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A Helpful Analogy Concerning Why You Can’t ‘Just Get Over’ Grief - author unknown 
Started by eKIM
08 Jan 2021, 11:23 PM


A Helpful Analogy Concerning Why You Can’t ‘Just Get Over’ Grief      - author unknown

Grief is a tricky thing to explain and to understand.  Everyone grieves differently, and there’s certainly no timeline that lets you know how you’re supposed to feel.  The following analogy might be as close as anyone can come to a “general description” of grief.


The Ball and The Box

Pretend (for a minute) that you have a piece of paper in front of you and a pencil in hand.

To start, draw a square box. 

The box represents the parameters of your day-to-day life just after the loss of a loved one. 

Inside the box, draw a large circular ball. 

This ball represents the unpredictable rolling nature of your grief. 

On the left side of the box draw a red “button.”

The red button represents emotional pain. 

The tilting of the box mimics your sense of imbalance as you try to navigate your new life without your loved one

In the beginning, when the grief is new, the ball (your feelings of grief) is very large.  It takes up a lot of the box. 

As your life moves along unsteadily, the large rolling ball hits the button (pain), over and over again.

The pain is fairly constant.  Sometimes it seems unrelenting. You can’t control it – it just keeps hurting.

Eventually (and the timeframe is different for everyone), the ball (your grief) shrinks.  It takes up less and less space in the “box” of your day-to-day routine. 

But every now and then, your ball of grief (even though it is smaller than it was in the beginning) still hits the pain button.  Maybe you have a memory of a shared time together.  Maybe a certain song plays on the radio.  Maybe it comes out of nowhere.


For most people, the ball never really goes away, it just becomes smaller as time passes. The now smaller ball hits that pain button less often, but when it does, it hurts just as much.  But by hitting the pain button less often you have more time to recover between hits.

In some ways, your life is 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.  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.

A Few Thoughts:

It’s OK and it’s natural that you experience waves of sadness over all the things that you miss about your loved one.

It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. 

It doesn’t mean that you are weak. 

It doesn’t mean that you should have “gotten over” your grief by now. 

People who speak of closure as though it is a destination do not fully understand the Journey of Healing.  For many of us (if not most), there is no such thing as complete and total “closure”.


In general, feelings (especially the tough ones) are hard to articulate.  And the Journey of Healing is different for every person.  It is no wonder that almost no one can understand the Journey of Healing of another.

One of the problems in society is that people don’t talk enough about death or grief and the impact that it has on their lives and the lives of others. 

People don’t want to bring up the subject with the person who is grieving because they don’t want to upset the person even though the person grieving may want to unload their feelings, or simply reminisce about their loved one.

The other problem is that there are far too few people willing to simply be a compassionate listener, not to provide answers, but simply to be a peaceful presence.

This is where forums such as Canadian Virtual Hospice can play a significant role in helping people who are grieving.

I thought this was the best description of grief I’ve heard in a long time.  This analogy helps me understand why people (me included) can experience grief over losing a loved one - years, even decades later, perhaps forever.


I hope the above words bring you a measure of peace, love, hope and understanding. 

 – author unknown

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Reply by kidboots
10 Feb 2021, 8:07 PM

This is such an apt analogy. Just when I think that I am "doing OK" a piece of music or an event triggers a whole episode.
In cleaning out a cupboard yesterday I discovered a bag of letters my late partner had written to his parents when he first emigrated on his own to Canada. They are a very interesting look at his thoughts as a young man and his hopes for his new life in a new country. But reading his handwriting, hearing his typical expressions and his "voice" is almost too much. It is a visit with him and while I never want to forget it is so painful to remember.
My ball in the box is getting smaller and I know that things do settle back down eventually. So I must go on.
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Reply by eKIM
11 Feb 2021, 12:23 AM

Hi Kidboots

What an interesting example you describe of the randomness of grief.  It strikes when it wants – we really don’t have any say, it seems.

Those letters.  What a gift to be treasured forever!

I know that when my Mom passed away that sorrow was the “default emotion” for me.  And sometimes it still is.  I’ll have thoughts like “The one person who loved me unconditionally and without limits is no longer here.”

But what I found was that eventually, the time between these “grief bursts” (triggered by memories) lengthened.

Then one day, a memory came with a smile instead of a tear.  I thought of a story that my Mom told me about when I was a wee toddler.

Often now I will recall sweet memories.  It is as though Mom is tapping me on the shoulder saying, “You haven’t thought about me in a while.”

And thinking about the “cup half full or half empty”, I find the following to be helpful: 

When a memory (or a serendipitous moment like you had with the letters) comes along, I can acknowledge the sadness – I wish she were here.  But I also allow the joy to enter my heart.

It is said that the cost of great love is great pain. 

Most would gladly pay the price, because the joy of knowing and loving them is so much greater than the pain of losing them.

Kidboots, I wish you good things, wonderful things for your future as you continue on your Journey of Healing.

- eKim

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Reply by BarbaraJane
11 Feb 2021, 5:24 PM

Hello Ekim
That really is a helpful analogy of grief.   
I have felt surprised---almost shocked at times----and felt pressure to "be over it".    But I think 8 months after losing your spouse isn't a long time to "get over it".     The words here and messages are supportive and accepting.   
Thank you!
Barbara Jane 

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Reply by eKIM
13 Feb 2021, 2:43 AM

Hi Barbara Jane

I love what Dr. Alan Wolfelt has to say about the “myth of closure i.e. getting over it.

Closure is a Misconception

•  For all too many people, closure means leaving grief behind and “putting the past in the past.”

•  Sadly, it often reflects how people around you want to “move on with life,” even to the extent of inviting you to deny or ignore your grief entirely. 

•  Yet, when someone precious dies, this inappropriate goal of closure, is not only impossible but, in fact, undesirable.

•  No, nothing is wrong with us.  What’s wrong is the goal of closure.

•  “Closure” as an end goal in grief is such a common misconception that many people have thoroughly internalized it.

•  If we don’t challenge this misconception, we are at risk for considering it a given – and we will no doubt struggle when we find that we’re unable to cross the mythical finish line.


Why Do We Seek Closure?

In our society, for a multitude of reasons, we may lose patience with our grief when we really need to be self-compassionate.

Why do we look at “closure” as an achievable end-game? Why do we fail to grieve properly? 

•  In part because of our need to try to put a happy face on things.

•  A desire for instant gratification,

•  Societal short social norms for mourning,

•  And the inappropriate application of linear time-frames,

•  A lack of knowledge about grief and the need to mourn,

•  Our lack of understanding of the role of hurt, pain, and suffering in the healing process,


What Is Wrong With The Goal of Closure?

•  The truth is that we as humans do not get over grief.

•  There is no shutting the door.

•  There is no tidy resolution or total sense of completion.

•  There is no discrete end point.

•  Just as love goes on, so too does grief.

•  But there is hope! There is something we can work to experience in our grief.

•  When we actively mourn – taking our grief from the inside to the outside, we are working toward healing.

•  We are moving and changing.

•  Over time and with the support of others, to mourn actively and regularly is to find ways to integrate loss into our continued living.

•  Remember – our grief comes with us, we don’t “leave it behind.” There is no closure, but there is what I call “Reconciliation  .”

The above is written by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

He has many wonderful books on grief and bereavement

Also see the article below.

On the Journey to Healing: Seek Reconciliation, Not Resolution

by Center for Loss | Dec 14, 2016 | Articles

by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.


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Reply by TrevorL
13 Feb 2021, 3:37 PM

Thank you for sharing the analogy Ekim. It is very helpful and will have to borrow it in conversations with others seeking to understand their grief. What I particularly like about the analogy is the non-judgemental and inherent randomness built into it reflects why some people may experience more grief than others.

I also appreciate the discussion of social expectations around grief and loss. When I lost my grandparents I simply didn't experience a sense of mourning or loss in a manner that disrupted my life and in the 6 years since have still not. I remember at first feeling a certain discomfort at doing as well as I was as the societal assumption was that I should not. I acknowledge that the emotional pain button may be pressed in the future as their is always a degree of uncertainty, but this analogy is helpful in highlighting that if the ball doesn't happen to hit the emotional pain button, that does not reflect negatively on you as a person.
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