Grief, Depression, and Healing through Gaming

I’ve read books that handle the topic of mental health extremely well, such as Eliza and Her Monsters. I’d dare say most of us have seem films or TV series, or read books, that touched us deeply and maybe even pushed us toward personal growth and healing. I’d never experienced that with a game before, though, until playing through Gris over the past couple weeks.

Gris is a single-player adventure game by indie developer Nomada Studio, where you play as “a hopeful young girl lost in her own world, dealing with a painful experience in her life.” The game is a “journey through sorrow,” and you help Gris “navigate her faded reality.” In addition to being the character’s name, gris means “gray” in Spanish and that reflects the gray world where you begin gameplay.

I bought Gris after it came up in my Rhetoric of Gaming class (a special topics course I’m taking during this semester of grad school). I expected to enjoy the game, knowing it has a beautiful soundtrack, stunning animation (it’s gorgeous even on my laptop that’s not designed for gaming), and frustration-free gameplay where you’re challenged by puzzles but not worried about running out of time or dying. I hadn’t expected it to move me to tears so many times or make me want to write about mental health.

I suspect one of the reasons Gris resonated so strongly with me is because of my interest in how people talk about mental health in everyday conversation and various forms of media. As my regular readers know, I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since I was about 15, and I also lost a close friend to a car accident seven years ago. Gris pulled all those feelings of hurt, sorrow, and sadness up to the surface, punctuated them with moments of beauty and hope, and handled them with great care.

mild spoilers ahead

Grief, Depression, and Healing through Gaming | LikeAnAnchor.com

One of the things that stood out to me in particular about Gris is that they didn’t fall into the trap of oversimplifying grief and depression. It wasn’t a smooth, easy journey out of despair nor was it something that happened in an overly linear fashion. Most people don’t experience depression or grief as a moment of dull, faded, gray in their lives that grows gradually lighter and lighter until finally the world is set right again. It’s more like what happens in Gris as you travel steadily toward something hopeful and light and good, and you still go through cycles when the darkness comes back and seems ready to devour or choke you. But you do get through it, and even though the marks of when you fell apart are still there you are whole again.

end spoilers

I’d go so far as to say that playing Gris has the potential to be a healing experience, particularly for those who’ve struggled with depression and grief. While it’s no substitute for professional counseling and/or personal healing work, Gris is a powerful example of the potential that games–and art in general–have as a positive force in this world.

The Beatitudes, Part Two: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

“Beatitude” means “a state of blessedness,” and it’s used to describe the type of people Jesus spoke about in the beginning of His famous sermon on the mount. We talked about the first one last week, so today we move on to the second.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4, all quotes from WEB translation)

The Greek word translated “blessed” is makarios (G3107), which means blessed and happy (Thayer’s dictionary) and is a state of being “fully satisfied” (Zodhiates’ dictionary). Seems like an odd word to pair with mourning, doesn’t it? I’m not sure about you, but “happy” and “satisfied” aren’t usually what I think of when I think of grief and lament, even if it comes with a promise of comfort. What is Jesus talking about here?

A Time to Weep, A Time To Mourn

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven … a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecc. 3:1, 4)

Mourning is right and proper in its time. While joy is a fruit of God’s spirit, He does not demand unrelenting cheerfulness from us. There is a time for mourning, weeping, grief, and lament. It can even be good for us to experience those feelings. “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,” it says in Ecclesiastes, because death reminds us of what really matters in life (Ecc. 7:1-4).

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament, mourn, and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10)

Mourning is a proper response to realizing that we have personally sinned, and that the world is twisted by humanity’s sins and the devil’s influence. This type of mourning is often connected with a realization of our spiritual helplessness (which is covered in the first Beatitude) and it can lead to the sort of humility that it’s good for us to have in relation to God.

To Comfort All Who Mourn

Of course, not all mourning is a good thing. In many cases, it’s prompted by the sorts of unjust, tragic, grief-inducing events that God intends to put an end to in His kingdom (the sort of events we were reminded of yesterday, on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks). One day, God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more” (Rev. 21:4). That time has not yet come, but God still cares deeply about us when we’re in pain and He offers comfort.

The Lord Yahweh’s Spirit is on me, because Yahweh has anointed me to preach good news to the humble. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of Yahweh’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion, to give to them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Yahweh, that he may be glorified. (Is. 61:1-3)

Jesus fulfilled this scripture by coming to earth and beginning His ministry (Luke 4:16-21). And what an incredible blessing it is that the Word, God, would come from heaven to earth in a human body with the expressed purpose of comforting those who mourn!

Fully Satisfied With and By God

The Beatitudes, Part Two: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Jantanee via Lightstock

In his definition of makarios, Spiros Zodhiates says, “In the biblical sense, a blessed person is one whom God makes fully satisfied, not because of favorable circumstances, but because He indwells the believer through Christ.” Those who mourn are not blessed simply because they’re in distress, but because God responds to human distress with comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound to us, even so our comfort also abounds through Christ. (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

God knows what it’s like to grieve and, because of Christ’s sacrifice, what it’s like to suffer as a human being. When we turn to Him for comfort, He responds in a way that makes us blessed even when external circumstances are terrible. Though His presence may not take away our reasons for mourning or the unpleasant feelings that go along with that, He is there. He does not abandon us, and that is indeed a blessing.

 

Featured image credit: Shaun Menary via Lightstock

Why Is It So Hard For Certain Personality Types To “Just Get Over It”?

You know when you’re struggling with something bad that happened to you and someone says, “Just get over it,” but you know it’s not that simple? For some reason, this particular hurt lodged deep inside and letting go seems well-nigh impossible.

For this post, I’m not talking about a hurt like grief over losing someone you love. We know why things like that are hard to “get over,” and in many cases it wouldn’t be appropriate to move on quickly. Most people recognize that hurts of that sort require time to heal and grieve. I’m talking about interpersonal hurts that might seem “little,” but have a big impact anyway. For example…

  • You express an authentic part of yourself (like your happy, fun-loving side), then people assume that’s all there is to your personality.
  • You receive 99% positive feedback about a project, but that 1% haunts you anyway.
  • You help someone out of the goodness of your heart, but others misinterpret your motives.
  • You decide to open up to someone, then lie awake at night worrying about their reaction.

Hurts like this touch on the core of who we are and/or our relationships with other people. These hurts are often deeply individual, and others might not understand them. If you don’t care what other people think of you, then you’re not going to understand why someone else is so upset about the one person in their life who’s a critic. If you find it easy to adapt to different social situations, you might not understand why someone’s so upset about not being able to express their true self all the time.

The reason why things like this can hurt us so deeply is often nuanced and complicated, but it has a lot to do with how we use the Feeling sides of our personalities. Everyone has a Feeling side (whether or not there’s an F in your four-letter Myers-Briggs® type), and we each use this part of our personality a little differently. Read more

A Time To Move On

Sometimes reminders to grow come as a gentle nudge. Other times they smack you upside the head.

It’s sort of the same way that God sometimes speaks to you in a still small voice and other times He uses a trumpet blast.

This past weekend the Rabbi in my Messianic church gave a message about keeping your eyes on the end goal; on what the “song-writer” of your life has planned for you. The part of this message that really stood out to me is what he said about moving on from grief. He started by reading this verse:

Yahweh said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided a king for myself among his sons.” (1 Sam. 16:1, WEB)

Because of Saul’s disobedience and pride, God rejected him and moved on to the next step in His plan. He gave the prophet Samuel time to grieve Saul, since there is “a time to mourn” (Ecc. 3:4), but now God expected him to move on. Similarly, in our lives, there is a season to mourn when something bad happens. However, we’re not meant to stay there.

I was already thinking about my breakup that happened 4 months ago when the rabbi started talking about this subject, and then he specifically used a relationship ending as an example. So when he said, “There are a few people here who really need to hear this message” I felt like I was definitely one of them.

How long will you keep grieving over something that is past and can’t be fixed or recovered? he asked. We need to look to the end, trusting God has better plans and a new season waiting for us. There are times when our situations have to come to a point where things look dead before God can raise up something else that will produce fruit. And all of this ties-in to my own blog post from Saturday, “Are You Growing Or Shrinking?”

I’m starting to feel like God’s trying to get my attention. Read more

When Heroes Can’t Save Themselves: Death and Loss in Infinity War

Even if you haven’t yet seen Avengers: Infinity War you’ve probably picked up on the vibe that not everything ends happy. Well before the film’s release there were charts out detailing which characters were safe, which ones in danger, and which ones we definitely expected to die. Even my cousin, who’s outside the MCU Fandom, wanted to see it because she had to find out who lived and who died.

Warning: Mild Spoilers Follow For Avengers: Infinity War

When Heroes Can't Save Themselves: Death and Loss in Infinity War | marissabaker.wordpress.comWhile the film has been well received overall, some are describing the deaths that do happen (and in some cases the whole movie) as pointless because we “know” pretty much how this is going to go. Coulson and Loki have already come back from death scenes in the MCU. It’s something we expect from the genre. And some of the characters that died at the end have sequel movies that are filming right now. We assume they won’t stay dead, and so might conclude that their deaths don’t matter.

It’s also been quite a shock to see earth’s and the galaxy’s mightiest heroes lose such an important battle. This isn’t the end of the story, since a sequel film is coming in May 2018, but the only one who gets a happy ending in this film is Thanos. This isn’t just the Empire scattered the rebellion and Han Solo is frozen in carbonite. This is Darth Vader got exactly what he wanted and retired to Mustafar to spend the rest of his life watching lava bubble.

Second Warning: Major Spoilers Follow For Avengers: Infinity War

Read more

Even If You Don’t: Holding On To Hope In Dark Times

We know God can do anything. So how do you react when He doesn’t do something that you beg him to? When your loved one isn’t healed? When your heartbreak feels unbearable and then something else piles on top of that? When you just don’t know how to go on, yet you have to anyway?

I’ve been going through a rough patch emotionally, especially over the past few weeks but really for a few months now. And I feel like God has thrown me some songs as “lifelines” in this time. First it was “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe and more recently it was “Even If” by MercyMe.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

I didn’t much want to sing this when it popped into my head. Actually, I couldn’t at first since all I remembered was the “But even if you don’t” line. But I looked the song up, grasping for some hope to anchor my soul, and after playing through it a few times I could breath and pray again. I’ll admit, though, that there was still a part of me crying out, “Why?” when I thought about Him choosing not to take away the sorrow and hurt. And it’s okay to do that. As my counselor said, God is big enough to handle it when His kids are frustrated with Him.

Hope is one of the key things that gets us through the times when we’re frustrated with God and don’t understand what He’s doing. And it’s something I don’t think we talk about enough. Paul tells us “faith, hope and love remain”  (1 Cor. 13:13, WEB). They’re all three virtues that aren’t going away, but we talk about faith and love a whole lot more than hope. Which is a shame, because hope is something that’s very much needed in this world. Read more