The Healing Power of Laughter

By Medi-Share member and "Friends Sharing Friends" guest, Peter Rosenberger

 

When I first launched my radio show for caregivers, a group from AARP interviewed me and discussed the challenges of reaching family caregivers. One of them asked me, “Many people serve for years as a family caregiver, but somehow don’t identify themselves as such.  How do help people see themselves as a caregiver?”

 

For whatever reason, the question struck me as funny. Lapsing into my best Jeff Foxworthy impression, I rattled off, “If you have a carpet-cleaner on retainer, you might be a caregiver!”

 

As they doubled over laughing, they remarked, “You and Jeff should do a whole bit on that!”

 

Jeff’s been a friend for many years, so I called him and asked if would consider doing this with me. To my knowledge, he never loaned his famous, “You might be a …” to anyone, but he surprised me with, “Sure, write out some jokes, and we’ll take a look at it.”

 

Laughing back at him, I said, “These aren’t jokes … this is my life!” 

 

Taking this on as a mission, I compiled a list of ways to help people know if they are indeed a caregiver. Jeff and I did this on a video for AARP, and they still make me laugh. Here are a few highlights.

 

  • “If you’ve ever changed a dressing while cooking turkey with dressing, you might be a caregiver.”
  • “If you’ve ever hooked up your dog to your wife’s wheelchair, just to see if it would work . . . you might be a caregiver.”
  • “If you’ve ever used Neosporin as a verb, you’re probably a caregiver.”
  • “If while at the grocery store, YOU’RE the one asking for a price-check on suppositories, you might be a caregiver.”
  • “If you’re on a first-name basis with the hospital security guard, you’re probably a caregiver.” 
  • (My personal favorite from Jeff that doubled me over) :”If anyone has ever seriously asked you, ‘Baby …have you seen my left leg?!’”

 

 * Check out Peter and Jeff's video now!

 

Although humor sometimes serves as a bit of a shield to stave off painful feelings, genuinely funny moments in even the direst of circumstances continue to surprise (and delight) me.


I once heard about a beloved church leader from a small, Southern rural congregation who passed away following a long illness. As a tribute to the man, and as a gift to the widow, the church’s music minister offered to enlist the choir to sing the man’s favorite song at the funeral. Inquiring from the bereaved woman, the music minister was surprised to hear the dearly departed’s favorite song was “Jingle Bells.”


Double-checking with her, she emphatically stated that “Jingle Bells” remained his life-long favorite song, and she expressed great gratitude that the choir offered to sing her deceased husband’s much-loved song at the service.


The music minister sheepishly assembled the choir, and, with sales skills rivaling the best salesman on the planet, convinced the church choir to perform “Jingle Bells” at a funeral held in the sweltering June heat. After the eulogy, the choir stood up and belted out, “Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh . . .”


As the assembled crowd of family and friends dressed in summer attire looked on with puzzlement, the embarrassed, but committed, choir sat down feeling as if they did the best they could for the grieving widow.


Later at the graveside, the music minister passed by the man’s wife, took her hand, and once again gave his sincere condolences. Tearfully thanking him for the music, she quizzically looked at the music minister and remarked, “I loved the hymns and songs, but why did you all sing ‘Jingle Bells’?


Wide-eyed, the music minister replied, “You stated it was his favorite song.” With a sad, but sweet, grin she put her hand to her mouth and laughed. “Ohhhh, I am so sorry. I meant, ‘Golden Bells’!”

 

Sometimes humor meets tragedy in strange places. Our challenge is to expect and enjoy it.


Over the years I’ve met quite a few comedians, and each of them makes a living seeing often painful issues through “funny-shaped” lenses. 

 

With a vast spectrum of comedic tastes to choose from, we caregivers serve ourselves well to pick one that makes our sides split. Seinfeld to Foxworthy, Andy Griffith to Tim Allen; a host of comedians compete for our amusement, so let’s take them up on it! Watch a funny movie, catch a stand-up comedian on television, or read a hilarious author. When we do, we can experience the stress melt off our weary and grieving hearts.


While caregiving is serious business, and we often shed bitter tears, I’ve also discovered that life can be whimsical.  Our challenge as caregivers is to go with it. and lighten up a bit.

"Laughter gives us distance.
It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it, and then move on."
Bob Newhart