We 'hit the pain button' every time we're reminded of our loved ones, irrespective of many years it's been since they passed.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 6, 2021. It has since been updated.
Losing a loved one can be incredibly painful. Every waking moment feels like you're being engulfed by grief. You feel such a weight on your heart that you feel it constrict your breathing. Truth be told, you can choose your words and rearrange them as much you like, but it's incredibly hard to describe what it feels like to lose a loved one. To cope with the grief, it's important to come to terms with the various stages of grief, before eventually finding solace. Twitter user Lauren Herschel used an analogy that she learned from her psychiatrist and it just feels right. Countless Twitter users could relate to what Herschel had shared and recounted their own personal losses and how they hoped to find solace.
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
Herschel had lost her mother and was finding it incredibly difficult to cope with the loss. As she tried to make sense of it, her psychiatrist said something that really struck her — grief never truly goes away. That was the simple truth and understanding that was important in making peace with it. Herschel's psychiatrist told her that memories associated with a person can often trigger pain. It could be an old song, it could a movie scene or an inside joke. “I think we absolutely need to talk about grief and death more,” Herschel told Bored Panda. “It is normal, yet so many people feel like they can’t talk about it, or can only talk about it for a short prescribed period right after someone passes. But grief is a longer journey than that.”
So grief is like this:— Lauren Herschel (@LaurenHerschel) December 29, 2017
There’s a box with a ball in it. And a pain button.
And no, I am not known for my art skills. pic.twitter.com/XDwCCdXVkc
Herschel believes it's good to feel grief years after the loss. It gives you a small reminder of happier times. "I don’t think it’s something you can wish away at any point,” said Herschel. Her psychiatrist told her that grief felt like a big ball in a box with a pain button within the box. Initially, the big ball keeps hitting the pain button but with time it gets smaller and thus hits the pain button with a lesser frequency. As old memories pop up, you hit the pain button again. To sum it up, while the frequency of the feeling of the pain gets spaced out with time, the pain never truly goes away. “I still refer to this analogy example. The 23rd anniversary of my Dad's passing was Valentine’s Day – old feelings of grief do pop up for sure but now I have a way of making more sense of them, and I also know it’s more normal than I previously thought years ago,” she added.
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
Lauren said it was important to not force yourself to "get over it." It's never easy having to deal with these feelings, but with time you can make peace with them. The response to Herschel's Twitter thread showed that people could easily relate to the metaphor. The tweet has since been liked more than 24.7k times and retweeted 12.2k times. “The reaction to the tweets has been surprising,” said Herschel. “It kind of comes and goes in waves of people seeing it – which is great. I think it’s one of those things we find when we really need it.”
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
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.
I want you to know that this is literally one of the best things I have ever read on Twitter... #theballgetssmaller ♥️♥️♥️— Lauryn Norton (@laurynnorton) January 19, 2018
I hope you don't mind, 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. pic.twitter.com/Q9TjlCpuPX— angelica rodriguez 🏳️🌈🇵🇷 (@ReinaDeLaIsla) February 7, 2018
Thanks Lauren! I lost both parents within 9 days. I’ve got two balls in my box. This analogy helps! pic.twitter.com/DxZMO7bx58— Jeff Davenport (@jeffdavenport) March 24, 2018
That is such an accurate description. My dad died in 1978 and my mum in 2013 but the ball hit the button out of the blue when my son got into university and I couldn’t tell my parents. You don’t ‘get over’ the loss, you learn to live with the absence.— Peg Morris💙 (@pegmorrisart) December 23, 2018
If you're struggling to cope with grief, and need help, please reach out to Crisis Response at 1-800-203-CARE (2273)