No Box Can Contain Your Grief

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Losing a loved one is a pain that never goes away.

I’m randomly grief-stricken by my mom’s death. It’s not an everyday occurrence. It occurs less and less over time, but the pain is still strong whenever it happens. She has been dead for over twenty years.

I was watching a retrospective on Rap music. A video of the rapper, Big Daddy Kane, came on. It transported me through time. My eyes filled with tears.

My mom loved that video because it reminded her of my son, her grandson. She would show that darn video to anyone who came to visit her. I must have seen it one-hundred thousand times.

About a year ago, a tweet by @LaurenHerschel captured the feeling and power of grief well. @LaurenHerschel’s tweet gave me a framework to understand how I can feel so much pain regarding my mom’s death after so much time has passed.

I forwarded the tweet to a few of my friends. We discussed it. All of us agreed that it provided a different perspective of the flashbacks that overtake a person without warning. The change in perspective helped us understand ourselves better.

Below are @LaurenHerschel’s series of tweets on grief. The tweets help understand grief from a different perspective. They helped me with the unexpected feelings of sadness triggered by random memories years after my mom died. Those feelings stop me in my tracks.

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“After what has been a surprisingly okish Christmas, I had a moment today in Superstore. Saw a lady who reminded me of my 92yo grandma, who even in the early stages of dementia, completely understood that my mom died. I thought I’d share the Ball in the Box analogy my Dr. told me.,”

“So grief is like this:

There’s a box with a ball in it. And a pain button. And no, I am not known for my art skills. “


“In the beginning the ball is huge. You can’t move the box without the ball hitting the pain button. It rattles around on its own in there and hits the button over and over. You can’t control it-it just keeps hurting. Sometimes it seems unrelenting.,”

@Lauren Herschel

“Over time the ball gets smaller, it hits the button less and less but when it does it hurts just as much. It’s better because you can function day to day more easily. But the downside is that the ball randomly hits the button when you least expect it.,” @LaurenHerschel

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This explanation makes sense. I don’t experience mom’s loss as often as I did years ago. My stomach twists, my breath catches, my head hurts. Tears leap into my eyes. It blows apart my heart. Her passing is close, nearby. At that instant, she died only a moment ago. I’m on the phone with my brother wailing at the unfairness of her passing. I know now it is the ball hitting the pain button.

The logic helps me. When the ball hits the pain button, I’ll find somewhere to sit down, take a few deep breaths. If I can get a warm drink, I do so. I take whatever time is needed to recover from that memory jolt. Once I recover, I continue with whatever I was doing, sad but fine.

@LaurenHerschel tweet helped me deal with the pain pragmatically. I hope it helps you too.

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