RESILIENCE: Humor – The Healing Power of Laughter

Death is one of the saddest life events

It’s like cutting off an arm — the loss is with you forever. You try to act “normal,” but it’s hard. Nobody wants to be around someone in perpetual sadness. Part of the responsibility is our own — the one who has been left behind to struggle through the dark journey of loss.


Why are they laughing, you ask?

Humor is hard to find in the beginning of your journey. You’re devastated, lost, sad, lonely…. The first time you may see humor is at the viewing. You look around and see friends and relatives in small groups. Some are talking quietly while others are smiling and laughing. The mourners at the funeral home shared memories with your loved one over the years. Some of these memories create laughter. No disrespect intended.


Coping with humor — laugh, laugh, laugh

Humor is a positive emotion. It can diffuse the many negative emotions you are experiencing. According to many, humor is good medicine. Humor therapy is a coping mechanism that helps people deal with life’s hardships.


The benefits of laughter

Seeing the humor in life sometimes makes the most sense to us. Laughter makes you smile, and those around you are infected with it. Studies have shown that the benefits of laughter include:

  • improving oxygenation to the brain
  • relieving tension in the muscles
  • creating a sense of peace


Posted on FB creating laughs. We really used these bottles for the border of our herb garden.


3 Tips for tickling your funny bone:

Find something that provides a Distraction:

Try watching a funny movie by yourself or with a friend. Laugh until you cry OR cry until you laugh. Read some funny greeting cards in a store alone OR with a friend. Read the comics section of the newspaper. I once created a Tickler Notebook for a project that included anything that was funny for a stress management course. It contained cards, comics, poetry, photos, quotes, stories, and more. I gave the original one to someone who had cancer and was struggling. She said it brought her so much joy and laughter. I pulled out my copy when my husband died and had a few laughs myself. Try making one for yourself.




My daughter in Hawaii

Pause and think of a Positive Memory

During the healing process, you may ask yourself this question: “Did I share laughter and humor with my loved one?” If the answer is yes, then why not use memories of shared laughter to heal? Remembering shared times of laughter brings a smile to your face. It feels good.

I have many memories of shared laughter with my husband. Each time I recall one, I see his smiling face and hear the laughter — his, mine, and sometimes my daughter’s. A memory such as this can be triggered by intentionally. Recall a shared event or look at a picture, words, or something else, related to such a memory. Such precious memories make me cry sometimes, as they can no longer happen in real-time. But, that’s OK. Sadness and happiness can and do coexist.





Funny art objects

Get out and Find Fun:

Make a date with a friend or friends for coffee or lunch. Where two or more are gathered together, laughter is sure to happen. Go to a park or playground and observe the fun and laughter of others. Visit your grandchildren if you have some, and see how easily they laugh. Remember, laughter can be contagious.










You won’t find humor unless you look for it.


Photo taken in Hawaii a few months after my husband died. My daughter refused to leave me home alone. I found moments of laughter during this sad time. It helped ease the pain of loss.


Start Looking NOW!




Humor helps us gain perspective and can play a significant role in the journey through grief and loss — perhaps the one thing that helps you through a rough day. Here’s a poem I wrote and included in my book, Good Grief. It will make you laugh and ponder the duality of laughter and sadness.



Don’t make me laugh I’ve often said,

I’ll pee my pants or wet my bed.

So I stay still and keep real stiff

As I cross my legs and do not shift.

Yet it creeps forth unwillingly

This joyous sound of laughing glee.

Is laughter worth the price of pee?

Yes, I whole-heartedly agree.


Don’t make me laugh I’ve often said

I need my sorrow, pain and dread.

So deep inside I seal up tight

As I grasp each piece with all my might.

But then a whisper of mirth I hear

Bursts through the heartache and the fear.

Against my wishes, I smile and laugh.

Yes, laughter will be my epitaph.


–Cheryl A. Barrett, 11/15/2017




Photos courtesy of Cheryl Barrett




Cheryl A. Barrett, RN, MSN, NC-BC, is a retired nurse with 30-plus years in a variety of settings: clinical bedside in ICU, staff educator, academic instructor both didactic and clinical, supervisor, home care education, editorial director of a nursing magazine and is a board certified integrative nurse coach.





In 2018 she published Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation, inspired by the death of her husband. She won the American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year, 2018 in the category of Palliative Care and Hospice for her book. She is currently creating a companion workbook for those experiencing grief and loss.




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One Comments

  • Rosemary Brewer 30 / 03 / 2021 Reply

    What an inspiration you are Cheryl! I will share your talent with others, thank you. I especially love the pictures!!!

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