The Ball and the Box

My dad died on June 2nd, 2019 from lung cancer. He was 57 years old.

He fought lung cancer from January 24th 2019 (the date he was diagnosed) for 129 days until he passed away on June 2nd.

I’ve never really lost anyone close to me before. My grandparents had all passed away by the time I was 16 and lived farther away. I’ve been very fortunate to have avoided grieving and losing a close friend or family member for 23 years.

A few weeks after he had passed away, a friend of mine sent me this article about the ball and the box. It goes something like this:

This is a ball in a box. There is a red button. When the red button gets pushed, it hurts. It makes you sad, it brings back all of the grief and sorrow, it brings pain and tears.


When you first lose someone or something, the ball is BIG. It is HEAVY. The ball sits on the button and brings unrelenting pain. It feels like the ball will always be this big and this heavy. The button is pushed over and over.


As time goes on, the ball gets smaller. The button is pushed often but it does let up sometimes. The ball isn’t as big or as heavy but still hurts just as bad when the button is pushed but you can move the box without pushing the button.


Once the ball becomes smaller, you can go about your day without fear and function day to day until the button gets pushed out of nowhere. It hurts just as bad as when it first got pushed and can bring you to your knees. But now, you have more time to recover in between hits because the ball is smaller and might not hit again for awhile.


The ball never fully goes away. It fluctuates in size and weight. Sometimes it is smaller, sometimes it is larger. It might be larger around holidays, birthdays or anniversaries.

My family sometimes uses this when we don’t want to talk about it. When they ask me “What’s wrong? Why are you crying in the middle of a perfectly normal afternoon?” I can tell them without further explanation: “My ball is really big this week.” or “My button just got pushed.” Or it can be a great conversation starter. I’ve found that if my ball is big and heavy that my family might also have a big ball this week.

This explanation really helped me when I was trying to explain my grief to others and I know it helped my family be able to describe their grief as well.

Please feel free to share this with someone who might also be struggling with grief or loss.

Thank you for sharing this with me Karinne <3

19 thoughts on “The Ball and the Box

  1. Kathleen S says:

    I’ve described it as waves. Sometimes it’s a tsunami – unrelenting. Over time, the frequency and intensity of the waves overall diminish but it can still happen out of the blue at an time.

    One does not get over grief. One incorporates it into their ‘normal’ mode. WE adapt. we have to. It’s not fun at all, but we do it.

    My loss was 20 years ago of a child 30 minutes after delivery who had massive multiple birth defects. It’s being pregnant with someone who is terminally ill. Even to this day, the waves can come….

    You are coping well as a family. Lean into each other.

  2. Susie at ProsperityStuff says:

    Yep. This seems to line up with my experience with grief … My dad died when I was a kid, and I’ve found that grief doesn’t go away. But grief gets different with the passing of time. The ball/box/button illustration is really good. Thanks for sharing.

    • Betty Price says:

      I have several balls in my life…..I’ve lost a Mom and 3 siblings. So have various size balls going all at once. Thanks for this wonderful analogy.

  3. Diane H says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. My mother died suddenly three years ago. The ball is an excellent description of the grieving process that I will share with my father.

  4. Jannette B. says:

    This is such a great way to explain grieving! I shared it with our grief group at church – hubby lost his mom in May, and I lost my dad in Dec. – and most of the group found it quite helpful.
    Thanks for sharing it!

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