LIFE ETC: Mind Not-So-Trivial Pursuit ; in Times of Grief, You Wouldn't Expect Help from a Board Game. but All the Stars above Is about to Change That, as Catherine Jarvie Explains
Jarvie, Catherine, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
When Daisy Luiten's mother passed away from cancer 10 years ago, the impact of her death hit Daisy hard. 'I looked for someone to help me cope,' she recalls. But at that time in the Netherlands, where Luiten is based, she found it hard to find someone who specialised in grief counselling. When she finally did, it was a revelation: 'I found it hard to talk about my feelings,' she says, 'so I was encouraged to draw and paint my emotions. It really helped me to express myself. I never realised that people were working in this area and I thought, 'I want to do something like this as well."
Luiten was studying graphic design at the time but, after graduating, decided to retrain in art therapy. She also volunteered at workshops in which young people who'd lost a parent were brought together to sit and talk about their experiences with others their own age. It was through seeing how effective these exchanges could be that she hit upon the idea of creating All The Stars Above, a board game that is designed to help the recently bereaved cope with their grief.
The idea of playing games might seem an odd way to do this but, as Luiten points out, many of the families which have experienced bereavement, 'just don't know how to start talking about [the death]. They don't want to upset one another.' Her aim is to get people communicating again at a time when they are so busy second- guessing those around them that nobody is given the chance to understand others' or their own emotions and openly, honestly grieve.
The board layout may be similar, but this is no Trivial Pursuit (in any sense). For one thing, the game is played in the presence of a qualified counsellor. A roll of the dice lands players on one of eight categories ('feelings' or 'memories', for example), each of which comes with a set of questions that encourage participants to explore and express their emotions.
An Indian Talking Stick is passed to the person whose turn it is to speak, helping players open up freely and without interruption. It's not all heartfelt soul-searching, however. An essential feature of the game is that, while it allows participants the opportunity to express and explore their emotions, it also gives them some much- needed space to laugh and relax. …