December 31, 2018
Anguish following the loss of a close family member, friend, or pet is a tricky thing to describe or explain. Everyone grieves differently, and there’s certainly no timeline for how you’re supposed to feel. To show this, Herschel drew two pictures of how sorrow changes over time and why it can bubble up randomly.
Her analogy and the pictures she sketched to explain it already have been retweeted over 4,000 times.
Herschel drew a box (square) with a ball (circle) inside. On the left side of box she penciled in a red “button.”When the grief is new,” she explained, “the ball takes up most of the box and is hitting the button, which represents pain, over and over again. The pain is fairly constant. . You can’t control it – it just keeps hurting. Sometimes it seems unrelenting.””
But, she says, “Over time time, the ball shrinks — but every now and then, it still hits the button and 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 the button when you least expect it. Maybe you see someone who reminds you of your loved one. Maybe a certain song plays on the radio. Maybe it comes out of nowhere.”
Herschel says she first heard about the analogy after the recent death of her mother, when a doctor explained it to her. It not only helped her to understand the overwhelming grief she was experiencing after such a fresh loss, but it also gave her clarity about why she still was experiencing grief over her dad (who had been gone for 20 years).
“I think in general feelings, especially the tough ones, are hard to articulate,” she said.
“For most people, the ball never really goes away,” she said in another tweet. “It might hit [with less frequency] 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.”
She advises that it can take time for the ball in your box to shrink. You shouldn’t feel rushed into getting “over” your grief, and you definitely shouldn’t feel judged for grieving, no matter how long ago it started.
Research contact: @LaurenHerschel