Guilty of Laughing

Laughter as much as tears are a part of healthy grieving. Ginger Brown, teacher, writer and grief specialist provides insight into the power of laughter in your grief. She shares from her personal experience how her laughter at her husband's funeral helped her see its healing power as part of the grief process. You do not have to feel guilty about it.

by Ginger Brown

As friends and family came for the viewing after my husband’s death, I was composed and thought I was coping well. But when I walked into the viewing room with a close friend, my ability to be totally honest with her suddenly shifted into gear. I whispered, “It seems a shame to bury that beautiful suit, doesn’t it?” She smiled because she knew how fiscally conservative I am compared to my husband, who enjoyed quality clothing.

Then a humorous thought struck my sad heart! “I bet he is speaking to God right now saying, ‘If you don’t get them to hurry up with this funeral, she will have them bury me naked.” With that we both burst into convulsive laughter. I turned to see my husband’s cousin walking into the room and immediately felt ashamed that I was laughing at this grievous time.

So, should I have felt guilt for this moment of humor? Was it okay to laugh when the joy of my life seemed lost forever? Or perhaps this moment was just bad timing. Whatever others felt, that laughter exploded without premeditation or expectation. I soon learned that more laughter would follow, but not always when I expected or wanted it. Laughter, an emotion, was sometimes as difficult to control as my tears.

My 88-year-old mother and two friends were staying with me the night before the funeral. I am a ventriloquist and my husband loved my work. Many of his friends from the office had seen pictures of my puppets and me sitting on his desk, but they had never seen the puppets come alive. I announced that I felt I should “do a puppet at the funeral in honor of my husband.” Mom did not have her hearing aids in and said, “Stew a puppet? How do you stew a puppet?” Again, my friends and I exploded in laughter. Mom joined us when we explained, “Do a puppet, not stew a puppet!”

Later this didn’t seem so hilarious, but we agreed that all of us needed to laugh. The delight was that this time there was no guilt. No one was present who might frown upon our frivolity.

The days following were filled with paper work and decisions about how to go on with life. Many things I avoided but most had to be faced. Newspaper comic strips seemed like something to avoid. They seemed shallow and meaningless. However, one day I saw a B.C. cartoon and began reading. “Definition of widow: A woman who knows where her husband is at ALL times.” I laughed! I laughed and laughed and laughed.

I cut out the B.C. cartoon and put it on my dresser mirror. Later, I placed it in a scrapbook with other cartoons that I began collecting to give myself permission to laugh. Some of them are not “that” funny today, but I still get a chuckle, a smile, or just a warm feeling by reading them.

Healing has come to me through both tears and laughter. Just as tears come unexpectedly but help heal, so laughter sometimes comes when unwanted but helps mend wounds so deep they are difficult, otherwise, to reach. Today, I refuse any guilt over the moment of laughter at the funeral home.

Time has passed and my emotions are more controllable, but I continue to find that laughter brings health to my grieving soul!

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