This Ball And Box Analogy Perfectly Explains Coping With Grief

Grief is an emotion; one of the expressions that people experience when they have pain in their life. This pain comes across when we lose someone. Our life becomes empty and we miss them over time. The change in the frequency and intensity of suffering goes on with life. This experience varies from person to another and sometimes it is not possible to completely overcome the pain of a loss, no matter how much someone tries to forget the pain and compensate for the loss. 

The Ball And The Box  

In this process of understanding normal grief, Lauren Herschel first introduced this analogy on twitter. The Ball and The Box analogy tries to explain how people feel grief and how it changes over time. And most importantly, why it can pop up randomly as time goes by. To better understand it, see the following pictures below. The metaphor of a ball, a box, and a button is viewed respectively as grief, life and pain.

The pain experienced is also seen in the context of what was the loss and how major it was? For example, a relative’s death might be less painful and prolonged than losing another family member or a close friend, depending on the relationship quality and the time they spend together. As the box of life continuously moves, ball rattles and hit the pain button usually all the time, at least when the ball is quite huge. 

Beginning Of Grief

Imagine a big square closed four-sided box where a huge ball is placed and below is a pain button. There is very little space to move within this box of life. 

When the ball is quite big and rattles within the box, the chances of hitting the pain button and feeling negative emotions are great. This is what happens in the initial stage of grief. It is suggested that it takes about two years approximately to normalize oneself from a loss. 

Resolving A Period Of Grief

As grief becomes old, the ball gets smaller and smaller. Now, imagine a big box of life and a small ball of grief. 

As life moves after years of loss and the ball rattles around the pain button and stick below at the base of the box. Thus, the ball rarely hits the pain button, which means less unpleasant experiences, emotions, and thoughts that might distress you. This pain trigger turns into a random encounter that occurs occasionally. In time, the memories of the loss don’t activate the pain that the person experienced before. 


There are many different ways to explain and understand the process of grief and pain that comes along in life. The use of metaphors and similar examples like the ball and the box smoothly transfers the cognitive process of grief with a choice of comfortable words to move on and live our daily life in a non-threatening manner. Human beings can’t control this grief, and they can’t help themselves from hitting the pain button. The perception of people differs, but the process remains the same. 

Feel free to imagine and focus on this process to deal with disturbing feelings, and don’t forget to share this with your loved ones, friends and family to increase awareness of grief resolution. 

Written by Nazish Idrees

Nazish is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Nutritional Advisor. She is a highly qualified PhD Scholar, completed her B.Sc. in Clinical Psychology.

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