In a time of mourning, laughter is not something you expect too much of as humor and grief don’t typically coincide. Using humor to deal with grief may sound inappropriate but laughter is a natural way of dealing with emotion. For some, laughter can be healing. There is no one right method for coping with grief and humor can be a helpful way of handling stressful emotions. Read below to learn about the benefits of humor and how it can help you overcome your grief.
What Is Humor?
Humor is a natural human emotion. Humor is the ability to be amused or find joy and laughter in everyday situations. What makes something funny is relative to an individual's perspective. There are however many things that are universally funny, like cute animal videos or babies making funny expressions.
Humor can come from a source of entertainment, such as watching a funny movie or comedy show. It can also come from events in our everyday life, such as when someone passes gas unexpectedly or when you accidentally slip in public.
Humor is often found in the absurdities or oddities of life, such as gross things like passing gas. We find these things funny because we don’t see them often in polite society. When we do come across them, we find it amusing because we see so little of it.
HUMOR IS MAKING THE BEST OF AN EMBARASSING SITUATION
Humor is sometimes our way of coping with embarrassing situations. Consider the example of slipping in public and falling on your butt. In the moment, it might have been embarrassing however when you later tell a friend about the experience, you both get a good laugh. Humor helps dissolve negative emotions around certain memories so we can cope with them better.
It also helps us relate better to one another. If you tell your friend about your funny, yet embarrassing situation, they will probably tell you about something similar that happened to them. Knowing we all go through similar ordeals can lessen the embarrassment or negative feelings we associate with our own experiences or problems.
HUMOR & GRIEF
Humor can also be a way to relieve tension in awkward situations, form social bonds, ease anger, or process difficult emotions, like grief. Using humor to overcome loss is more common than you might think. The death of a loved one is sad but there is joy and laughter to be found in nearly every situation.
Finding humor during the mourning process can be as simple as remembering a funny experience with the deceased. It can be making a silly joke at the funeral of your loved one, something that the deceased would have found amusing. Humor can also be found elsewhere to escape your grief and move on from your pain.
WHAT ISN'T HUMOR?
Humor is meant to be light-hearted and fun. While you might want to laugh at something silly someone else does, make sure they find it amusing as well. Laughing at other people’s expense is not humor, it’s bullying. Although many successful comedians like to push the edge, be wary of doing so in your own life. You can laugh and have fun without putting someone else down.
Never stoop to being hurtful for the sake of a laugh. It’s just as bad for you spiritually as it is for the other person. Karma has a way of coming back to us. Being unkind will not help you overcome your grief, nor will it help you become a happier person.
What Are Some Health Benefits To Humor?
Laughter is a natural reaction to finding something amusing. It’s a physical response that benefits your health in numerous ways. Some of the benefits of laughter include:
INCREASED ENDORPHIN LEVELS
Endorphins are hormones your brain naturally produces. They’re known as the “feel good hormones" because they are released as a response during enjoyable activities like exercise, massage, or laughter. Endorphins essentially make you feel good.
They are also released anytime your body feels pain or stress. Endorphins help relieve pain, stress, anxiety, and increase your overall well-being. Increasing your endorphins during a time of grieving may help your body and mind cope with your pain of loss.
RELIEVES PHYSICAL & EMOTIONAL TENSION
Laughter physically helps relieve tension in the body by stimulating your hearts and lungs, releasing endorphins, stimulating circulation (which relieves muscle tension), and decreasing your heart rate and blood pressure.
Laughter can relieve mental tension as well. Humor can bring you out of your disturbing or depressive thoughts. It can momentarily relieve any painful feeling associated with these thoughts. It can also help relieve tension in the air between you and others during difficult situations, such as at a funeral or memorial service.
HELPS PUT THINGS IN A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
When you’re coping with grief, it’s not uncommon to get stuck in a negative pattern of thinking. You may feel many emotions during grief, including sadness, anger, guilt, disappointment, or regret. Finding humor in your situation can help you see things through a new perspective.
Laughter is a momentary break from your inner dialogue. Even a short break from intrusive thoughts can help you to see your situation more clearly from a more light-hearted perspective.
CAN HELP STRENGTHEN BONDS
Humor can act as an ice breaker in social situations because it relieves tension. Cracking a joke with a friend or loved one helps to strengthen your bond by giving each of you a fond memory together. Laughing with other people is more fun than laughing alone.
Humor and laughter bring people together and helps relationships form. Laughter can be a good tool during a family grieving process to help family members stay close and confide in one another.
BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
When you’re under a lot of stress your body produces the stress hormone cortisol, which can be harmful to your immune system health in larger quantities. Laughing helps to lower levels of cortisol in your body, thus boosting your immune system. Laughing also puts you in a more positive mindset. Positive thinking has been shown to release chemicals in your body called neuropeptides, which help fight stress and improve your health.
Have Their Been Studies Done On Humor & Grief?
Humor acts as a natural buffer in socially awkward situations. It can help people relax and enjoy themselves. Humor can also help lessen the blow of stressful emotions like grief. According to a study from the University of Berkeley, widows and widowers who were able to smile or laugh at fond memories of their deceased partner experienced less anxiety and depression.
Another study from Kent State found that humor was present in 85% of hospice and palliative care visits between nurse and patient. In 70% of the visits, humor was initiated by the patient. Why? Humor is a natural part of life, why wouldn’t it be part of dying? When someone is on their deathbed, why wouldn’t they want to enjoy the final days they have left?
STRESSFUL SITUATIONS & HUMOR
Using laughter to cope with stressful situations like death is a natural and healthy way to handle tough emotions and feelings. Humor is our natural defense mechanism in situations we feel uncomfortable.
We use laughter and humor to lessen the discomfort we feel or change the “vibe” in the room. We may use laughter as a way to make the situation seem less threatening to ourselves and others around us.
For example, nervous laughter. You may find yourself laughing nervously in a sketchy situation. You might laugh to signal to your brain and body to stay calm as overreacting might cost you your life. It might also be used to betray how you are truly feeling to any exterior threat. If a threatening person believes you haven’t caught on to their ulterior motives, you may have more time to figure out your next move before they act.
HEALING THROUGH LAUGHTER
As mentioned in the example above, laughter in stressful or scary situations can help us and others around us relax. At least momentarily, giving us time to think more clearly. The same benefits of laughter apply to grief.
When we can find something to smile or laugh about, we can make our grief feel less threatening or traumatic. Laughter can signal to our grief-stricken mind and body that we should relax long enough to gain a different perspective. Humor can help heal us both physically and mentally.
Who Can Be Helped By Using Humor To Deal With Grief?
Young children process grief differently than adults. The loss of a loved one can be traumatic for younger children because their brains have not fully developed. They may not quite understand death and be confused why they can no longer see their loved one. Young children may also become scared of death and face anxiety after the death of someone they were close to.
Using laughter to cope with grief in young children can help to normalize their situation. It will help them take their mind off their pain and confusion.
Utilizing humor as a grief coping mechanism helps children understand that it’s okay to laugh, even during a time of mourning. It helps them understand that life can and will go back to normal and that they are allowed to be happy.
Read more on How Grief Can Change Over Time and What To Expect In The Days Ahead.
The death of a spouse is a loss like no other. It may seem difficult if not impossible to ever feel the urge to smile or laugh after losing your life partner. But not finding joy in your life after your partner’s death does a disservice to the joyful time the two of you spent together.
Remembering the fun and amusing times you had with your partner helps keep their memory alive. You’ll feel closer to them by remembering them at their best and funniest moments. You can smile and feel joy knowing they would want you to be happy.
No parent should ever have to feel the pain of the loss of a child. Grieving a child is one of the most difficult burdens anyone could ever face. Humor and laughter may be a sentimental way to remember how loving and funny your child was. Remember all the fun and sweet moments you shared with your child to keep those memories alive.
Losing close friends can feel like losing a part of yourself. Friends are the people we share some of our most fond and humorous memories with. Remembering the good times, you had with your deceased friend will bring warmth to your heart and a smile to your face. Let your memory of them be one of humor and joy instead of the pain of their loss.
Ways To Use Humor To Help Yourself Or Someone Heal After Suffering A Loss
WRITE DOWN YOUR FUNNY MEMORIES WITH THE DECEASED
One of the most beneficial ways to heal after loss is to journal your thoughts and feelings. Journaling helps clear your mind and process difficult emotions in a way that makes them easier to understand. You can use journaling to find humor in your grief.
Write down your funny memories or funny stories about the deceased. Refer to these journal entries when you are feeling sad or having a hard day. Reading funny memories and stories about your deceased loved one will keep them fresh in your mind and give you a reason to smile.
START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
A gratitude journal is a place where you can write a list of everything you are grateful for. It can be anything from the house you live in, your family, friends, or morning sunshine. No matter how difficult your situation might be right now, there is always something to be grateful for.
Taking a moment to remind yourself of these small blessings shifts your focus to a more positive one. Instead of thinking negatively you are instead training your brain to see the good in every situation. Keeping a positive mindset will help with your grieving and make you more open to acknowledging humor.
RECOUNT FUNNY STORIES WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS
The best way to keep your deceased loved one’s memory alive is to speak of them often. Recount funny stories of them to your friends and family. Sharing your funny memories of the deceased will help everyone to remember the joy they brought to everyone’s life.
It will also give you all a good laugh and a reason to smile. If the deceased were around, they would likely want you to remember the best parts of their life and celebrate them rather than mourn them.
WATCH FUNNY MOVIES
If you and the deceased shared a favorite funny movie or TV show, watch it alone or with other friends and family. Watching a movie or show that your loved one enjoyed will help you to feel close to them. Concentrate on each scene or joke and appreciate the humor and silliness.
It will feel good to have something fun to focus on and will be a good escape from your grief. Watching a funny film, the deceased enjoyed will remind you of how they smiled and laughed and how much fun the two of you had sharing those moments.
JOIN A LAUGHTER YOGA CLASS
A laughter yoga class combines traditional yoga and laughter therapy. It’s a yoga practice that encourages participants to laugh. Your laughter yoga instructor will take you through various exercises that simulate the physical act of laughing. Laughter yoga practice can help to lower cortisol and stress levels, decrease depression, and boost your mood.
It may also help you cope with your grief to be around other people. Grief can be isolating and taking part in a social activity that encourages laughter and bonding may be therapeutic. Laughter yoga encourages participants to take themselves less seriously and feel more relaxed.
CHECK OUT A COMEDY CLUB
Find a local comedy club or research tour dates for your favorite comedian and see them live. A comedy show can be a fun way to get out of the house and out of your head. Enjoying comedy while in the presence of others can be more fun than when you’re by yourself.
You’ll not only feel the energy of your own laughter but the laughter of others. A live comedy show is a fun and exciting way to share a few laughs with strangers and forget about your grief for a short while.
KEEP THEM CLOSE TO YOU WITH THUMBPRINT JEWELRY
Remember the fun times you had with your loved one with a heartwarming thumbprint jewelry keepsake. Our selection of affordable thumbprint jewelry includes thumbprint rings, pendants, and keychains that can be engraved with your loved one’s unique thumbprint.
Use a thumbprint keepsake to help heal your emotional distress. When you are missing your loved one, you can place your thumbprint over their own and remember the joy and laughter you shared. You’ll feel closer to your loved one knowing you have a part of them with you always.
Check out our helpful Guide To Buying Thumbprint Jewelry.
BE AROUND FUNNY FRIENDS & FAMILY
We all have those certain friends or family members who always make us smile, no matter what. Whether you’re using humor to manage stress or help with grief, your friends and family can help.
Make a point to hang out with those certain friends and family members who make you laugh. Now is the time to surround yourself with loving and positive people who will bring joy and laughter into your life. Stay away from people who drain you of your energy or bring you down.
DO SOMETHING SILLY
It’s hard to keep a straight face when you are doing something silly, like wearing underwear on your head. If you want to bring more laughter into your life, do at least one silly thing a day to help you crack a smile. The sillier and more public the act is, the better. The benefits of doing something silly will help you as much as anyone around you.
Who wouldn’t find it amusing to see someone at the grocery store wearing underwear on their head? Encourage your inner child to emerge and have fun with your life. The sillier you are the more you will feel comfortable with yourself and the more joy you will spread.
LAUGH AT YOURSELF MORE
Find ways to laugh at yourself more, even in what you would otherwise consider a negative situation. Say you drop your food on the floor and ruin a meal you just spent half an hour preparing. You could either lament about how hard your life is because you’re clumsy, or you could laugh at how you’re so clumsy, you now must go through a drive through for dinner instead of eating the meal you spent time preparing.
Life is what you make of it. Bad things will happen to you, but it is up to you how you choose to handle those situations. You can either choose to be upset or choose to be amused.
FOLLOW FUNNY SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
Social media is much more nowadays than simply a tool for keeping in touch with your friends and family. Social media has evolved into a platform where you can access all kinds of entertainment at any time of the day. Find a funny account (or several funny accounts) that share humorous jokes, skits, or pictures you find entertaining.
Surrounding yourself with positive people, places, and things is so important during the grieving process. If you are going to scroll through your social media feeds, anyway, make sure you are scrolling through pages that bring a smile to your face.
REMEMBER FUNNY MEMORIES WITH A PICTURE
Nothing can remind you of a fond or humorous memory than a picture. Have a piece of photo engraved jewelry made from a funny photo or funny memory of your loved one. A color photo engraved jewelry piece can capture the realistic details of your loved one to help you better remember the humorous moment.
Always keep your photo engraved jewelry on your person. When you are feeling sad or upset, you can look down at the memory of your loved one and be reminded of their love and joy.
SEND FUNNY CARDS TO FRIENDS
The best part of looking through the greeting card aisle is reading the humorous cards. Make it a weekly or monthly habit to stop by the card aisle and pick out funny cards for your friends or family. You will have a fun time reading each funny card before you choose the perfect one for your friends.
It can be a part of your week you look forward to. Keeping in touch with your friends and family is also a great way to strengthen your relationships and let them know you are thinking of them.
FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT
If you want to feel the benefits of laughter but are having a hard time finding something funny, fake it. Force yourself to smile or laugh on demand. Continue this exercise until it feels more natural. Simulated laughter or even the physical act of smiling can immediately help you to feel more relaxed.
Laughter, whether it is real or not, will produce the same mood boosting effects. So, if you want to instantly feel better, put on a smile, and start laughing at anything and everything. Do this whenever you are feeling sad to retrain your brain to feel joy instead of sadness or grief.
CHANGE UP YOUR DECOR
Your environment can have a huge impact on your mood. If your home or office space is looking dull or filled with somber, dark colors, switch it up. Fill your space with bright, happy colors. Studies have shown that brighter colors can lift your mood.
Paint your walls your favorite bright color or find colorful decor to hang on your walls or put in your room. Make your space a place where you can create new, happy memories. Sometimes a change of scenery is what you need to get your mind out of a dark place and look into the future.
HOST A GAME NIGHT
There are lots of laughs and fun to be had when playing games with friends and family. Host a game night and invite some of your funniest friends and family. Playing games is a great social lubricant and can make any get together more fun and entertaining.
Have a variety of games to play so you can have fun trying them all. Playing games while socializing with people you love is the perfect way to keep your mind off your grief and invested in creating new memories.
PLAY WITH YOUR PETS
Pets bring joy to our lives for so many reasons, one of them being that they make us laugh. Play with your lovable pooch or kitty to share a few laughs with them. Pets are naturally humorous, even when they are not trying to be.
Additionally, the act of petting your loveable dog or cat releases oxytocin in your brain, which can help improve your mood. If you don’t have a pet at home, borrow a friend's pet or go to a local animal shelter and volunteer. Being around cute furry animals will give you something to smile about and a way to distract your mind from your grief.
READ SOMETHING FUNNY
A funny book, comic book, or magazine can be a great comfort when you are feeling down. Reading allows you to enjoy humor privately and quietly. Keep a funny book with you on your person so you can read while commuting to work or while on your lunch break at work.
You may even consider buying or borrowing a joke book from the library. Reading fun jokes will keep you smiling and will give you joke material to share with others.
KEEP THEIR LOVE ALIVE WITH CREMATION JEWELRY
Saying goodbye to your loved one’s is difficult but cremation jewelry allows you to keep a part of them with you forever. When you are missing your loved one, a cremation jewelry keepsake can help remind you that they are still with you in spirit.
Your loved one would want you to be happy and experience laughter even though they are no longer with you in the physical sense.
Our selection of affordable cremation jewelry includes pendants, rings, and keychains that hold a small part of your loved one’s remains. Engrave your cremation jewelry with your loved one’s nickname for you or a funny saying they often repeated. Keep your cremation jewelry keepsake close to your heart on days you are missing your loved one dearly.
Helpful Resources For Managing Grief
LAUGHTER THERAPY ENTERPRISES
Laughter Therapy Enterprises is an online laughter therapy resource with information on the benefits of laughter and how to incorporate it into your life. They have multiple resources and info for teaching you how to find laughter in your everyday life. You can refer to this site when you need ways to bring a smile to your face.
TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR OR THERAPIST
Talk to your doctor or therapist about ways to overcome grief and how you can incorporate humor. They may have ideas or resources for you to use humor to heal your grief. A doctor or therapist may even be able to help prescribe you medication that can lessen your depression and make it easier for you to be amused.
CHECK OUT BOOKS IN YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY
Go to your local library and look for books on healing through laughter. Additionally, you may be able to find CD’s, DVDs, or videos on laughter therapy. You might also want to check online on Amazon or other book retailers for books on laughter therapy and how to use it to heal your grief.
LISTEN TO PODCASTS
Check your preferred audio streaming app (like Spotify or Apple Music) for podcasts on humor and grief. There may be podcasts aimed specifically at using humor to heal grief, or you may find a funny podcast that helps your grief by making you laugh. Most podcasts are free and can be great resources of information and entertainment.
You can listen to podcasts during your commute to work, before you go to sleep, or even when you’re at the gym exercising. Podcasts are a great way to absorb information from podcasters all over the world who may have more insight on healing through humor.
JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP
Join a local or online support group that focuses on humor and grief. Check your local library, community center, or church group for references for support groups that meet locally. You can also do a quick Google search and look for online support groups that help people heal their grief through laughter. Additionally, you can check social platforms like Meetup for laughter therapy groups that meet in person near you.
Support groups for grief help people heal as a group collectively. You will be able to share your own experiences with grief as well as hear stories from others. Support groups introduce you to people who are going through similar situations and let you know you’re not alone.
FIND A LAUGHTER THERAPY RETREAT
Check online for information on participating in a grief retreat that incorporates laugh therapy or laughter yoga. Grief retreats introduce you to other grieving people who are in situations similar to yours. It may be helpful for you to process your grief and learn to use laughter as medicine alongside others.
A grief retreat is a good way to get out of your normal environment. It will introduce you to new ideas and people who will help you see your grief from a different perspective. A grief retreat that focuses on humor for healing will help you find reasons to smile, even if it feels impossible in the moment.
CHECK OUT THE AATH
The AATH or Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to researching healing through humor. Their website has plenty of information on the benefits of humor to heal pain, boost productivity, and much more. You can also join their Humor Academy, which is a course for learning how to apply humor as a therapeutic method.
Humor and Grief Frequently Asked Questions
Can laughter help with overcoming grief?
Laughter can be used as medicine for overcoming grief, sadness, anger, or frustration. Humor is a natural human emotion that has numerous health benefits, including acting as a mood booster. Humor and laughter help you break up a negative or depressive thinking pattern. It helps you to put your thoughts and feelings into a different perspective. Humor and laughter act as an escape from your current reality. It can help you think more positively and handle your current situation in a more positive way.
Can humor be part of the grief process?
Humor is just as natural in life as it is in death. There is always a reason to smile, even when faced with the death of a loved one. Humor can be used to celebrate the deceased’s life and remember their joyful moments. It can also help you to process your sadness and help you to remember the more positive memories associated with the deceased’s life.
How does humor help us cope with a stressful situation?
Laughter helps with stressful situations by diffusing the tension. Cracking a joke can be an icebreaker in awkward social situations. Humor helps people relax by giving them a physical release through laughing. When you laugh, your brain releases “feel good” chemicals that relieve tension, stress, and pain in your body. Humor helps make a stressful situation less threatening and allows you to see a stressful situation more clearly.
Is laughter the best medicine?
Laughter is a powerful healing tool that can benefit both your mental and physical health. Laughter can help strengthen the immune system, boost your mood by boosting endorphins, relax muscles, ease stress and pain, and may even help you live longer. Laughing stimulates your organs such as your heart and lungs, keeping them healthy. During stressful situations, laughing can help diffuse negative feelings or emotions. Incorporating laughter into your grief healing may help you stave off depression and heal faster.
Is it ok to laugh while I am grieving?
Laughing is a natural part of human life. The loss of a loved one should not mean that you can never enjoy yourself again. More than likely your deceased loved one would want you to move on and be happy. You can still grieve your loved one while finding amusement in your everyday life. Laughter can help you in your grieving process to ward off depressive spirals.
How does laughter relieve stress?
Laughter helps relieve stress by boosting the release of “feel good” chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins are released in your body to help combat stress and pain. More endorphins in your bloodstream will make you feel more relaxed and give you a better overall sense of wellbeing. Laughing can also help reduce cortisol levels, also known as the stress hormone.
Laughing Through The Tears
At first, it may seem like you will never laugh again after losing someone you cared about. But know that life does go on. Finding humor again after death might take time, but don’t stop trying. Eventually you will find something in life worthy of a smile or chuckle. Embrace humor as a natural human emotion and to help you overcome your grief.
October 11, 2022 by Jeri K. Augustus