Death is no laughing matter, but there is a place for laughter in times of grief. Although humour can be used as a defence mechanism, it can also be utilised as a tool for coping during difficult times and indeed, may honourably reflect the character of your loved one.
Using humour and laughter to grieve can unite the bereaved and bring some welcome relief from sadness and low mood. Not only is laughter good for the soul, but science shows us that the healing process is enhanced by the positive endorphins released when we share a laugh.
Benefiting from laughter
Laughter in times of grief can trigger a range of benefits in the bereaved. Laughter has the power to heal and renew physical, mental and social wellbeing during the grief journey.
On a physical level, laughter can relax your muscles, lower your stress hormones and release the body’s natural feel-good hormones for emotional stability and calm.
Mentally, laughter can be a wonderful way to ease anxiety and tension. Letting go, and really allowing yourself to have a good laugh, can be a cathartic and ultimately joyful experience.
The social benefits of laughter include the strengthening of bonds and relationships through a shared experience of humour. Laughing together, even in times of grief, can help build connection and empathy with the bereaved.
Introducing humour into your life
During times of grief, it is not unusual for people to feel like they have forgotten how to laugh. It can be helpful to begin with small steps and introduce humour into your life gradually, and gently.
Start with smiling. It might sound artificial, but making a conscious choice to smile throughout your day can provide a multitude of benefits. The act of smiling reduces stress hormones and can help to elevate your mood.
Trying to engage with friends and family, even when you don’t feel like it, can provide a significant happiness boost. Enjoying the company of others can help you to feel less isolated in your grief.
Choosing to watch humorous movies and comedy programmes relieves the pressure of relying on others for laughs, and is an effective way to counter grief with humour.
YouTube is an easily accessible source of amusing clips and highlight reels. Funny videos of everything from animals and small children, to bloopers from your favourite television shows, can be found through a simple search of YouTube.
Reading books written by one of your favourite comedians might also be a helpful way of allowing yourself to relax back into humour again.
Incorporating humour into a funeral service
If your loved one had a great sense of humour, and enjoyed a good laugh, you might like to consider incorporating some gentle humour into the occasion of their funeral service. While it is important to plan the funeral service with respect and sensitivity, a little bit of laughter can be heart-warming for everyone.
Listening to a eulogy that includes an amusing anecdote can be a healing experience for your guests. Using humour can help the bereaved to begin reminiscing about happy times and encourages a focus on sharing fond memories.
Light-hearted readings, including amusing quotes and poems, can bring a welcome sense of levity to proceedings. Think about the people and events your loved one found amusing. You might be able to draw quotations or ideas from favourite books, films or television shows for inclusion in the service.
One of the major milestones on the grief journey is learning how to laugh after loss. It is important not to feel guilty about engaging in grief humour. Laughter is good for the soul. Your loved one would want you to engage with your world whole-heartedly, and laugh again.
At Bethel, we know that everyone experiences grief differently. Our pastoral care staff have created a supportive range of grief care resources, these are available, free of charge, on our website. For further information please refer to our articles on Grief Support Services and Self-care During the 5 Stages of Grief.