Hold On, It's Not Over

A Blog about Children's Mental Health in Massachusetts

Gotta laugh

Bill Cosby once said, “Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” Humor has been used to survive serious illnesses such as cancer as well as terrible situations. Dark humor is often used by police officers, firefighters and doctors to deal with the stress they face each day. Although they don’t share it widely, most parents use humor, often dark humor, to cope with having a child who has significant mental health needs in their family.

Survivors of similar experiences can recognize each other by the look in each other’s eyes. Or by their sense of humor. When someone makes what seems like an odd or even unfeeling remark about their own child’s behavior, another parent whose situation is similar, will smile, nod or even chuckle. The parent of a typical child might offer sympathy or shock but not the “insider” joke. Humor can bring you closer to one another or identify those who have been through similar experiences.

We laugh at our kids because they are so darned funny. There are moments when their behavior is absurd, bizarre or so out of whack with the situation that we have to shake our heads and laugh (usually where they can’t see us). We laugh for our kids, because they have such a hard time seeing the humor in life. They are intense, moody and often everything seems threatening to them. It’s hard to sustain that perspective and their parents usually cannot. We laugh with our kids because they, and we, feel so isolated that sharing fun or humor is a moment we value. We laugh despite our kids because we all need to distance ourselves when we are drowning in emotion and master our fear.

For some people, their sense of humor abandons them when things start to go wrong. For others, it kicks into high gear. Years ago, when I facilitated support groups, I was lucky enough to meet Maureen. Her young son was unpredictable, fragile and often was unsure what was real or not. She would tell stories of his life during each group and add her own droll comments. One time she reported that he was sure he saw a (nonexistant) man in their house. He would report the man’s movements, sometimes with fear, sometimes with confusion. One day he reported that the strange man no one else saw was in her bedroom and he had seen him on the bed. “Honey,” she replied, “I should be so lucky.”

Humor is essential to fighting burnout and keeping yourself focused. It creates a language that no one would else would understand except someone else who has been through it. Humor can bring you closer to one another and build some emotional distance from stress, pain or feeling overwhelmed.

Parents are often advised to “do something for themselves” or take care of themselves when raising a child with mental health needs. Conventional advice includes getting a massage or going away for the weekend, which might be almost impossible to achieve. But nurturing and valuing your sense of humor — and using it often — is something we can all do.

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February 21, 2011 - Posted by | children's mental health | , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I was driving one day with my son in the car and I was on my cell phone I realized I may lose the connection so I told the person that I might lose her because I was going through a dead zone. Sure enough the line went dead and I hung up. My son started screaming which startled me almost running my car off the road! I said what in the world is wring with you…his response was you killed her… I said WHO? His reply the person on the phone. You said you might lose her you were going through a dead zone! Lol! I almost lost control if the car the second time because I was laughing so hard…I spent the next hour explaining what a dead zone meant!

    Comment by Lynn | February 22, 2011 | Reply

  2. Without humor where would we be? I absolutely agree that we need to nurture and value our sense of humor.

    Comment by mary | February 22, 2011 | Reply

  3. Well said – thanks, Lisa!

    And then there’s…..

    A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to our steps as we walk the tightrope of life.

    AND

    Humor can alter any situation and help us cope at the very instant we are laughing.

    And, thanks, as always for your unique perspective.

    Comment by dketover | February 22, 2011 | Reply


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