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The 'Ball in a Box' Metaphor for Grief


We all experience loss in our lives and often clients will ask me to help them understand their experience of grief. On those occasions the following metaphor has been helpful as part of that conversation.


We can think of grief as being like a box that has a pain button installed on one wall, and inside there is also a large ball. The ball is huge, filling most of the space in the box, and as a consequence it is constantly pressing the pain button. This is how grief can feel in the beginning, the pain of the loss is constant and allows little room for anything else.

But after a time, the ball starts to shrink a little. This gives it more room to move around in the box, but in doing so it still presses the pain button frequently...and this can make it feel as though it is never-ending. The ball continues to slowly shrink, enabling it to move about more and more...rattling around and relentlessly banging against that pain button.


Eventually the ball shrinks enough that it hits the pain button less, so we start to feel like we can function day to day better, but when it does hit that pain button it hurts just as much as it always has!


For lots of people the ball never shrinks away completely to nothing, it just becomes small enough that it only hits the pain button from time to time - the downside of this is that it can happen randomly and when we least expect it, but the plus side is that the box now has space for all the love and wonderful memories of the one we have lost.


I hope you find this metaphor helpful!



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