Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Humor and Healing - When It's Appropriate to Laugh After Loss

How soon should you laugh after a loss? This is the question that someone asked recently. They asked the question as if there is a concrete answer. There is not such an answer. I will try to offer some encouragement in this article, but it important to remember that the time limit will be different for every situation.

In January of 2012 I lost someone very close to me to death. The loss was sudden and unexpected. It hurt worse than anything I have ever experienced. I remember struggling with this very thought during the days following the loss. Having gone through this experience so recently I feel that I can offer some advice on the topic at hand. I hope you will find some answers to your questions as you read.

When answering this question, there are some questions of my own that I would like to ask in return.

    Do you feel like laughing now?
    Do you think laughter is somehow an indication of healing?
    Do you feel guilty for wanting to laugh?
    Do you feel that laughter is the antithesis of grief?

To answer the question posed in the title of this article I will try to answer each of the my own questions above.

    Do you feel like laughing now? If you feel like laughing the same day as you experience loss, then by all means laugh. This is part of the healing process. I am not recommending that you force yourself to laugh. However, when you have experienced a loss, you will go through an entire gamut of emotions. Laughter may spring from a natural emotion, and if so, those emotions should not be stifled. The Mayo Clinic in a study on laughter concluded that laughter actually helps to reduce stress. Follow a loss, especially the loss of someone very close to you, there will be a substantial amount of stress. Laughter, if naturally occurring, can help in relieving some of that stress.

    Do you think laughter is an indication of healing? I have to ask this in response to the original question because it is important to ascertain why the question was asked in the first place. I can remember having this very discussion with a close friend after my loss. Some family members were very upset that there had been an evening before the funeral when other members of the family had sat around the table laughing and telling stories. Perhaps they felt that laughter indicated that the others were no longer grieving the recently loss. This of course is not true. Laughter is an indication that healing has happened, but that the grieving process is taking place.

    Do you feel guilty for laughing or wanting to laugh? Don't. Laughter is part of the process. It is healthy. If you want to, go for it!

    Do you feel like laughter is the antithesis of grief? Again, that is simply not true. In the days following the loss in my family, we laughed, cried, talked, sat quietly, cried some more, and laughed some more. One minute we laughed, the next minute we were crying. These two emotions were not at odds with each other. They were companions on the road to healing.

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