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Humor in the Grieving Process


One of the things I’ve always noticed and been inspired by has been the appropriate timing and use of humor with patients and families.”

Ron Davis has been working as a Support Services Director at Crossroads Hospice for a little over two years now, and he says that humor and laughter, in his experience, have always been the best antidotes in the grieving process.

On a scientific level, Ron is right.  Laughter produces endorphins, which are the body’s naturally produced pain killers.  More laughter equals more endorphins, which equals less pain.

There’s a story Ron always like to tell: He’s just had the worst day.  One of those long days where nothing seems to go his way.  He gets home to his two beautiful children and a kitchen sink full of dishes.  He thinks, “You know what, I’m going to do something nice for my wife.  I’ll put all these dishes in the washer and she’ll love me even more for making sure she can happily come home to a nice, clean house.”  It’s a kind gesture—the little things count the most, right?

So here’s goes Ron—he opens up the dishwasher and what does he see?  A dishwasher practically overflowing with dirty dishes.  The way Ron sees it, he has two options: 1.) Let this little unfortunate event make his day even worse by embracing the frustration or 2.) Make a joke, laugh it off and proceed to bond with his kids.  Ron, practically an expert on how humor can help in these types of situations, chooses the latter because it will quickly calm him down and help him feel better about the situation.

Of course, losing someone is far more difficult than having a bad day and coming home to a messy house, but it just goes to show that we have options when dealing with difficult situations—and sometimes the best option is to use humor as a mechanism to cope with grief.

In hospice, the grieving process is common.  While we at Crossroads do everything in our power to ensure that a patient’s end-of-life experience is as comfortable and peaceful as possible, it can still be a difficult reality to grasp for loved ones.  This makes maintaining the right mindset all the more important.

Finding something to laugh about is never easy when dealing with a loss, but consider this: We all have those memories of our departed loved ones that make us laugh.  It’s these memories that we love them for.  Ron Davis has another story he likes to tell that reminds us to stay positive when it really matters--while coping with grief.

“My wife’s grandfather was a little hard of hearing—so when he had a point to make he would always bump you with his elbow.  A little inside family joke was that if you had a point to get across, throw an elbow.

“After he passed away, at the funeral, everyone was around telling their stories about him, I look over and I see my wife crying, so the next thing I do is I start elbowing her with my right arm. She looks over at me with tears in her eyes and starts laughing. She had that moment where you take a deep breath, your shoulders kind of relax a little bit, and you say, “Ok, it’s not as bad as it was prior to,” That’s what I saw within her.”

The point is: A lot of the time when you’re feeling down about a situation, laughter can bring you back up and put things into perspective.  Think of it as a system of checks and balances—one happy memory for every one time you’re feeling down.  This will help do wonders for both yourself and those around you when it comes to moving forward through the grieving process.

While of course this varies from person to person, everyone usually has a story that can make them think about the good in a situation.  When you find yourself there, ask the question: What’s mine?  Have a laugh, hug your loved ones, and feel a whole lot better about the road ahead.

If you would like more information on how Crossroads Hospice supports families at end of life, please call us at 888-564-3405.


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