Filling the Hole in my Heart with Ooblets by Sky Tunley-StaintonPosted: 30 Mar 2023
On 3 September 2022, I lost Jerry, my eighteen-year-old cat and best friend in the world.
I moved to the UK when I was 13 after living abroad in Cyprus and the US for most of my childhood. Starting a new school midway through secondary education – let alone in a new country – was extremely difficult, and I struggled to make friends. Growing up in Cyprus was culturally very different from the UK: I felt incredibly isolated.
Soon after starting school, we adopted Jerry from our local RSPCA. He was my first friend in this country, and for the next 14 years he became an integral part of my life. I know people say this all the time, but he was a really special cat. He was so patient and friendly, and everyone I’ve ever known has been instantly enamored with him, including random delivery persons and contractors who were graced with his presence.
Jerry saw me through all the highs and lows of being a teenager, and my years-long struggle with anxiety, depression, self-harm, and disordered eating. Whenever I cried, he would climb onto my chest and purr. In 2020, when I made plans to end my life, Jerry – and my promise to him that I would take care of him – was at the time the only thing that kept me here.
I don’t think I can describe the feeling of him being gone. There was a chasm in my chest that I could feel every waking moment. (If I’m honest, there still is.) I couldn’t enjoy any activity anymore because everything I did, I remembered doing it with Jerry, or talking about Jerry, or just doing it in a world in which Jerry was still alive.
Usually when I’m struggling I turn to games, but none of my usual favourites could stop me from thinking of Jerry and just being overwhelmed by grief. I desperately needed a distraction – to think of anything else, even for a moment. So, I bought Ooblets.
I didn’t really care if I liked the game, but at least hopefully learning new mechanics and immersing myself in a new story would use up all of my available headspace. I named my player character “Jerry,” and chose a pale ginger hairstyle in two space buns that sort of resembled cat ears. Over the next week, I spent 100+ hours in-game. It was pretty much a slam dunk for me: part farming sim, part monster collection, part deck builder.
In the quirky yet relaxing backdrop of Badgetown, I focused all of my energy on learning new “Oobish” phrases and terminology – and, of course, collecting every Ooblet I could find. Having something to concentrate on, and get excited about, helped me get through each day in the weeks following Jerry’s death. I played pretty much constantly – during breaks, and from the moment I finished work until I went to sleep. Without the all-encompassing thoughts swirling around my head (wondering if I could have spotted the signs of Jerry’s illness sooner; second-guessing whether I made the right decision to put him to sleep; and just missing him with every fibre of my being) I felt more able to process my feelings, and gradually my day-to-day became more bearable.
Ooblets is such a special game to me because, silly as it might sound, it was there for me when I really needed something to latch onto. It was friendly and funny and let me make a human version of my best ever boy which brought me joy every time I opened the game.
If you’re struggling with Pet Bereavement, please refer to Blue Cross’ Bereavement Service which is a worldwide free service offering online community, email and text support, and a UK phoneline.
The service is free and open every day of the year from 8.30am – 8.30pm
Telephone 0800 096 6606