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What Can Possibly Come from Our Pain?

What do we do with our deepest and most painful grief? Some bury the hurt deep within, while others give it words and express it openly. Some speak their grief simply, while others process their emotions through creative arts. One family took their pain and developed a video game.

After the Green family’s son, Joel, died, they developed “That Dragon, Cancer” – which they describe as “an immersive narrative video game that retells Joel Green’s 4-year fight against cancer through about two hours of poetic, imaginative gameplay that explores faith, hope and love.”  It is a game that defies the laws of video gaming, in which your choices direct the outcome. In their game, the player cannot determine the outcome. Had they been able to determine the outcome in their own child’s battle with cancer, the ending would have been very different.

Why did they use the story of their son’s illness and death to develop this game? Joel’s mother, Amy says, “We made a video game that’s hard to play, but that feels right to me because the hardest moments of our lives change us more than any goal we could ever accomplish.”

So, what do we do with our deepest and most painful grief? Create a space for it. Process it. And eventually begin to imagine what the next chapters in life could look like. If you would like help processing the death of a loved one, Blue Ridge Hospice Grief and Loss Support Services may be able to help. Our referral line is (540) 313-9214.

If you would like to find out more about the game, “That Dragon, Cancer” – or just have a good cry – watch Amy Green’s TED Talk at


Courtney McCalley, M.S.Ed.
Grief Support Counselor