What a Christmas Funeral Taught Me About Grief and Good Memories

friends talking and laughing to cope with grief

Years ago, I attended the wake and funeral services of a friend, a fellow comedian, who was killed in a car crash. I have been to many wakes, viewings, funerals and memorials throughout the course of my life, but there was something special about this one in particular. Perhaps it was because the funeral was during the holiday season, just a few days before Christmas Eve. Either way, an awareness came over me that day that caused me to cope with grief and view the losses in my life from a different perspective.

When the service was over, a group of family members and close friends met at a relative’s house. As I scanned the room, I noticed people wiping away tears and consoling one another. Some were understandably having a difficult time accepting the unfair twist of fate that had fallen upon someone who had so much talent and so much to offer.

Reminiscing to Cope With Grief

From across the room, I overheard a few comedy friends telling a funny story that I was familiar with. So I decided to join in on the conversation and offered an anecdote about my friend’s affinity for football. Soon everyone in the room joined in and was laughing and reminiscing about the good times we shared with him. That’s when it happened. In the midst of all the laughter, a strange, uplifting feeling came over me. I was no longer grieving over my friend.

My energy immediately shifted as I was temporarily delivered from my pain, and I witnessed everyone else feel the same sensation. In fact, my friend’s wife said, “You know this was his favorite time of the year. It always brought the little kid out of him. I miss him and always will, but right now, I feel as if a part of him is with us and always will be.” Then she paused and said, “It’s as if he’s saying to all of us, ‘It’s OK. I’m OK. Everything is as it should be and I will always be with you.’”

At that moment his death was not the point of focus. The only thing that mattered was the powerful feeling we were all experiencing. For the remainder of the evening we honored our friend by allowing ourselves to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. It was our ability to laugh and reminisce about the good times that ignited that spirit and helped us cope with our grief.

Using Laughter as Medicine

That day the simple ability to laugh took us from a place of pain and uncertainty to a place of inner peace and hope. It made us all realize that, throughout our journey, there really are no goodbyes, only good memories. The spirit moves on, and we all move on in turn.

We all experienced something very special that day. I believe laughter and the holiday spirit are synonymous. They both have a magical way of breaking down barriers and reminding us that we are never alone—we are all connected, even in times of grief.

Grieving may not be unavoidable. In fact, it’s necessary to cope with grief in order for us to heal. But finding the laughter in between the tough times is essential to living a happier life. It’s a higher part of yourself, urging and reminding you that life still goes on, regardless of whether you like the way it goes or not. There will be good times and bad times, but in the end, all you’ll really leave behind are memories. So you might as well attempt to enjoy them all!

This article was published in December 2015 and has been updated. Photo by Ground Picture/Shutterstock

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Steve Rizzo is the Attitude Adjuster. You can’t attend one of his keynote speeches and leave with the same attitude. He’s a personal development expert, comedian, motivational speaker, and best-selling author. It’s no surprise that he’s been inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed upon on fewer than 250 speakers worldwide since 1977. You can find out more at www.steverizzo.com.

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