In my previous post I wrote about responses to death and suggested that there are two that are ultimately healthy, that is, life affirming responses.
The second response to death is so powerful that it is feared as inappropriate. It is denounced as insensitive to the grieving. It is true that it can be, but it is sometimes the most appropriate, healthy response. I am writing about laughter.
Gravity, the opposite of laughter, is…well… grave. And the grave is usually feared. I understand the fear of dying, but I also believe laughter is often the best antidote for fear. Laughter can be the act of looking in the face of one’s worst fear and releasing that tension while declaring “you have no power over me.”
I love that laughter has been clinically proven to be healing. As I tended to my dying father, he laughed, much like he had laughed before. And I tried to make him laugh some more to ease some of the physical pain. The hospice nurses came in with bright smiles and bits of humor, too. At Dad’s memorial, many spoke to the memories of him provoking laughter and joy. (If Dad ever spoke unflatteringly of comedians, perhaps it was because he didn’t want to compete with the professionals.)
Laughter is a many faceted thing. It can hurt as well as heal. It has been known to create and re-open wounds. But it is also a powerful catalyst, a release, a connector, and a way to turn things around for the better.
To help with my grief process, an acquaintance told me to recall my Dad laughing. It was odd that just at that moment, I had been uploading a picture of my dad laughing on the Facebook page dedicated to Life Forever Now. Yes, I remember him laughing. And I am not so sure that the laughter I hear is not him – in the present – communicating to me his joy of life.
You too, can defeat the ultimate enemy with laughter.