I recently had a friend who went through an impactful loss in her life come to me and ask “Laura, with your laughter yoga experience, do you recommend that I laugh right now?” Before, I explain my response, let me preface this post by saying that I am fully aware of the sensitive nature of this subject. Grief is an extremely delicate topic and an extraordinarily personal experience, so how one chooses to deal with loss and the grief that follows is going to be, and should be, unique to them. Thus, I will tread lightly here and be as gentle and tender as possible.
When we go through an event that involves loss of any kind, the grief that follows can be suffocating and overwhelming. Depending on what the loss was, it can feel extremely counterintuitive to laugh while grieving, and it can even bring up feelings of guilt or questions of whether or not one should be laughing during such a tragic time. However, while I believe it is extremely important to take the time one needs to grieve and process, I also believe that it is imperative not to get stuck in that grief and to do all that we can to bring ourselves to a place of joy from within even in times of great sadness. This begs the question – can one feel joy and deep sadness simultaneously? In my experience, the answer is “yes”.
No matter your religion, belief system, or spirituality, all of them have teachings and philosophies about suffering, finding joy in suffering, and how one should respond to suffering. There is a common theme across various religious and spiritual teachings and truths that implies that we are not meant to be overcome by grief, but rather we are to experience it, process it, and do our best to find joy in the midst of it. If religion or spirituality doesn’t apply to you or speak to you, then we can turn to the scientific research that has been done in this area, which has shown that those who incorporate laughter into their grieving process are less likely to experience anxiety and/or depression, among other physical and emotional hardships, over the short and long term after a loss. All of this points to the fact that though we cannot laugh our grief away, laughter can definitely serve as an invaluable tool to help us work through that grief.
- In the same way that crying is a good way of releasing one’s emotions, laughter can act as a powerful emotional release as well. It can help to process and let go of many different emotions and feelings that one is experiencing and trying to work through during a difficult season, which can be deeply cathartic and helpful.
- Laughter can take the focus off of the grief one is experiencing, and shift their focus to positive and joyful memories involving whatever it is that they lost, whether it be a person, pet, ability, job, friendship, romantic relationship, etc. rather than the loss itself. This can be a very mending instrument in many different ways.
- Laughter can remind someone that it is okay to smile and feel joy even though they are going through a time of profound sadness. This is an incredibly important reminder – it is okay to feel joy and to be happy. That truth is incredibly therapeutic when one may feel ensconced in grief and sadness.
So my answer is a simple, yet profound, “yes”. My answer to my friend was “yes”. My answer to the question of whether or not it is appropriate to laugh during times of great sorrow is “yes”. My answer to whether or not laughter can help one through trying times of grief and loss is “yes”. Laughter produces love from within, and can act as a sort of healing balm for the deep cracks of our hearts and souls when they feel they have been broken due to a significant loss.
If you’ve recently experienced a loss of any kind, please know that my heart goes out to you, and please accept the love that I am sending to you during this complicated season. Please know that it is possible to be joyful and experience great sorrow simultaneously. Please know that it is okay to smile, laugh, and love yourself during this time. I gently invite you to incorporate some laughter into your grieving process. I know that laughter has helped me through several losses in my own life, and it is my greatest wish that it can help you too. Sending love and laughter to all of you!