Its Okay if the Ball is Large

This is not my analogy. Lauren Herschel posted about this on Twitter and I wanted a more permanent (for me at least) place to remind myself its okay to not be okay when the ball is large.

After her mother died, she struggled with the various feelings that come and go. Her doctor gave her the “Ball and Box” analogy. What follows is a copy of her posts.

The Ball in the Box -  a crude drawing of a ball in a box.

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.

Lauren Herschel
A giant ball in a box, filling it, and a pain button on the side.

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.

Lauren Herschel
The very large ball in the box is bouncing around, but no matter what it hits the pain button.

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.

Lauren Herschel
The ball in the box is smaller now, but it still bounces around.

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. I thought this was the best description of grief I’ve heard in a long time.

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. “The Ball was really big today. It wouldn’t lay off the button. I hope it gets smaller soon.”

Slowly it is.

Lauren Herschel

My ball has been far too large for what feels like forever. Just as it gets smaller, it gets large again or it hits that button. And as more grief enters your life, the ball gets bigger. Sometimes it’s bumpy and touches more. Round and round it goes. And every damn time the ball hits the button, it’s exhausting.

Right now, we all have larger than normal grief balls. Larger than our own personal normal. Things have been shit for 3 years, and so many people are acting like it didn’t change the world irrevocably. Everything sucks.

This is your reminder.

Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with others. Take breaks when you can. Cry. It’s okay not to be okay.

Maybe the ball will be smaller tomorrow.