By Chanda Alicea
Pardon the interruption from the current series I’m touching on to use this week to talk about grief, and the most PERFECT ANALOGY I’ve ever heard about it.
A very close friend and I were talking a last Wednesday after she had shared on Facebook how it had been a decade since a close friend of hers had passed. During our text conversation, she mentioned the “Ball in the Box” analogy. I had NO idea what she was talking about. She found the Twitter link and shared it with me. I’m sharing the shortened version of this analogy with you along with the pictures that go with it. If you want to see the whole thing, google it and it should take you to an article with the explanation from @LaurenHerschel on Twitter.
Lauren states that her doctor explained to her that grief is like a box that has a ball and a pain button in it. When we first experience loss, the ball in the box is so big that it takes up most of the space in the box and when it moves, it hits the button and hurts like hell. We all know that time does not heal all wounds, but as time passes, the ball shrinks, bounces around the box, and the instances of it hitting the button are not as frequent. But when the ball hits the button, the pain hurts the same as it did in the very beginning. Are you as mind blown as I was by this COMPLETELY ACCURATE analogy?? You might be wondering why I am bringing this up.
I wanted to talk about this, because right now, as I start this week, I’m facing 2 separate days that mark the passing of 2 important people in my life. 12 years ago today on the 16th of September, my dear sweet, amazing kindhearted friend passed away. We lived in separate states at the time of her passing, and the heartbreak of not being able to say goodbye is something I will always struggle coming to terms with. She was pure light. To say that I miss her immensely doesn’t even begin to cover it. I find no coincidence that she and my mother share the same middle name, so it was undoubtedly meant to be that I gave my daughter the middle name of 2 great women who mean so much to me.
Sometimes I find this week to be a blur of emotions as I try to stand strong and not crumple up under the weight of the grief since 2 days later on the 18th is the “anniversary” of my grandfather’s passing. By the time I was 10 years and 1 day old, I had already lived longer without my grandfather than with him, but as of this moment, I can tell you that in the near 33 years that have passed, IT STILL FEELS LIKE IT DID WHEN I WAS 5. My button is being pushed and it hurts so damn much. To be quite honest, a lot of uncontrollable sobbing has occurred as my fingers have hit the keys to share these words.
As a parent, I look forward to the day that I can tell my daughter (when she is old enough to solidly understand life and death) all the amazing and wonderful things about these 2 people she never got to meet. But to think about it in this moment, literally wrecks me. It is a heartbreaking, ugly crying, and earth-shattering type of hurt. It’s like an elephant of sadness is sitting on my chest and I can’t push it off. It also makes me realize how short and precious life really is and how one day, I’ll have to explain to her the ball in the box as she moves through a loss of her own. Now I can’t talk about grief without mentioning anger. This is because there are times that I’m mad at the world. I look at her and am angered because I know what she missed out on. I know how much each of them would have loved and adored her. I know how each of them would have gotten such a kick out of her spunky personality and would have let me know how much like me they think she is.
The flip side to all of these emotions, are the years where the ball doesn’t hit the button. There are years where my mom and I speak of my grandfather and we can make it through a conversation albeit choked up, but not having a complete sob fest and that’s a win, because quite frankly he was THE BEST! I hate that my time with him was cut short, but also, I hurt for my mom. My heart breaks for her because they were so close and I know it has to be a bittersweet feeling when she talks about him. I see that twinkle in her eyes coupled with a sadness that I can’t relate to. I don’t honestly know if her ball ever misses the button. I think for some people (like me) it’s always going to hit. I also think that for all of us, no matter how you break it down, that ball is a real monstrous jerk. I can’t speak to whether or not the pain ever goes away or if the ball stops hitting completely.
As sad as this topic may seem, I wanted to share because this emotion is tough to navigate. When you are knee deep in loss and grief, you aren’t thinking about how you can give someone a sensible explanation of what you are feeling. Aside from tears, we can’t see or physically feel each other’s hurt. We have all lost someone or know someone who has suffered loss and I think we can all benefit from keeping this analogy in mind when trying to help ourselves or someone else.
XOXO – Chanda