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Humor to forget the pain

Humor has been a powerful tool to deal with my father’s death, it brings him closer and it connects me with the best of him and life that must go on.

“She was born laughing”. I grew up hearing this from my parents, and in fact, I have carried on laughing all my life. Laughter and funny stories became my trademark and for a long time, I believed being cheerful was a kind of gift. When my father died, around two years ago, I went through the most difficult period of my life and was surprised when I saw that this joy was still there, even with all the sadness that I felt. It was a kind of energy that I felt and it transcended my emotional state, but that was connected to my spirit, to the positive point of view I have about life, that even with all imperfections, it is always worth a good laugh.

I realized that more than being funny, I had sense of humor. Since then it has been a great ally in order to handle my father’s death, carry on with my life and touch the hearts of those who share this journey with me.

I have chosen three situations in which sense of humor has helped me:

1. Bring my father naturally to the conversation without feeling bad about it.

Right after I lost my father I realized that talking about him to people in general, without making someone shed a tear or causing embarrassment, a little bit of sense of humor was always needed. “Oh my God, daddy loved this, but when he decided to cook it was a disaster, can you remember when he prepared a raw spinach salad? And when he warmed a vacuum bottle on the stove…Oh my God!” With stories like that, people usually laughed and remembered him and made a lot of comments about him too. I have the feeling that when there is humor, people forget, relax, it is as if humor triggered different parts of the brain, and it really does, but this is part of another post, for another time.

2. Broadening thoughts and not setting them aside

It is inevitable to think about my dad before going to bed, but in the beginning these thoughts were all full of pain, longing and images of his death (the hospital, the news, the viewing etc.) So I came up with a challenge: every night I should remember a funny situation with him. It was like magic, the bad thoughts would go away suddenly and my heart would calm down and I even laughed. When I thought of happy moments the effect was different: tears would come up and my heart accelerated. Nowadays I can even think of other moments but humor, at that time, was essential for me to cross this phase.

3. Turning a difficult date into a life celebration

It was precisely this occasion that inspired me to write this text. My family gathers on my father's birthdays, both birthday and death anniversary, and it is always a VERY DIFFICULT moment. The intention is to thank for the time we had together, but the tension is high, and the sadness is so intense that I always end up bursting into tears. This year I decided to use my magic wand of humor, even finding myself a little crazy, I asked each one to choose a funny story with him to tell. I emphasized, “it is not an honor or a beautiful message, it has to be funny.” It was amazing. People arrived with a totally different energy, commenting how great it had been to spend the whole week thinking about him and reliving those moments. The evening had already started in a good mood when I started the game with my two stories. The 6 stories that were thought, soon became 20, we spent hours of laughter, memories and gratitude. It was a special night for the first time, on those dates; I slept quietly and woke up feeling happy. Just like all the others who were there, who called me the next day to tell exactly this.

As Sigmund Freud said in his book on jokes: “Humor is a way to get pleasure despite the painful emotions that interfere with it; it acts as a substitute for the release of these affections, it is placed in their place […]”.

My father was a serious guy, but he had sense of humor in his nature and believed that a “cheerful and relaxed person lives better” as he writes to me in this journal when I was only 6 years old:

Amanda's diary

“And one of them is you: wonderful little daughter, with a contagious and permanent smile, you cheer me up even when I am tired and worried but I must keep on struggling.
Be always the way you are, a cheerful person has more quality of life, and I am sure that when you grow up, you will use these qualities to help people.
I love you so much!
From Daddy”