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It’s OK to laugh

It’s OK to laugh

By: By Don Harold Lawrence

Several years ago a friend told me about something that happened when he was a boy, and it had worried him throughout his life. He had been very close to his uncle, and on the day of his uncle’s funeral, when he started remembering humorous things his uncle had said to him from time to time, he laughed. Several people who heard him laugh became very critical and chastised him for laughing. He tried to tell them that he was not being disrespectful but that he was only remembering his uncle’s sense of humor. He said that this judgmental criticism left him with a sense of guilt and shame that had “dogged” him since that day long ago.
My friend’s experience is not an isolated incident. It happens often. Many people have told me that they were very reluctant to laugh about anything in the aftermath of death. Others have told me that when they did laugh, they were criticized and felt guilty. It is not uncommon for bereaved persons with whom I am having grief consultation to ask if it is OK to laugh following the death of a loved one or how long they should wait before they can laugh again.
It is unfortunate that society is permeated by a stigma against laughter associated with grief. However, as one overcomes his/her reluctance to laugh and the unwarranted guilt feelings associated with laughter following loss, one discovers that “laughter is good medicine.”
Humor plays an important positive and therapeutic role in the process of recovery from loss. It rebalances one’s body chemistry that is thrown out of balance due to the shock and trauma of loss. It provides an opportunity for people to release pent-up feelings of anger and depression. It helps bereaved people regain their perspective, reintegrate themselves into the mainstream of life, move toward acceptance of — and adjustment to — their loss, and tackle the inescapable and necessary challenge of rebuilding their lives.
I recall how, after my father’s death, I would find myself smiling and laughing at certain humorous things I remembered him saying. He had a genuine sense of humor, and some of my most unforgettable memories of him include those special jokes and funny stories he used to tell. His laughter was contagious, and those who knew him remember his wonderful sense of humor. Compiling a collection of Dad’s humorous stories helped me to deal with his suffering and death.
When one begins to smile, joke and laugh again, he/she can rest assured that healing and acceptance are taking place. One is beginning to “live” again.
For further helpful information on the subject of grief and humor, see the following books by Allen Klein: “The Healing Power of Humor,” “Quotations to Cheer You Up” and “The Courage to Laugh.”
Don Lawrence is coordinator of SUNRISE, which is sponsored by Shackelford Corporation. He may be contacted by mail at 145 Abernathy Drive, Adamsville, TN 38310-3001 or by telephone or fax at (731) 632-4483. His Web address is www.shackelfordfuneraldirectors.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.28.08

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