Finding Joy in the Midst of Despair

Author: Darcie Sims

The value of humor in grief resolution is sometimes hard to see, especially in the early weeks, months and even years of grief. Yet, without a sense of humor, the world would be a dark, dreary, and unforgiving place. 


A sense of humor is a valuable tool for coping with grief. Although your sense of humor may appear to have been deleted from your being, if you can allow it to return (even just a little) the journey through grief may be a little less painful. It may hurt to even think a humorous thought at first, but even in the opening hours and days of grief, there are often little things that may strike us as funny. We are so often caught in the shock and numbness of grief that we might not even recognize these “little light moments” or if we do, we may feel guilty for even having a light moment.

But if you can capture those light moments, then you will discover one wonderful thing about humor: When you cry, you are spending energy and sending out oxygen. When you laugh, you are banking energy and bringing in oxygen. Each time you laugh or even chuckle, healing oxygen comes into your body; and we can use all the healing we can get!

Just as your perspective on many things changes as you grieve, your sense of humor may change as well. Do not judge these changes; simply acknowledge them as being a natural part of the grieving process. Begin to regain your sense of humor by allowing yourself to be open to experiencing those moments of lightness that may suddenly appear, even at the funeral. Some might call these moments sick or dark humor, but they are neither sick nor from the dark side of anything! Cherish them as signs that you can still find joy, even in the midst of despair.  

A simple technique to try: 
Whenever you experience a difficult thought, memory, or moment, open your non-dominant hand (right or left) and “place” that thought, memory or moment into that hand. Send those thoughts to your open hand. Now close that hand tightly…. make a fist and keep it tightly closed. You do not want to lose that thought, moment, or memory…no matter how painful.

When you have placed that difficult thought or memory into your non-dominant hand, open your dominant hand (right or left…the other one). Now think of something that makes your heart sing, and your eyes smile. Make it something wonderful about your loved one…. a quick story, a happy memory, a special little moment that you have always loved. You might have to work hard (at first) to remember a happy memory or thought, as grief is often a thief…stealing not only our loved one’s presence, but all the happy memories as well. If nothing comes to mind, try to remember the color of your loved one’s eyes. Call someone if you have to and ask for a happy memory. Write it down if you are afraid you will forget this wonderful moment.

Then place this wonderful happy thought into your dominant hand and close your fingers around it…making a tight fist, just like the fist you have made with your other hand. Now you have both a difficult thought/memory and a happy thought/memory. You can hold them both, but with practice and commitment, eventually your dominant hand will begin to hold more good thoughts and memories than your non-dominant hand.

And one day, if you work hard enough and allow it to happen, you will wake up and remember first that you’re loved one lived, not just that he died. And that is a great day!

Humor helps bring balance back into our lives, at a time when we may not believe there will ever be another joyful moment to be found. Search for those moments and memories. They are there, tucked away in the recesses and corners of your being, just waiting to be rediscovered. If your loved one ever laughed when he was alive, then you can do no less than to continue that wonderful legacy of joy.

May love be what you remember the most! 

Darcie SimsBy Darcie D. Sims, PhD, CHT, CT, GMSDarcie Sims is a bereaved parent and child, nationally certified thanatologist, certified pastoral bereavement specialist and licensed psychotherapist and hypnotherapist. She is the president and cofounder of Grief, Inc., a grief consulting business, and the Director of the American Grief Academy in Seattle, Washington. Darcie is an internationally recognized speaker and prolific writer, having authored seven books and numerous articles.  For more information and a complete listing of her books, visit