Grief is a funny thing. And I mean that quite literally. This summer was my first real experience with grief, as my father passed away a few weeks ago from cancer. I expected the deep sadness. I expected the intermittent bouts of anger. But what I did not anticipate, and I what I am so thankful for, was the laughter.
In the last hours of his life, with both his mind and body shutting down, and in the first few days afterward, I was truly taken aback by the number of moments I shared with my mom and sisters that included side-splitting bouts of laughter. Whether from recalling a memory from our childhood – the time Dad caught me sneaking in from a date past curfew and pulled the perfect guilt-trip move of uttering only, “I hope you enjoyed yourself.,” or lightening the emotional mood with medical hijinks (plotting to save the narcotics before the hospice nurse confiscated them), happy tears flowed right alongside the sad ones.
I am not comfortable crying in front of others, even family, and my usual MO is to suppress all feelings until I can reach the safety of my minivan or bedroom. I know it’s not healthy, as evidenced by the number of binge-eating sessions where I scarfed down lasagna and banana crème pie straight from the pans. But cracking inappropriate jokes and reenacting comical Depends-changing scenes I can do. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that being able to express the pain of losing someone close through laughter has probably saved me 10 pounds and an ulcer.
Grief, thank goodness, is a funny thing.