Grieving is never easy, it can be both devastating and elevating – perhaps in that order. For me, it first pulled the rug out from under me, before revealing another foundation to stand on. My name is Henry, and I am one of Apart of Me’s guides.
My father died two years ago from pancreatic cancer, just after I finished high school. I witnessed how he withered away during his last months while fighting bravely with his chemotherapy and trying his best to keep me and my mother comforted. When he died, I was on the other side of this planet, fulfilling one of my greatest dreams of travelling through Japan while hoping that everything would turn out well. Although there were some signs of his recovery, this story didn’t have a happy end.
This is how I found myself on my own, in a strange land and without friends or family to help me in my grief. Looking back, it felt heavy to carry my grief that way, but at the same time liberating as well, as there was nobody I had to share it with. That was when I felt silence not as a thick blanket, but a spacious opening to be in.
Naturally, after a while, I turned towards a medium that I was very familiar with and felt really resonated with me: videogames. A thorough search revealed a few of what became known as “serious games” – games with a purpose other than entertainment, mostly in education. Apart of Me seemed like a good entry, and I fell in love with its beaches, forests, and fireflies almost immediately*. It provided me with a sense of agency and a retreat to experience and explored my grief in a protected space. It became a daily companion for almost two months for me, as I was always looking forward to exploring a little more of the island (and perhaps prudent enough not to complete the game in one session).
However, there came the day when I reached the game’s last level as a “guide”, discovered all the island’s secrets, and turned around every digital stone in that secluded world. That adventure came to an end, but I was in no way ready to leave this path yet. Then I decided to reach out to the team behind the game, hoping that I could possibly give a little back for everything I received from them. As it turned out, a guide was not just an in-game position but rather a role in the organisation, as Apart of Me actively co-creates their game with the help of young people who went through their grief journey!
And this is how I joined the team of guides and started an adventure that lasts onto the present day. Led by absolutely amazing professionals, we help to improve the game and the resources created by Apart of Me based on our own experiences. Whether it is ideation, design, testing or translation – wherever we can help, we do. In addition to our work within the organisation, we help when Apart of Me reaches out through various media channels. For instance, I can highly recommend our latest presence in the BBC’s humans fixing the world podcast episode “Can computer games improve mental health?”.
We need a lot of brainpower for everything we do and are thus always looking for people to join our team of guides! If you have any questions regarding Apart of Me or the guides, please feel free to reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org!
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” ― Jamie Anderson