If I don't Laugh, Then I will Cry

We had just made it to the cemetery and laid my brother's casket down when my wife, the pallbearers, and our close friends congregated together away from the chairs that had been set up for the family. I could not sit there, not after having to give the eulogy. Not after having to accept so many apologize and condolences. I just could not. And the chairs that were reserved were covered in what looked like Grover from Sesame Street. "Who picked out the chair covers? I wonder how many Muppets they had to skin to make them?" came blurting out of my mouth. Everyone in our group started to giggle and laugh. "And did you see me almost slip into the grave? I think John was playing one last trick on me." We continued to laugh. Other people were looking at us now. I figured they just could not understand how we could be laughing at a time like this. I looked at my wife and said, "Hey, I need a laugh. Because, if I am not laughing right now, I will be crying. And I have done enough of that this past week"  She agreed and we all continued to try and make each other feel better anyway we could.


Laughter has always been considered one of the best medicines to make you feel better. The endorphins it releases help relieve stress and make us feel better about whatever situation that we are in. At that moment in my life my world had crashed down, along with so many others. We were all left wondering why he had taken his own life, Why he had left us without saying goodbye. Wondering what is now to come. We needed a release. We needed something to take the heaviness of life off of our shoulders for a few seconds. And it did help, if even for a brief moment.


When I am stressed, or things are not going well, I sometimes try and make light of things, or find some sort of humor in it. It is a coping mechanism that I have. In this case, it was necessary and worked out. For so many other times in my life, not so much. Some don't find it very funny when you are making jokes or trying to lighten the mood a bit when things might be stressful. But as Freud stated, "laughter is a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with the unspeakable pain of everyday life". He gives the example of a prisoner about to locked in the gallows, who says to his guard: “Well, this is a good beginning to the week”. The prisoner makes a joke because he doesn’t want to cry; his ego distracts his conscious brain from the unspeakable misery of the moment. [1]


This is not an uncommon way, as humans that we deal with stressful or painful situations. In a 2000 study into the effects of humor in stressful situations at the University of North Carolina, professor Arnie Cann noted, “Sometimes you might make a joke that helps everyone get over the fact that they’ve just dealt with a very difficult situation, Humor was, in their view, essential to their survival" [2]


So why is humor in difficult situations so taboo with some people? Why is it that so many people don't want a brief interruption to their pain? This is something I will never understand. But we are all wired differently. Where some look to keep locked up in their darkness, others look to try and find the light. It is all a matter of who you are. For me, I use humor to help cope. 



When my time is finally up. I want everyone to be telling stories about all of the who I was, those I helped, and all of the crazy stunts I may have pulled (and there are a lot of them). I want them to remember me fondly and have a laugh at my expense. I know there will be tears of sadness, but I also want tears of joy...of remembrance. I want everyone to sit around with your favorite drink and loved ones close by talking about who I was, and how I used my time on this earth. I expect that there will be a lot of, "Do you remember the time when..." and "I still can't believe he did that."  Please laugh it up, and celebrate life! That is the best way to honor me, just as I believe I was honoring my brother by trying to lighten the heaviness at his funeral. If he was in our situation, he would have been there laughing along with the rest of us.


There have been, and still are, times when I think about John and how much I miss him, or what I could have done. I remember the pain that I felt that day when I had to give the eulogy in front of so many crying faces. I remember that I had to put my brother to rest knowing I would never be able to create anymore moments with him. I remember that day and start to feel the pain again. Then I also remember seeing those silly chairs, the time I almost slipped while carrying him to his final resting place, and I remember all of us who were closest to him standing around holding each other up while sharing crazy stories and laughing together. We were celebrating the life we were so blessed to be a part of. And I smile just a little, I give a little chuckle, and I start to feel just a tiny bit better. 


If you  are dealing with grief and are having trouble handling it, please seek professional help. There are many grief recourses for adults as well as children that are out there to help. You are not alone.



[1] http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2010/02/22/laughter-and-grief/

[2] http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2013...