Sunday, June 18, 2017

LOL: Ways Humor Can Help You Deal With Grief

Will I Ever Laugh Again?

Back in the 1990s, I read a book by Barbara Johnson that I never forgot. Stick a Geranium in Your Hat and Be Happy was one of those books that stays with you because it's unlike anything you've ever read before.

Barbara Johnson's candid look into her grief journey was unique because it was hilarious. There were parts of the book that made me laugh out loud and yet I was reading about her life tragedies. How can that be?

Twenty something years later, as I am on my own grief journey, I do reflect back on that book for ways to help me deal with the different parts of grief.

Among those ways is humor.

Can one really laugh again after dealing with tragedy?

The answer I have learned is YES!

"Love makes the world go round but laughter keeps you from getting dizzy." -Barbara Johnson

Scientists suggest that there are benefits from laughter:

1. Lowers blood pressure.
2. Reduces stress
3. Works your abdominals (that's a great workout we all can do!)
4. Improves cardiac health
5. Releases endorphins

These are just some benefits I found online! There are many more...

When you're deep in grief, you may think you will never laugh again. And if you do, you immediately feel guilty because your loved one can no longer laugh.

I mean, your're supposed to be sad and solemn, right?

That's the popular idea: Be sad and lonely in your grief.

But what I learned from the late Barbara Johnson is that laughter will sustain you through those very difficult times. She lost two sons (one in Vietnam and the other to a drunk driver) and helped her husband deal with a brain tumor until his passing. Yet this woman was funny. I mean, FUNNY! I highly recommend her books. She could find humor in anything.

Change is never easy. Losing a loved one brings immediate change.

Barbara Johnson wrote about celebrating the little things in life to deal with the sudden change. She wrote about things like celebrating the first of every month. How simple is that? The first of every month means you made it. You made it through! So, celebrate!

 Find ways to celebrate the little things in life: You walked 10,000 steps for the first time in months? Celebrate! You made it through the day without a flashback or tears? Celebrate! You were able to talk about your loved one without weeping? Celebrate!

Celebrate these accomplishments with a special treat for yourself: a hike, a new pair of earrings, try a new restaurant, a new pair of shoes, or watch a funny movie. I knew one guy who collected watches. He'd buy a new watch each month because it made him feel special. Celebrate with LAUGHTER! Post a funny joke or meme each week. Make it a goal to bring a smile to someone's face.

Do something your loved one always wanted to do:

Try a comedy club one night! Go with a group of friends and laugh...just laugh out loud together at nonsense.

Try a hot air balloon ride and record it on video.

Try traveling by train to another state and blog about the experience.

Try reading a book your loved one always wanted to read but didn't get to. Write a book review!

The key word there is TRY.

What's So Funny About That?

I once had a lady say to me, "You've been through so much and yet you smile."

I smile because I finally can.

You can, too.

And it's okay. I know there will be times you will feel guilty about it, but don't, because that's what our loved ones would want.

We've seen the benefits of laughter and we know it can help our physical health, but can it help our mental health, too?


There are plenty of researchers out there who have done the hard work. Their results show that laughter is most beneficial to our mental health because of the way it relieves us of negative thoughts and releases those hormones that reduce stress. Laughter through pain also helps us break down those emotional blocks we build up around ourselves. Find the humor in things and enjoy a good laugh.

In the long run, finding humor will get you through it all. If you're struggling to find humor, then pick up a copy of any one of Barbara Johnson's books and enjoy a good laugh and a good story about surviving the grief journey.

Remember, your mind is healing. Laughter will help your mind heal. Finding humor in everyday life will bring laughter. Now go and share that laughter!



  • Gelkopf M, Kreitler S, Sigal M. Laughter in a psychiatric ward. Somatic, emotional, social, and clinical influences on schizophrenic patients. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1993;181 (5):283-289.
  • Gelkopf M. Sigal M, Kramer R. Therapeutic use of humor to improve social support in an institutionalized schizophrenic inpatient community. J Soc Psychol 1994;134 (2);175-182.
  • Gelkopf M, Gonen B, Kurs R, Melamed Y, Bleich A. The effect of humorous movies on inpatients with chronic schizophrenia. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2006;194 (11):880-883.

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