Pain in the Box

[Note: This is not my theory, but it spoke to me and I have taken it one step further.]

There has been some recent buzzing online about a woman who shared the analogy her doctor had shared with her about grief.  Essentially, it explains that grief is a ball that resides within a box complete with a pain button.

Grief is a ball, and pain is a button.

In the early stages of grief, the ball is large and the grieving can hardly make a move without the pain button becoming engaged.  As time goes on, the ball becomes smaller, and the pain button is pressed more randomly and sporadically, although the resultant anguish can be just as fresh and sharp as before.  One can never “get over” grief because it is a constant in one’s life, even if the periods between the pain become longer.  There is always the potential for that switch to be flipped when it’s least expected.

I’d like to add to this analogy, though.  Over time, the initial grief diminishes, only to become enlarged during various times throughout the year birthdays, anniversaries, death dates – so the grief button is more easily engaged again.  It more quickly reduces in size after these dates pass, and the griever isn’t stuck in that phase quite as long as in the beginning, but his/her emotions and nerves are quite raw and easily affected during these times.  The pain button is pushed more frequently.

Over time, your grief becomes smaller, while the pain button remains the same.


As I write this, my own emotions have been playing racquetball with my heart and brain.  Although in many ways I am in a better place than I was a year ago, I seem to have taken a giant leap backwards in others.  My days are going along smoothly, positive events have been occurring in my life, and then *wham*, I am irrational, and hypersensitive, and unintentionally hurting those I love.

Strangely this looming third anniversary of A’s death seems to be hitting me worse than the previous two even though my grief ball should be smaller by now.  Hence the reason for my compulsion to add an addendum to the analogy.  I figure if I’m feeling it, chances are pretty good that many fellow widows, widowers, and middows© feel this way, too.

I’m not sure if each day that brings me further from the life I had and into the life I now live is affecting me more than I expected it to at this point, or what, but there it is.  I am a bundle of nerves and heartache, and testing the limits of understanding of those around me.  I have always been insecure, but these past few weeks I have even shocked myself with the absolute uncertainty and self-doubt of which I’m apparently capable.

One saving grace is that because my pain button isn’t constantly engaged, I do have moments of joy and clarity amid the misery.  Another is that although I have been a bit of a porcupine (understatement) and given him so many reasons not to be, S has been patient and understanding through it all.

So I will get through this, much as I have gotten through everything else life has thrown at me in these past three years. I just hope my grief doesn’t push someone else’s pain button too hard in the meantime.

© 2019 Many Faces of Cheri G All Rights Reserved

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