By Allen Klein
Humour has always been a big factor in our relationship. We would frequently question why we were still together when our friends were separating. I told Ellen that life with her was an adventure. And, although I never thought of myself as particularly funny, she said to me that it was because I made her laugh.
While there were lots of tears during the three years of Ellen’s terminal illness, there was also laughter. One time, for example, Ellen was in the hospital with a copy of Playboy magazine, with the male nude centrefold. She said, “I really like this month’s hunky man. Could you put on the wall over there?”
I said, “Ellen, this is a hospital. It’s a little risqué.” So, I put a leaf over “that” part and taped it to the wall. Everything was fine for the first day. And O.K. for the second day. But by the third day, the leaf shrivelled up, revealing more of what we were trying to conceal.
When Ellen came home from the hospital, we had a good laugh reminiscing about the leaf incident. Even though the laughter lasted only a few seconds, it helped us rise above our situation and gave us a moment’s relief.
After Ellen died, I found that the grief books I was reading were not helpful. Most were big fat volumes telling me how bad I would feel. I didn’t need that kind of advice. I was experiencing it. What I needed was a book that held my hand during my loss comforted me, and helped me get back laughter again.
Not finding that, I wrote my own, Embracing Life After Loss. In it, I provide five steps to going from loss to laughter.
Perhaps the best thing we do when encountering a loss is to realise that losing is part of living. In a way, it is nature’s way of keeping things in balance. Can you imagine what the world would be like if no one ever died?
Every time you lose something, you are presented with an opportunity to acquire something new. With each loss, there is an opportunity for a new beginning. You may not realise it right now, but your loss is part of your growth process. Your loss is serving you. It is helping you examine who you are, why you are on this earth, and how to live your life.
Crying is the body’s way of dealing with loss. It is unhealthy to squelch your tears. But continuing to wallow in those tears endlessly is not healthy. At some point, you need to get on with your life. When we carry our grief for too long, say years, two lives are lost. The person who died and the person only partially alive.
When dealing with a loss, ultimately, the choice is yours. No matter what the situation, you have a choice of how you react to it. You can remain in your grief and turn your face away from life, or you can move on and embrace life.
Research has shown that “the more widows and widowers laughed and smiled during the early months after their spouse’s death, the better their mental health was over the first two years of bereavement.” Laughter is a great coping mechanism. Many of the world’s top comedians intuitively knew this. So they turned to humour to cope and made comedy their career. Your goal is not to become a stand-up comic, but you can take a lesson from them and use humour and laughter to help you cope with your loss. As Woody Allen once said, “Birth is a fatal disease.”
About the Author: Allen Klein is a professional speaker, TEDx presenter and author of 30+ books including The Healing Power of Loss, Embracing Life After Loss, and The AWE Factor.