February 26th, 2011
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The late comedian George Carlin was famous for pushing the entertainment envelope and broke new ground by using a great deal of profanity in his stand-up routines.  Whether you agreed with his style of comedy or not, Carlin truly understood the power of laughter.

Laughter releases stress and boosts your immune system.  Finding humor in a situation can also make you feel more in control because you are the one poking fun at something and not the other way around.  Moreover, doctors are reporting that laughter can be a powerful distraction from pain and illness.  If you saw the movie, Patch Adams, starring the infamous Robin Williams, then you know what I am talking about.

While laughter is definitely beneficial to your health, please don’t think I am suggesting that those who are in the midst of new grief should be able to find the humor in anything.  Grieving in itself is not funny; it’s trying to cope with a life-changing event.

George Carlin

George Carlin

But . . . telling stories about the person who died can be funny.  I think that’s why the old-school Irish wakes were sometimes so therapeutic.  Sharing tall tales and bittersweet memories with family and friends usually led to lots of laughter as well as lots of tears and lots of drinks.  But in that messy emotional stew a bond and a closeness of the human spirit was created in memory of the loved one because the act of sharing became a precious gift to each other.

Whenever I see some family members or people who were really good friends with my husband, we usually end up imitating him in some fashion because he was funny even when he didn’t intend to be.  He had a very distinctive way of talking: loud and to the point.  You knew where you stood with him pretty much right away.

There are phrases that he would always use and of course in our imitations we tend to harp on those because they immediately remind us of him.  Whether I am telling the stories about him or listening to the stories being told about him, in the end I always feel that he is with us while this is going on and I know he loves it.

Only the passage of time can help with finding humor in life’s off-the-wall situations and in using humor as a coping mechanism to deal with grief.  Herewith is a bit of Carlin’s wisdom about life:

1.  Throw out nonessential numbers.  This includes age, weight and height.  Let the doctors worry about them.  That is why you pay them.

2.  Keep only cheerful friends.  The grouches pull you down.

3.  Keep learning.  Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever, even ham radio.  Never let the brain idle.  “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”  And the devil’s name is Alzheimer’s.

4.  Enjoy the simple things.

5.  Laugh often, long and loud. . .Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6.  The tears happen.  Endure, grieve, and move on. . .The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves.  Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7.  Surround yourself with what you love, whether it’s family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever.  Your home is your refuge.

8.  Cherish your health:  If it is good, preserve it.  If it is unstable, improve it.  If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9.  Don’t take guilt trips. . . Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love, that you love them, at every opportunity.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:  Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

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