“A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing.” ~Laura Ingalls Wilder
During my pregnancy with my second daughter, Grace, a routine scan showed that the baby had a rare and serious heart defect.
From that moment onward, my husband and I started walking along the most challenging, heart-breaking, and gruelling road either of us has ever traveled. The journey often saw us cry, but you may be surprised to hear that we laughed a lot too.
On the day of the scan, the fetal cardiologist spent a long time scanning our baby’s heart. When she had finished, she sat us down to explain her findings. Up until that point, we knew that the problem was serious but we didn’t know the exact diagnosis.
She took out a pad of paper and began drawing a detailed diagram of a heart. She then looked up and asked, “How’s your biology?” My husband (who has one failed attempt at a biology GCSE under his belt) looked worried, as if he were fifteen again and she was about to test him.
“Not good,” he said apologetically. Even in the midst of such a traumatic experience, I found this small part of it funny. So I laughed.
There’s no point trying to be solemn for solemnity’s sake. Even in the darkest, most trying and difficult moments, I believe if something is funny, you have to laugh. Seize the opportunity to escape the situation, even if for a few seconds, and welcome the release.
On the day of Grace’s funeral, as my husband and I sat together clutching each other’s hands, the choir began the first song.
I had never properly heard my husband sing before and it was the poorest display of tone-deaf screeching I have ever been subjected to. It was also extremely funny and I couldn’t help bursting in to fits of giggles (everyone else thought I was crying).
You may think me heartless—how could I laugh at my own daughter’s funeral? Believe me, that day was the saddest and heaviest of my life. Minutes earlier, when my husband and I carried Grace’s tiny white coffin into the crematorium, the pain was so intense that I didn’t think I could make it.
And then suddenly, my husband once again exercised his great ability to make me laugh. The laughter lightened me for a few moments.
A minute of laughter allowed me to momentarily forget my sorrow and the heavy burden was temporarily lifted.
Grace only lived for one day. I will never know the person she would have become. But I do know that she would have loved me and she would be happy that my laughter helped me endure the pain of losing her, even if it was just for a short period.
My husband is a very funny man who has me in stitches every single day (so much so that sometimes I can’t even stand up).
He hides this from the rest of the world, and I feel privileged to be one of the few people he shows this side to. When we were at the doctor’s office and Grace’s funeral, he wasn’t trying to be funny, and yet even during the most difficult of times; he still has the ability to make me laugh.
When Grace died, many people told me that the burden of grief would probably cause our relationship to become strained and difficult.
We were given lots of well-meaning advice and yet our relationship didn’t suffer at all. Indeed, we became stronger and developed an even deeper bond. I think humor had a lot to do with this.
The ability to laugh every single day, despite our grief, pulled us through our mourning together. I came to admire my husband even more for his strength, compassion, kindness, and (of course) his wonderful sense of humor.
Laughter is a remarkable healing force, allowing you to forget yourself and bond with the person you are laughing with.
I have witnessed friends who, when going through tough times, stop themselves from laughing at something (even though I know they would normally find it funny). We have a tendency to halt our laughter because it doesn’t seem right or appropriate, because we might feel guilty if we let it go.
Laughter is always right and appropriate (as long as it not at someone else’s expense).
In your darkest hours, if you find something funny, allow yourself to laugh. Many studies have shown that laughter and humor have a huge array of benefits including strengthening the immune system, reducing pain, and stress and increasing energy.
If you are going through a difficult experience or are generally feeling down, humor may accidently find you. Embrace it.
And if you don’t come across it by chance, track down a way you can lose yourself in some proper laughter. Watch a film that never fails to make you chuckle, speak to a humorous friend, or read a funny book. It’s not wrong to laugh when things are tough; on the contrary, I promise it will help.
Little monks laughing image via Shutterstock