One of my favourite pastimes is to play board or card games. Even now with adult children a Scrabble box and a deck of cards is always on hand to play and start a conversation.
Engaging in the process of the game, the thrill of winning and the banter that naturally occurs can really help to focus thoughts and may also as prompts to introduce a topic or get a conversation going.
Most people 30 years and younger would have socialised with each other through watching and playing games. Even those who share realistic, action-packed video games still play board games. The social aspect of playing a game provides activity with a purpose. When players have their attention focused on the board, sensitive issues can be approached indirectly. Taking turns to engage with fictitious scenarios or problems helps to keep the game engaging.
Games with ‘Death’ as a theme rarely come to mind when we think about board games or fun time.
Yet there are a range of these types of games such as board games or card games, and increasingly online and video games.
One of the board games we have in the Irish Hospice Foundation Library is the Grief Game. This is a game targeted at children and adolescents to help them talk about and discuss aspects of bereavement.
The Saying Goodbye board game is targeted at younger children. This is a game that helps children understand what death means and also offers narrative examples and exercises to help them cope with bereavement.
All About Me is a board game developed by Barnardo’s. The game is described as a pathway to discovery for a child on a trail along which you can accompany the child to offer support and reassure them along the way.
We also have the UnGame a board game developed by Rhea Zakich, and described as be a self-expression game. Rhea Zakich lost her ability to speak after undergoing throat surgery. This experience led her to the development of the game where the premise that it is important to communicate your wishes and desires to those in your life in case the situation arises and you cannot speak for yourself. Not everyone gets the heads-up to the possibility that this type of communication loss could result from a traumatic event.
Card Games are another great way to get a conversation going about Death and Dying. One such is the deck of Grave Talk published by Church House Publishing. In this card game there are no answers just thought-provoking questions to get the players thinking and talking. The Go Wish card game published by Coda Alliance (http://ww.codaalliance.org ) is a fantastic game to play with a spouse, partner, next of kin or health care proxy. It is especially important if these are the people who need to understand your wishes – for example about your funeral, or about your feelings on certain medical treatments.
The main priority is to get people talking about death and dying and using board games or card games which can be suitable for adults or children is an ideal, non-threatening way to broach the topic. We will all experience death, yet we talk about it so little.