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.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Where is God in Grief?

Where is God?

In my last post, I wrote about that foggy brain feeling caused by grief. I wrote about how strange everything became after I experienced loss. 

That foggy brain feeling also applied to my spiritual walk with God. 

Never was there a time that I felt God had abandoned me, but I must admit there were times when I sat at my desk at home with an open Bible before me unable to pray. 

The words wouldn't come. 

I had lost my older sister in October and five months later, I lost my mother. We had found my mother in her home. She had died alone at age 79. 

I was told by the Crisis Prevention paramedic that I suffered a traumatic loss which is different than a loss from chronic illness. I was told I needed counseling. 

At first, I didn't listen to the paramedic. I thought I was just fine. But later, I began to understand what she was talking about. 

I understood when I began to feel God wasn't there anymore. 

Where is God in Our Grief?

Once I obtained support through my grief, only then did I learn that my spiritual walk with God was affected, too. 

How about you? Did your experience with grief affect your relationship with God? Did you begin to feel anger toward Him? Did you, like Job, begin to question Him?

Nowhere in scripture are we told that it is wrong to call out to God in our pain. Instead, He tells us in His word that He prefers a broken heart. He loves a broken and contrite spirit.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."

God created us in His image. How did He handle grief?

"Jesus wept."

As I sat there before my Bible that one day, I honestly had no words to speak. I was dumbfounded that I no longer had my sister or my mom with me anymore. The thought just couldn't materialize in my head. The words I wanted to say to God, I knew would be wrong. So, I sat there and stared at God's word.

He is There

A few weeks later, the fog began to lift and God's word became more meaningful to me than ever before. 

But how? How could I still cry out to God after experiencing so much loss in such a short period of time? Wasn't I angry? Wasn't I full of doubt? Did I doubt His existence? I mean, how can a good God allow so much suffering?

Isn't that the ancient question? How can a GOOD GOD allow pain and suffering? 

After analyzing this concept, I have come to the conclusion that, as with all things pertaining to God, there is a purpose everything. Yes, there is even a purpose for evil:

Evil (moral, natural, or supernatural evil) will either draw us closer to Him or push us further away from Him. 

I came away from the experience of writing two eulogies in five months time that the purpose of this form of natural evil was to draw me closer to God. 

What about you? Did your loss of a loved one draw you closer to God? Or did it push you further away? Did you find yourself doubting His existence?

If so, you would not be alone. 

In the Midst of the Storm

Many people feel alone in their grief. Many begin to doubt God.

The purpose of storms is apparent: The winds make the trees stronger. Their roots dig in deeper to the soil and the pressure of the wind on the tree trunks make them thicker to withstand stronger winds as they grow. The wind blows the pollution out of the air. The rain makes the grass grow. The rain replenishes the earth. 

Without the storms, everything suffers. 

And when the storm passes? Crystal blue skies are left behind.

But sometimes, those storms are devastating. We all have seen how tornadoes and hurricanes rip through a community leaving destruction and death in their wake. 


Why does God sometimes quiet the storms, yet allow others to destroy?

Again, He allows this form of evil to draw us closer to Him or push us further away. But one thing we can know for certain is that He is there in the midst of the storm. 

We never have to endure it alone. 

Lessons Learned

And that's the lesson I learned through this storm...this hurricane called grief. I never had to endure it alone. God is sure and steadfast. God knew my spirit was so broken that the words wouldn't come out of me. 

So, He patiently waited...and waited...until that day when the words came. They came flooding out and He was there to listen. 

The answer to my "why" never came, but I no longer needed those answers. 

I began to heal. 

What about you? Have you been able to talk to and walk with God yet? If not, what's keeping you from your spiritual walk with God?

I hope this post has helped you understand that God has never left you. He is simply patiently wading with you through the waves of your grief storm. 

He is that anchor that holds us. He is that stronghold we can reach out to. He is that shield that protects us. 

Never question it, He is there in the midst of your grief.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Get Over It Already!

The Grief Journey

Back in 2014 when my older sister was diagnosed with stage 4 colon and liver cancer, my grief journey began.

Now it is 2017 and I have lost not only my sister, but my grandfather-in-law, my aunt, an uncle and, finally, my mother.

In the span of almost two years, the grief journey has increased in complexity with greater obstacles placed in my way by circumstance and also by myself. I admit it. I made it harder than it had to be.

Now that I look back, I can see how understanding the grief process has helped me.

But not everyone understands grief nor how to handle it.

Unless you have experienced it firsthand, you cannot possibly understand it. You can sympathize with someone, but you will find it very hard to empathize with them.

Time to Move On

I suppose the main thing about grief that I never understood was the impact it had on my thinking.

Before I sought grief support, I walked around daily in a fog.

It truly felt like a fog had clouded my mind. Everyday tasks that were once easily completed became difficult. I became annoyed with myself because of all the mistakes I was making in my work. I became annoyed with coworkers and my students. I mean, everything bugged me!

I also became very jealous of people. I envied their relationships they had with their moms or sisters. I was shocked by how upset I would become by people's conversations about the mundane.

Eating became routine. I no longer found pleasure in food. I simply went through the motions. I lost a lot of weight, but not in a good way.

And don't get me started on sleep! It almost never came. Flashbacks came nightly. And when I finally did fall asleep, waking up to go to work became a chore. That shocked me because I was always punctual. I found myself struggling to get to work.

In fact, I didn't want to go to work anymore. I had anxiety on a daily basis.

Try to imagine what it is like to live like this.

Most of the time, I would tell myself, "Isn't it time to move on? Shouldn't I be over this already? What's wrong with me?"

Moving on from grief is a myth. But I could tell people expected me to have already moved past it. When I would bring up my lost loved ones, I could see how nervous it made my coworkers. So, I would remain silent and try to "move on" on my own.

This, I found, was almost impossible.

What I found through grief support was the explanation I didn't know I was searching for.

Grief was what had caused my brain to fog over. Grief was what had caused my annoyance toward everyone and pretty much everything. Grief had caused my anxiety. I look back on those early days after my sister had passed and remember how I would cry from listening to a song or a TV commercial or a line in a book. I remember jerking awake at night from the slightest noise. I had never experienced that before. I remember sitting still and just staring into space for long periods of time. Why was I doing this all the time?


In grief support, I had my "ah ha" moment, as Oprah likes to say, and felt the heavy burden lifted off my shoulders. Once I gave myself permission to feel the way I felt, the relief came. Once I gave myself permission to grieve at MY OWN PACE, the relief came. And once I learned how to communicate to those around me about my thoughts and feelings, the relief came.

Get Over It Already!

If you know someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, there are things you can do to help. But there are also many things you can do to cause more harm than good.

What can you do to help?


Just be there to listen to them talk about grief, their feelings, their memories, their struggles. Listen without feeling like YOU have to solve or fix everything. No, you are there to help hold them through this hard time that will pass. You cannot fix anything that they are going through.

What can you do to harm them?

Tell them to get over it already. Tell them it's time to move on. Tell them to get back in the game, that's what their loved one would want.

All of these sayings aren't about helping them, but they are about helping YOU and this isn't about you. Wanting your loved one to be like they were before the tragedy or loss occurred is normal, but it can never happen. They are forever changed. And that's ok!

Asking them to "get over it already" is like asking someone who just broke their arm to "get over it already" because you need them to help you do yard work or paint the house. Yes, their injury does inconvenience you for a time, but that's just the way it is.

Healing takes time. So does grief.

Simply be there for them when they want to talk. Listen to them, laugh with them, and cry with them. In doing this, you are helping them heal faster.

I Didn't Mean to Say That

Yes, you will make mistakes.

In grief, some things will be said that may cause pain. I know I yelled some things to my husband in a fit of rage that I didn't mean to say. He was gracious and understood it was the grief talking and not really me. There were times people said things to me that they really didn't mean to say, so I learned to understand this.

If you don't know what to say to someone who is grieving, it's okay to tell them this.

 "I don't know what to say, but I'm here with you now." By saying this, you are being honest with your loved one or friend. You are letting them know you are with them during this difficult time.

Good days will come! I promise! Rest assured that your loved one will laugh again. He or she will smile a genuine smile again. Your friend will show some semblance of who they were before their grief journey began. And you will treasure it more than you did before. It will almost seem like old times. But know that it isn't. The good days will begin to out number the bad days.

The Year of Firsts

I remember as the first Christmas without my mom approached, I was given advice to do something totally different. I followed this advice and ended up having a wonderful Christmas with my family.

The year of firsts is the hardest one of all. Every birthday, anniversary, or event will remind you that your loved one or friend isn't there. The one thing I learned is to communicate throughout that first year. Write notes or emails or letters to family, friends, and coworkers about the upcoming milestone to prepare them for how you might be that day. This way, people around you will know why you are gloomy or homesick or depressed on a certain day. I did this as my mom's birthday approached and it really helped. I felt like I had permission to be sad that one day and everyone around me would understand.

Communication is key to surviving that first year. Loved ones and friends will be there for you if they know about it beforehand. Remember, they cannot read your mind and they cannot comprehend what you're feeling. To expect them to know isn't really fair. They are living their lives, too. They are dealing with their own issues, too.

Communicating with each other is what will help you learn to help others.


Some people are too proud to reach out for help. Or they may think they aren't grieving at all. They may think their grief is over with.

But seeking out support is the best thing you can do no matter how long it has been since your loved one has passed. I attended a support group with a man who had lost his father over 60 years before. He had never sought help with his grief, so he decided there's no time limit. We all helped him deal with the anger he still had bottled up inside.

By talking with others who are grieving, you can learn more about your behavior. For instance, you could say to a friend, "I was happy yesterday and I felt so guilty about it." Because your friend has never experienced grief, she won't know how to respond.

But those who have lost a loved one will understand exactly what you mean and will be able to help you work through that guilty feeling.

Support groups can truly be a blessing.

Yet, they can also hinder your progress. It's important to know when to step away from a group. You know your needs better than anyone else. Sometimes a group of sad and angry people might not be what you need at this stage in your journey.

I had to step away from a support group that seemed to be "stuck" in their sorrow because I needed to be around people who had worked through that stage into acceptance and resilience.

Paying attention to your needs is most important. You need to know when your group is no longer helping you move forward.

Getting Over It

I once read that grief isn't a destination, but a journey. This is so true. Getting over the death of a loved one isn't easy. Their life will always be with you. Getting over a traumatic loss doesn't happen overnight or at all. Like a marathon, it isn't easy, but it is possible. With support, educating yourself, and persistence, you can make it through.

With family and friends, God's love and help, you can get through it. Learning to live with grief takes patience, determination, and grace. In the end, you are stronger for it and can begin to help others on their journey.

I hope this blog helped! There will be more posts coming up about the grief journey.

Your turn: Are you dealing with grief now? How have you been able to progress through the journey? Are you living with someone dealing with grief? How have you been able to help them progress? What part of the grief journey has been the toughest for you?