A Note on Grief


by Julia Ford

There are about a million and a half sayings about grief. Most of them suck. The majority of them are cheesy. No matter how hard I search for some words of wisdom on how to deal with grief, I can’t help but fall into a rabbit hole of grainy images with quotes written in cursive on an uber-Christian Facebook page. But, the closest one I found has been an analogy about a box.

Yes, a box. It describes grief as if you are a box, and there is a tiny red ball bouncing around inside of you, constantly. In one of the corners of your box, there is a grief button. The ball doesn’t really have any specific direction, but it is constantly moving. So, the ball is bound to hit the button pretty frequently. It depends on the day, though. Sometimes, the button is so big that it covers up the entire side of the box, and the ball just keeps slamming into it as if you’re practicing tennis against a wall. Other days the button remains its normal button-size, and your red ball floats aimlessly, like a balloon in a soft wind. And of course, there are variations between these extremes.

The most important thing to note about the red ball is, you have no control over it. You can be sitting with your best friends on this planet, having a delicious meal with a side of laughter, and suddenly the red ball will slam into the button. It is truly a random occurrence, like the worst type of lottery there is. And then, as if it didn’t even happen, the ball can bounce around again and hang out in the corner opposite of the button.

Grief is a really hard thing to explain, especially because there are so many different variations and processes within it. It’s hard to explain to people what support you need while you are grieving because half of the time you aren’t in a state to comprehend what your mind is doing. But, there are a few things you just shouldn’t say to people who are grieving.

Hear me out until the end on this one: Sometimes, when I am grieving, people try to offer words of advice and comfort. On the days when that button just keeps getting pressed, over and over again, the go-to line is, “I’m sorry, I can’t imagine that happening to me.” Okay! Okay. That is okay— I don’t want you to know what it feels like to lose your Dad just four months into his battle with cancer. I would not wish that on anyone, ever.

Losing a parent is one of the most rotten things this world has to offer, and I’m glad that not many people have experienced it at 19 years old. It is important to note that you can have a body full of empathy without experiencing the things that people describe to you. And you don’t have to try to put yourself in my shoes, I don’t want you to do that. My shoes are a very shitty spot to be in and they won’t fit your feet.

If you are someone who is grieving, you have to know you are not alone. Even if it feels like you are Atlas, all by yourself shaking under the weight of the world, I promise you there is someone nearby who feels the same and who will lend you a hand. Vulnerability is something I am still working on embracing, hence this piece. I wish I had the answers on how to cope with grief, I really do, but the important thing is we don’t have to search for them alone. 

Grief has been a constant in my life, and it comes in different waves when I least expect it. There is no tide schedule to when life’s hardest moments are going to crash down on you, they just come. If you know someone who is grieving, the best thing to do is listen. Listen, listen, listen.

Check in on your friends, even if it has been months, years, or decades since the incident that causes them grief happened. No matter how much time has passed and will pass, the button is always in the box.