Laughter is the Best Medicine

Author: Rachael Hill

When I was a kid, every Thanksgiving was spent with our extended family in Wisconsin.  It didn't matter where we were living at the time, we would always make the trek for this special time together.  My cousins and I always had so much fun together.  On Thanksgiving Day, it became tradition to have our uncle videotape us doing impromptu plays, which usually included some variation of The Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three (sometimes four) Bears.  We would laugh and giggle at each other and whatever shenanigans we could come up with.  This tradition continued well into my high school years. They are absolutely some of my best childhood memories.

Jeff and son

This past Thanksgiving we once again traveled to Wisconsin for this coveted family time. I got to see a few of my cousins that I hadn't seen in easily 15 years.  Of course those videos came up in conversation and low and behold, my aunt had them readily available so of course we had to watch!  I laughed so hard watching these videos that my cheeks hurt, and tears were rolling down my face!  I honestly can't remember the last time I laughed so hard!  We laughed at clothing, hairstyles, the stupid things we did as kids, and everything in between.  We had so much fun together all those years ago, and then again remembering those times well into adulthood.  This was a laugh I didn't even realize I needed.

I can't imagine what this world would be like without laughter in it!  You will never hear someone say they felt worse after a good laugh.  Smiling and laughing are good for the soul. Laughing even releases endorphins in the body that can simply make you feel better.  Sometimes when you're grieving, the smile can fade from your face. Laughter can be hard to find, but I have found that the saying is true…laughter truly is the best medicine.   You just have to give yourself permission to find it again.

Sometimes you can even use "widow humor."  You know, the things you laugh at that others just don't get and look at you like you're crazy.  That's widow humor.   I feel bad saying it, but I secretly get enjoyment out of making people uncomfortable when they make stupid comments or assumptions about my husband.  For example, I had some furniture delivered and had to take my entertainment equipment apart to move it into the new furniture.  As we were unhooking the speaker wires, the guy asked me a number of times if my husband would be able to put it back together.  I repeatedly told him, "No, I can do it myself," but he just wasn't getting the hint.  I finally had to say, "No, he can't…he's dead!"  The guy was horrified. While I did feel bad about this, I still smiled inside and it is now a funny story to share.  It actually makes me giggle just thinking about it.

A friend of ours had a college assignment to write a paper about an event that changed his life, and he chose to write about the night of my husband's plane crash.  He let me read the paper not too long ago, and I was a bit taken back by his insight into that night.  His dad was one of Jeff's best friends so our families were, and still are, very close.  When he found out a C-17 had crashed and that Jeff was on the plane, he wanted to show his support by coming to our house.  In the paper he explained how he wasn't sure what he would find there.  Would I be crying?  Would it be solemn and quiet?  He just didn't know what to expect, and there was some hesitancy during the drive over.  When he came in the house I greeted him with a hug, found him a seat, and then continued on with my conversation.  He was surprised to see that not only were we talking about Jeff and sharing funny stories about him, but we were also laughing!

Even looking back on this now, I am still sometimes surprised at how we handled that night, but then on the other hand I'm not.  Jeff loved being silly, and he loved to laugh.  That laugh was contagious and he had a smile that could light up a room.  His smile even reflected through his eyes. I can still see that twinkle in his eye when I think of some of the good laughs we had together.  I like to think of my husband as now being in a wonderful, beautiful place that is full of happiness and love.  I do think he misses me like I miss him (or should I say I "hope" he misses me like that), but even so, I want him to be happy and content in the place he is at…and I know he would want the same for me.  He hated seeing me sad when he was alive, so why would it be any different after he died?   With this belief, I have given myself permission to be happy…to smile and especially to laugh.  I also have confidence in knowing that it is not only OK for me to be happy like this, but it is also the kind of life he would want me to live. 

"I just like to smile.  Smiling is my favorite."  -- Buddy the Elf, from the movie Elf