- Despite the popular notion that humor is inappropriate during difficult times, humor and laughter can actually help us cope with tough losses.
- Looking for the humor and turning to laughter enables us to put the loss or the moment into perspective.
- If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, give yourself a break with a laugh: remember the funny things they used to do and find joy in it.
- That said, if you need to cry, that’s okay too—everyone copes with grief and loss differently, of which might involve crying, laughing, or both.
- Humor might help you during the dark times: if you haven’t given it a try, don’t shy away from the potential of its effectiveness.
Most people would probably say that a funeral isn’t the time or place for cracking jokes. I, however, would argue that it’s the perfect time and place for cracking jokes.
A few months ago, my Aunt Linda passed away. She had been in and out of the hospital for about a year after a hard fall. And sure enough, she eventually passed away from the injuries she sustained. We were all shocked and heartbroken that our hilarious, good-hearted Linda was no longer with us—but we didn’t shy away from honoring her at her funeral with laughter. Everyone took turns sharing funny memories of her, many centered around her infectious cackle of a laugh. While many of us couldn’t hold back our tears, we couldn’t stop laughing either.
A little humor and a little laughter helped us cope with the loss of my Aunt Linda’s. In fact, humor and laughter helps a lot of people cope with grief and loss—and it just might help you, too.
How Does Humor Help with Grief?
This might feel confusing to those who haven’t had to cope with a serious loss, or those who haven’t turned to humor in times of grief. You might be wondering, “Is this really appropriate?” While everyone grieves differently, humor can help many people manage their feelings and find happiness again after losing someone close to them. Adina Mahalli, Master Social Worker, explains this notion:
“There’s reason to believe that dark humor is considered a mature defense mechanism in the sense that someone actively chooses to have this reaction to adversity, as opposed to it simply being a reaction to the situation. With this in mind, dark humor is not always a bad thing, as long as the person also knows when it’s appropriate to be serious and keep the jokes aside.
When someone is experiencing grief or loss, everything seems gray. Laughter allows you to step outside of yourself, even if only temporarily and feel more like yourself. It’s not a distraction as much as it’s a way to provide a fleeting moment of perspective.”
Does this make a little more sense? In summary, if you’re struggling to feel happy and okay after a loss, turning to humor is certainly worth a try. For example, remember the funny things that your loved one used to do. For me, it’s a memory of my aunt talking and laughing nonstop at the movies. We all laughed together at her funeral, as we agreed that she was the worst person to take to a theater.
Grieving: It’s Okay to Laugh, and It’s Okay to Cry
It’s normal to cry when you lose a loved one—it’s also normal not to cry, or to let other emotions take over. Bobbe White from Try Laughter! Inc explains how humor helped her and her family at her father’s funeral:
“The vault attendant, who dug the grave, helped the funeral director lower the casket at the appointed time. At Jewish burials, it’s lowered while the mourners are present. The vault man’s strap got stuck under the corner of the casket. He couldn’t jiggle, tug, or pull it out. He jumped into the hole! I heard the rubber soles of his work boots hit the top of my dad’s ‘roof.’ Wide-eyed, my husband and I stared at each other, as in, ‘What is happening?!’
He climbed out, as if it were a swimming pool. Next, one of the plastic caps from the corner of the steel frame (which lowers the casket) fell in. I heard him groan audibly. He jumps in again! This time, Jeff and I are smiling at each other. I could hear my daughter and daughter-in-law trying to stifle laughter. Me? I was crying—from laughing. I held the program under my eyes in the hopes the rabbi would think I was crying from grief. All I could think of was Dr. Seuss’ book Hop on Pop!
The best part is my dad was 93, died from dementia. He was always a fun and funny guy. His last gift to us? Laughter. Every time I think of the burial I actually smile.”
A good laugh is just what Bobbe needed to cope with the loss of her dad and send him off properly. You might find that laughter and humor can help you during dark times too—don’t shy away from the possibility.