Humor can come from unexpected sources. I work in the medical field and while you might not think that would be a hotbed of comedic material, it really can be. Health care workers and patients alike are surrounded by illness and death and need the natural outlet and stress relief provided by laughter.
Gallows humor is defined as humor that makes fun of a life-threatening, disastrous, or terrifying situation. This certainly applies to health care as well as many other occupations and situations. I was exposed to this type of humor early on in life when I became a candystriper at a local hospital. People were ill, yet laughter abounded in the cancer ward.
The first time I witnessed an exhibition of gallows humor, I was horrified. A patient, who had just had a tumor removed, was meeting with her physician. They were discussing reconstructive surgery, which seemed scared and I could see no humor in the matter. When I passed the room, I was stunned to see her juggling the implant samples, which looks like sacks of clear gel, that the physician brought for their discussion. She thread one implant high up in the air then snatched it out while throwing another. Occasionally she had three going of various sizes and weights.
"I do not know, that ones pretty heavy, it's going to sag in a few years. Maybe I should go with the lighter model. Not that my husband will agree … he's looking forward to a larger size," with this announcement she laughed and continued juggling. The physician sat nearby waiting for her act to end so he could continue his discussion. It's safe to say that this sort of reaction did not happen with every patient!
This was my first exposure to gallows humor, but not my last. This type of display continued when I worked in the doctors office and after a while, I would usually laugh along rather than be shocked by patients' actions. One day in the office I walked back to the treatment room where the patients received their chemotherapy. I stopped in the doorway, amazed at the sight before me.
A group of women in the corner were topless. They were examining each other and comparing the work of various plastic surgeons. In the middle of the group was a new patient who had yet to get reconstructive surgery. The women were supporting her in her search for a surgeon by acting as live models! The woman was blushing and laughing; nervous laughter to be certain as I'm sure she never thought to find herself in this situation when she came in for her first treatment.
I decided then and there that if these women could find humor in times of tragedy, then so could I. Since that moment, I've tried to find something humorous in everything. I can not always manage it in the moment, but there's always something later that strikes my funny bone. Try your hand at turning a dark moment into something funny with gallows humor. It's a great way to deal with a tragic situation as laughter releases endorphins and helps with the healing process