How Does Humor Help with Grief?
An encounter with grief can be an overwhelming experience for most people. Whether the loss is sudden or expected after a prolonged illness, it’s difficult to know how anyone will respond to the passing of a loved one. No two losses are alike because the relationships we share with our loved ones are one-of-a-kind. When a loved one has passed, grief-stricken individuals can face a wide range of feelings and emotions; some of them may make sense, while others may be a
complete surprise. After all, human beings are complex creatures! One of the most baffling and unexpected responses to a loved one’s passing is laughter. As strange as it may sound, humor can be soothing to the bereaved’s grief process.
Can Grief and Laughter Co-exist?
When the news first lands that a loved one is gone, a person can experience immediate shock. As the brain tries to process the information, synapses are firing off like fireworks on the fourth of July. The mind is trying its best to keep up with so many signals. Sometimes, the brain shuts down areas, leading to “grief brain”—moments of forgetfulness or difficulty completing simple tasks like getting dressed. Walking out of the house without pants on may be inconvenient, but it can also be funny. With so much stimulation, a grief-stricken person may laugh as a way of coping with the stress of the situation. It’s perfectly natural for laughter to be present when encountering grief. In fact, grief humor has several wonderful benefits for the bereaved. Here are five special ways laughter can help you manage grief:
The loss of a loved one can place an incredible amount of stress on the bereaved. Along with having to say goodbye to the departed, grief-stricken people still have to find a way to manage jobs, school, and other daily commitments. The experience of attending a funeral or memorial service can simply be too much to bear for some people. Humor allows the bereaved to take a momentary break from the burden and release pent-up emotions. Bringing levity to the situation can help lift the weight of stress off the shoulders of those encountering grief.
It really is true: laughter is the best medicine. When we laugh, our brains release an important hormone called endorphins. With the release of endorphins, grief-stricken people can experience a boost in their moods. Also, endorphins can reduce stress and anxiety and even offer support for physical pain! It doesn’t take much; just a chuckle can do the trick. Of course, the more you laugh, the more endorphins will be released throughout your system. There’s enough heaviness with the loss of a loved one. If it feels right for you, laughing is a healthy way to express your emotions.
The loss of a loved one can be all-consuming. It can touch every part of our lives. Some people can become so distraught over the passing of a loved one that they begin to disengage from life. They may begin to isolate themselves, ignore phone calls and texts, and even forgo basic self-care like bathing or showering. Life begins to lose meaning. Adding humor to their grief process can help the bereaved recalibrate their perspective. While they may be experiencing an intense storm, laughter may help them see the light break through the clouds.
Even though your grief is personal, others may also be grieving the loss. Sharing memories of the departed together may bring up some funny stories, which can help bring some levity to the heaviness of the situation. Whether the stories are told for the first time or are time-honored classics, laughter can strengthen the relationship between grieving individuals. Together, you share a special love for the departed. Humor can break the ice and allow for more meaningful conversations. In doing so, you’ll have created a sacred space that’s both safe and supportive.
When grief first arrives, it can feel like it’ll never go away. It’s as if joy, laughter, and peace are nothing but a distant memory. However, human beings are resilient. Humor is a natural defense against sadness and despair. While you may not be able to “think” your way out of feelings of hopelessness, laughter can lead you to comfort and healing. Just as a certain scent can bring you back to a favorite memory, laughter can remind you that better times are ahead. Whether conscious or subconscious, laughing triggers the body’s sense of memory to recall times of joy and happiness.
Humor is a natural part of the grief process. How each person experiences grief is as unique as their relationship with the departed. While it may be jarring to express laughter while grieving, it can be a soothing balm to a shattered heart.
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