It was just a few hours after my mother took her last breath. She had been wheeled into an empty hospital room to be given her last religious rituals before she was to be transported to a centre where people could come and paid their last respect.
I was to chant a mantra continuously, taking turns with my brothers and our other relatives, making sure the mantra was not broken for 8 hours straight. I was allowed to take a rest when the others were chanting.
It was during one of my resting time that I made a joke and laughed with my brother. To which a couple of our friends looked at us weirdly before one of them made a remark, “Look, they can still laugh,” in a puzzled way.
My mother’s cold body was lying just a couple of feet in front of us.
To some of you reading this, it might sound like my brother and I are two cold-hearted people. How could we? Our mother had just passed away and we could already laugh?
The remark was even more painful when it came from my grandmother.
It was three days before the cremation. We, family and friends of my mother, were all gathered in a place where people came to pay their last respect.
I was joking and laughing yet again with my brother and it was then my grandmother said to our faces:
“How can you still laugh? Your mother is dead.”
Here we have a mother who was grieving for the loss of her daughter and children who were grieving for the loss of their mother.
The remark was like a stab to the heart.
It stunned us into silence before we could finally find our words and tried to explain to her why we could still laugh.
Those who exhibited genuine smiles and laughs predicted less grief over time and evoked positive emotions in others. -George Bonanno
My brother and I, we are not psychopaths. We were heartbroken, bereaved and sad, just like everybody else. A lot more than everyone else. It’s our mother after all.
Our mother, laid motionless, lifeless in front of our very eyes and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it.
How could we laugh?
To tell you the truth, I have no idea. I haven’t got a clue how I could still laugh despite the terrible situation.
My mother is dead. How could I still laugh?
I felt terrible.
It wasn’t until much much later that I began to understand my reaction towards the grief of losing my mother.
“Those who exhibited genuine smiles and laughs predicted less grief over time and evoked positive emotions in others,” explained George Bonanno, an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Education.
It wasn’t that I was happy and merry.
I had broken down and cried when I saw the doctors shook their heads and informed my father of my mother’s passing. My legs went out and I was sitting on the floor sobbing uncontrollably.
I cried so much that I was amazed how much water I had in my body.
My eyes were swollen and I felt the urge to sleep 24/7.
And I wasn’t the only one.
My grandmother and my father had it worse. My brothers, my aunts and uncles and all my relatives as well as my mother’s closest friends. We were all stricken by the sudden loss of our loved one.
Everyone was suffering.
Unconsciously, my brother and I had taken it upon ourselves to cheer everyone up a little.
Because of how my mother was when she was still alive.
She loved making people smile and laugh. She loved helping people. She always did her best to do good for others and to make sure people around her were always happy and jolly.
And there we were, standing amidst the sea of sorrow caused by mother’s sudden departure.
She had unknowingly become the source of all the pain for the people she had loved dearly.
We weren’t forcing ourselves to smile and laugh.
We were not doing it only for the sake of cheering other people up. We were not doing it for others. We were doing it for ourselves. It’s our coping mechanism.
Not everyone cries and wails all the time at the loss of their loved ones. We’re not the type who sit under running shower or walk in the rain crying our eyes out. We had our moments too but moments are exactly just that, moments, a fleeting sensation that eventually passes.
“Even after your loved one dies, you will likely always find humor in the memories you share. This is a normal part of grieving and should be embraced. It’s also completely normal to feel guilty when we laugh, because we think it’s too soon or maybe we feel it’s disrespectful. Nothing could be further from the truth. Laughing releases tension in the body, helping us cope with serious illnesses and deaths.” — Pathways Health
Just because we laughed, doesn’t mean we weren’t sad and grieving.
We just understood that death is a part of life. And we wanted to preserve the beautiful legacy our mother has left behind.
The beauty of simple joy in life,
smiling and laughing in the face of adversity.