DEAR PATRICIA: I’ve read that humor can help caregivers. I’ve tried to keep a sense of humor about my mother dying of colon cancer, but I can’t. She is a fighter and very courageous in her battle. I’ve lost my ability to laugh, and I’m fearful I’ll never get it back. Is it possible for me to find my smile again?
ANSWER: It isn’t necessary to find humor in your situation. But studies show that humor is a healing powerhouse, not only for the caregiver but also for those receiving care. A well-placed comment followed by a hearty belly laugh can lift your mother’s spirits as well. We know for a fact that the physical act of laughing decreases stress and that humor can, and does, absorb some of the trauma that leads to caregiver’s fatigue and burnout. This is one way to lighten your heavy load and keep you balanced and energized. For now, if you can’t find your smile, let others find it for you. Reconnect with things that brought a smile to your face prior to your mother’s illness. Maybe it was the witty writing of Dave Barry, or watching Seinfeld re-runs on television, or sharing a cup of coffee with a friend who says things that tickle your funny bone. Whatever it is for you, carve out time each day to revisit that place where humor resides. Laughter reminds us that life is good at times when it is so easy to forget. Your smile will return—you can count on it.
Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© (www.compassionfatigue.org), the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.comor Amazon.com.