A Time to Laugh: Embracing Laughter Even in Grief

My 5-year-old loves the Tickle game.

It’s a simple game. I just stand and look at her and say, “I’m gonna tickle you” and she erupts into hysterical laughter. Sometimes I’ll flutter my fingers in front of her to tease her a little bit without touching her. She can’t handle the anticipation. She starts to curl into a ball on the bed and protect her midriff. She knows. She giggles with delight. I’ll pause and go in for a real tickle of her belly or begin to kiss her sweet little neck. Laughter ensues.

Her little laugh is priceless. I wish I could bottle it up and keep it forever. That laugh makes me smile in my soul.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has great short-term and long-term effects on the body. Laughter stimulates the organs, relieves responses to stress, soothes tension, improves our immune systems, relieves pain, help lessen anxiety and depression – and this one may seem obvious – improves our moods.

A Vanderbilt University study found that 15-20 minutes of laughter a day can burn up to 40 calories. Now that’s a fun workout plan!

Research alone is enough to convince me that laughter is beneficial. I have also learned the benefits from personal experience. When my husband died from cancer in 2014, my heart was so heavy I felt like I was walking around with a boulder in my chest. The grief was so hard to bear. I also had the added challenge of navigating grief for my three daughters, ages 3, 6 and 9.

Here’s what I learned: It’s important for us to cry. We need to lean into the memories. We need to feel the heartache. We also need to laugh. Laughter ushers in healing.

We have spent time laughing over pictures and funny faces. We laugh over goofy things Daddy used to do like the robot dance. We laugh thinking about the things he might be doing in Heaven today like teaching angels how to do burpees or leading a choir for off-key worshippers.

The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Verse 4 goes on to say, “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance…” I love this juxtaposition of seasons and emotions. The tears are important but so is the laughter and the dancing.

Last year, for my husband’s Heaveniversary on September 9, we invited over several of my husband’s best friends and we shared stories about him. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew I wanted my girls to hear some of the best stories about their dad from the people who loved him most. We had some tearful moments but for the most part it turned into an evening of laughter. We celebrated his quirkiness, the bloopers and blimps, and the fun memories.

We need to give ourselves permission to laugh. Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously as mamas. It’s easy to get caught up in the guilt and the shame of not measuring up, not having enough patience with our kids, not finishing enough tasks in a day. It’s easy to push laughter aside and forget its benefits. Laughter bonds people. Laughter builds trust.

Are you navigating something heavy? Are you facing a big transition in your life? Are you grieving a loss? I want to challenge you to rediscover the things that make you giggle. Get some time with your kids or your mama friends around the table, or go to a funny movie, and give yourself permission to belly laugh.

Similar to my 5-year-old, my new husband Shawn is very ticklish. Just mention the word “tickle” and you will set him off. In fact, he’s constantly laughing. He has one of those faces that just absolutely lights up, and he laughs really loudly. I once had a friend ask me if he was like that all the time. She lives long distance and only saw him in photos. I told her, “Yep, pretty much. He can laugh on command.”

And Shawn has taught me that even despite the hard things our family has endured, we have permission to laugh. I’m grateful for the freedom to do so.

After all, laughter is the best medicine.

**I’m reading a great book by Kate Merrick called And Still She Laughs: Defiant Joy in the Depths of Suffering. Stay tuned for a book review on this book coming later this week. Snag a copy for yourself and let’s chat about it!

***Are you navigating a grief journey? Could you use some words of encouragement? I’d love to add you to my Glorygram list, which includes a weekly dose of courage and recommendations, especially for folks navigating grief. Read more about my Grief Journey here.

 

About Dorina Gilmore

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