It's that awkward moment of grief, when you feel so full of hopelessness, angry tears flowing, when suddenly something makes you...laugh.
Here's a great example of the grief cycle in a short 2.5 minute clip, taken from one of my favorite movies of all time, "Steal Magnolias".
Just look at the expression on Sally Field's face when her crew begins laughing, at her daughter's funeral! That scene still gives me a strange feeling in my belly, and I wonder whether or not I was supposed to be laughing at that moment. While laughing is not a stage in the grieving cycle, the first laugh has to happen eventually, and when it does, it might feel awkward.
Grief had a way of swallowing me up so deeply in pain, that when I laughed, I questioned whether or not it was appropriate.
I had only been home for two days, after the two week separation from my husband, when we experienced this awkward moment. The kids were tucked in bed, and Burris and I had enough arguing and crying for the day, when we turned on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
With my husband on one end of the couch and I on the other, we didn't even make it half way through the monologue when Fallon was able to get a chuckle out of us. We made eye contact, and the question came as instant as the flip of a light switch, is it ok to laugh?
A couple of thoughts came to mind in that moment on the couch. First, I wasn't sure if I was honoring my pain by laughing. That sounds silly, I know, but I couldn't deny that laughing felt good, and I had been feeling so hurt for such a long stretch that it caught me off guard. Second, and perhaps this is where I felt I was dishonoring my pain, I didn't want to communicate to my husband that my laughing meant what he did was "ok".
It was not ok, but man, did it feel great to laugh.
Those first few times I laughed and played with my husband again, taught me some big lessons;
- Laughing doesn't cancel out grief. It just gives a momentary break. It's a gift. Enjoy it.
- When the laughing is over, you might go back into heavy grieving again. Just because you laughed or had a good day, doesn't mean that you should be "over" your grieving. This is where it is imperative to receive the compassion of Jesus for yourself.
- Laughing in sorrow is a picture of the hope to come. Jesus says in Luke 6:21 "Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh." Most of us are aware that life here is hard and painful, but for those who are in Christ, there will be a day where there is no more sin and we will laugh in joyful perfection.
Grief in the discovery will usher us into our first laugh, and may the laughter be like a cup of cold water to a parched soul. Thank God for his kindness in all things funny, even when a part of us feels like it has died.
Do you have a memory of laughing for the first time in the midst of grief? How did it make you feel?