I think one of the reasons people stumble when they come to comfort the bereaved is that they assume people in mourning have lost their sense of humour. But, the thing is, death and dying can sometimes strike a person as a bit funny… or rather, often the bereaved can easily see opportunities for jokes in their new experience. This is probably the effect of shock and trauma, but regardless, a little giggle every now and then to ease the pain is no bad thing.
I still smile when remembering the time I attempted to take my mum’s ashes to Spain. I got to the check-in desk and Easyjet refused to let me take the ashes on-board so I had to leave poor Mum in the left luggage section for a week. You can just imagine the look on the face of the left luggage receptionist when I handed over a Tupperware container of human remains and filled in the contents form with the word ‘Mum’.
Humour helps to diffuse the situation and, in particular, it helps reassure the supporter of the bereaved they are not going to crumble into a million pieces. I once heard of a woman who talked of losing her husband and only child over a relatively short period of time, and every time she told people she always followed it up with ‘two for the price of one at the undertaker’s.’ It might seem weird that the bereaved should attempt to comfort their comforter, but the joke acts as a signal to the non-bereaved that the person is still there, doing the best they can in dealing with their loss.
Annie Broadbent (@anniebroadbent), our guest blogger, lost her mother two years ago to breast cancer and began writing about her experience of grief. Her book, We Need To Talk About Grief, a guide for friends of the bereaved, will be published by Piatkus in November