Why is grief called a ‘ball in a box’? (+9 Coping strategies)

The current article will be answering why grief is called a ‘ball in a box’. The ‘ball in a box’ analogy is often used by mental health professionals to describe or explain the process of grief in a simple manner for everyone to understand.

Why is grief called a ‘ball in a box’?

Grief is often called a ‘ball in a box’ because the feelings of grief often come and go just as a bouncy ball would do when it is inside a box. When it hits the pain center the grief can be experienced through overt behaviors and actions.

While the ‘ball in a box’ analogy is used by many mental health professionals like therapists to explain grief and its effects to their clients, this analogy actually became very popular online when Twitter user, Lauren Herschel shared a few images explaining the ball in the box.

According to Lauren Herschel, her therapist explained that grief is like a bouncy ball as seen in the picture above. When the trauma has recently occurred, the amount of grief is pretty high and the ball is big enough to hit the center of pain as depicted by the little red box on the side.

Since the levels of grief are high, the ball often touches the pain center causing the person to feel sad and depressed often. As time goes on, the size of the ball reduces as the person gradually heals and copes with the loss.

Since now the ball is much smaller in size, the rate at which it hits the pain center is much lesser. Therefore, the person may not overtly show their grief much now when compared to the initial stages of the loss.

However, this does not mean that the person is completely over the loss since grief almost never ends. The ball still bounces around and may stimulate the pain center every now and then, sending the person into a low state again.

How to cope with grief as a ‘ball in a box’?

Losing a loved one or simply grieving the loss of anything is not an easy thing to do. Since grief is often compared to a ‘ball in a box’, there are many ways to cope to reduce the size of the ball and prevent it from touching the pain center. Some ways to cope are:

By giving it time

Time is perhaps the biggest healer of grief. With time, the size of the grief ball in the box will gradually decrease and the chances of it hitting the pain center will also reduce. The pain effects further decrease in intensity as time goes on.

It may seem difficult at the time of loss that time will actually heal the pain. But think about how you will be a few months from now, or perhaps a year from now. Thinking of positive times much later on will help you deal better with the grief as of now.

By venting or expressing emotions

Another great thing that you can do is to vent and express your emotions. Many people may try bottling up their feelings inside and may not express their fears. This only gives more power to the ball and the effects from the pain center will also be stronger.

You can express your emotions in any way you want since there is no wrong way to do so. If you feel like crying, or whining, or expressing your anger, you can try these things as long as you don’t physically hurt yourself or someone else.

By creating a first-aid kit

Now and then the grief ball will hit the pain center causing you to relive the whole losing experience again. You can create a mental first-aid kit where you can use trusted coping strategies to deal with the effects of the pain center being stimulated.

In this first-aid kit, you can include exercises like deep breathing, counting backwards, repeating affirmations and others to help you heal when your grief ball presses the pain center. You can even have certain visual cues like a slip or a bracelet to remind you to keep using these exercises.

By talking to someone about it

You can also try talking to someone else about it. This could be a friend or a relative whom you trust. You can also join a support group where you will find others who have been through a similar experience as you.

If you are lucky enough to have a couple of close friends with you, they can be a great part of your support system. Often, people may find it difficult to express their feelings to those from their own family for fear of judgment, and may feel free to talk with their friends.

By actively moving on

If you have recently lost someone or are dealing with the grief of losing something precious, sometimes the ball may be too big that it will not allow you to think about anything else or even do anything else.

But, this only gives more power to the ball. Instead, try scheduling your days so that you have something to look forward to. You can also include little self-care activities that you can use to improve the state of your mental health.

By changing your perspective

You can also try changing your perspective about the whole thing through positive reframing. This does not mean that you think that the loss was a good thing, but this means that you have decided to focus on the positive things that bring you happiness.

By focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship that you had with the person, you will be able to hold on to only the good memories. You can also focus on the fact that these memories still keep your relationship with the person alive and full.

By becoming more spiritual

Many people have found their way to spirituality after the loss of someone special or because of some other traumatic incident in their lives. The thing about spirituality is that it does not exactly shrink the size of the grief ball, but it can actually help you deal better with the pain.

Spirituality can be experienced in several forms and modes and does not always have to be religion-based. If you are new to the concept of spirituality, you can try spending some time in silence every day or even start becoming more aware of nature and its energy around you.

By starting a ritual

The ritual referred to here is not a magic ritual but more a coping ritual. For example, creating a scrapbook of the memories that you shared with the person or even lighting a candle to remember them every day.

This may seem like you are holding on to the past, but only serves as a coping tool until you need it. Some people also donate to orphanages or shelters as part of this ritual. Whatever the ritual may be, these can also help you cope better with the pain.

By consoling others

Sometimes the best way to console and cope with grief yourself is to simply console someone else. However, this may not be possible when you are new to grief since the ball may be big enough to activate the pain center much too often.

When some time has gone and you have learnt to cope with the effects of the pain center being stimulated, you can start offering what you know to help others in their grief process. You can also join a support group as a mentor to help others who might not have the resources you do.


The current article has answered why grief is called a ‘ball in a box’, which is an analogy often used by mental health professionals to describe or explain the process of grief in a simple manner for everyone to understand.

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