In her book, “I’d Rather Laugh”, Linda Richman tells her story of pain from the losses in her life, culminating in the loss of her son and working through that tragedy with humor.
We may not think we can be as fearless or strong as Linda, but each of us has the capacity to activate humor in some way to help us heal.
On the first anniversary of my husband’s death, I invited friends and family over for a dinner party. All of us had been grieving in our own way. The intensity of pain had receded, and it was time to come together and just laugh. I wanted to put a happy, positive layer to our memories. So we toasted to his life and laughed as we shared funny stories.
Laughter heals. Humor is not just fun. It is an extremely powerful “medicine” that heals the soul and mends the body. Humor is a revival, a mini vacation, a breath of fresh air, a way to cope. Humor can allow the pain to subside for a moment, make life more bearable, put perspective on situations, and allow us to laugh at ourselves and our situations. It gives us power over what might seem like an impossible or powerless situation.
It may seem difficult to laugh and find joy in our losses when our hearts are heavy with sorrow, but when we give ourselves permission to feel joy, happiness and laughter in our sorrow, our losses take on a more complete and healing integration. We can tap into those layers of humor as well as the layers of pain and sorrow.
We might think it is irreligious or in some way devalues our loss if we put a humorous spin on it. Instead, it balances our sorrow with joy. It takes the sting out of our loss and brings normalcy back into our life. It takes an intolerable situation, one packed with intense emotions, flips it over and “tickles its tummy”. Humor takes the edge off pain.
“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” Mark Twain
We can choose to look at the world in a positive way or negative way. A loss by its very nature demands the normal grieving process. But even within its tenants, we have the ability to laugh.
“Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative… and latch onto the affirmative” were lyrics of a popular 1940’s song. This is finding the blessings within in our infirmities. It is reframing our circumstances to find positives and good in spite of the loss. When we look at the glass as half full instead of half empty it registers a different mindset and a different reaction in the brain.
Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC