel A wise lady once told me that the pain you feel when you lose someone important is there to remind… https://t.co/4TY5HgyFF8— AL 🇨🇦 (@AL 🇨🇦) 1515798770.0
Hopefully, this analogy can help even more people learn how to approach and express their experience with grief. Being able to communicate your heaviness does a lot to lighten the load.