Gris – Visualizing the Stages of Grief

There are many indie games that I have played that are simply stunning but nothing compares to Gris. Seriously, where do I commence?

I bought it during the summer sale last year when I was attracted to its ethereal atmosphere and beautiful soundtrack, I was not disappointed once I started playing.

The game centers around a young girl named Gris who navigates a colourless world after falling from a crumbling statue. From the beginning, you can tell she has suffered a loss as she tries to sing but is unable to successfully do so. As she travels in this unfamiliar world, she gains new abilities used with her dress and restores the colours, each of them has a different area with unique obstacles as she tries to move forward with her life.

In this game, I began to notice right away that Gris is a girl who is lost in her own world, so it’s almost like this is a manifestation of her loss. As the statue rebuilt itself with each colour restored, it began to resemble a woman and my first guess was that it was her mother. Even there were other statues in each section that hinted towards it and there was always this central structure I would come back to that became prettier the fuller as each colour returned.

Gameplay is very simple with a little platforming and puzzles but not extremely difficult, I never reached a point of rage quitting if I got briefly stuck at a particular spot. That’s all I can say in that regard since it’s straight to the point so it’s a good game if you’re looking for something relaxing.

Once the red was added to the white, the sandstorms I had to trek through seemed like rage inside as if there was no more denying what had been lost

When the green came back, it made me believe that Gris was trying to find an escape like she had denied what happened or tried to elude the incoming sorrow that was coming from her loss. Like when she met this cute little creature and fed it apples.

As I continued forward, I began to realize that Gris couldn’t outrun the sadness from what she had experienced, especially when those statues returned and a great blackbird attempted to halt her progress and which made her face the reality as she persisted long enough to seemingly defeat it, which eventually led to the blue.

Swimming down into the abyss, the deeper I went, I couldn’t help but see the sorrow in its making, despite its beauty, especially once I realized the statue was whole again but soon was destroyed right afterward, signifying the death of her mother had indeed happened and there was no more running away, it was okay to be sad about it. I began to wonder what this black ooze was now that I had seen it a second time at this point in the form of an eel, it was as if the depression from her pain was attempting to devour her.

When I returned to the surface and there was more light, it was like the sadness was slowly slipping away as I climbed up into the structures in the sky made of glass and light with colourful plants of all the previous hues brought back earlier.

Once Gris regained her ability to sing, I wanted to cry over her beautiful voice, even if it was on a loop whenever I used it to navigate this ethereal realm, as it made flowers bloom again, birds sang along too, and mechanisms activated. It made me feel happy but also sad as the final pieces of the story’s message came together.

After the final colour was restored, everything looked so much prettier and in a way, happier too like Gris was starting to move on and accept the reality, especially towards the end. That was when I realized that this game is about grief and its five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Each area where one colour is dominant is a method (with others in the background the more that were restored) of visualizing each of those stages of grief distinctively: denial with no colour like you can’t understand what is going on that it feels empty. Anger in red with raging storms and crumbling statues that signify a lack of fairness in the event of something like the death of a loved one where Gris is at a disadvantage in her navigation.

Bargaining, with a transport to a green forest in an attempt to run away from the aftermath of the loss. As we know, this stage is where we believe that if we act a certain way we will feel better and the world Gris traverses, does this by taking her somewhere where there is nothing to remind her of that pain until the time comes to face it. Then comes depression, deeper into the abyss of sorrow until reaching the very bottom where I realized what was causing her pain before the game could even present it to me from its ending and that hidden cutscene from collecting all those mementos. (I did go back and get them all by the way)

Finally, acceptance, all the colours are together and everything looks so beautiful and happy there is yellow light glowing to show that over time, the ache eases to a point where we accept what has happened and this is where I felt like Gris was starting to do that and all the beauty brought back to her own world indicated that she could accept it and she could live her life again.

That’s what makes this game so beautiful with the message it sends and how that transmission is delivered. All the while that black gunk still tries to eat at her taking on one final form. Not going to lie here, I genuinely started crying as Gris sang in front of the statue to rebuild it while the black sludge nearly swallowed her up, and when her mother’s statue came to life and sang with her, banishing it for good and restoring the colour once again. Gris bids a farewell and ascends forward in her life knowing her mother will always be with her.

Once I finished the game, I think that the black oil is like a physical form of grief itself as a whole, trying to keep Gris trapped in the past and maybe even trying to get her to blame herself for her mother’s death. But, Gris overcomes it and that sends a powerful message that such anguish is part of life, we can move past it, even if we never truly get over whatever loss we’ve experienced.

Aside from the story and moral, this game is absolutely stunning with its graphics, easy to get into, and the soundtrack is so calming and beautiful, I could use it to soothe my anxiety, so do I recommend it? Yes 100%. Even if you get all the achievements (like I have) it’s still worth replaying because of how calming and emotional it is.

Rating: 5 out of 5.


2 thoughts on “Gris – Visualizing the Stages of Grief”

  1. Lovely interpretation. 🙂

    I really loved Gris when I went through it, too. By the end of my first playthrough, I’d wondered if maybe there was an alternate interpretation of what Gris’ journey was and ended up feeling compelled to write about it as well.

    As it turns out, there *is* a secret area at the end of the game which can shine a light a little further on the author’s intended interpretation, a fact that to this day I still have mixed feelings about.

    In any case, if you like, I’m happy to link to my post and what I thought while playing! Just didn’t want to do so without explicit permission. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did find a secret area by finding all the mementos in the game which made me right about my prediction of what was causing Gris’s pain but I always love discovering other secrets.

      My only gripe is that while the game does a great job interpreting grief, the important thing to remember is the experience is different for everyone. We may not go through all stages in that order or some we might skip before we reach acceptance.

      Liked by 1 person

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