Laughing to avoid crying

Sometimes I laugh instead of cry. For one thing, it is more uplifting. For another, it energizes, rather than drains. However, sometimes it is really just inappropriate.

I am not alone though. Many of my Army friends have this coping mechanism. I also know quite a few nonmilitary people who do it too though.

I think it started when I was kid. I wanted to be the funny one. I liked when I made people laugh. I was silly. I was the high school class clown. I was labeled as goofy, silly and witty. That was cool with me as I could never compete with the rich, pretty, popular girls. So, I was quite happy being the nice funny girl who got along with all the clicks.

When I deployed, humor was just part of my personality by then. But it added something more in a war zone. It protected me. Not in the literal sense of course, but in a mental way. Comedy became a form of mental resiliency. Random rockets would hit my base in both my Iraq and Afghanistan deployments. Sometimes there were a few a day. Sometimes it was only a few a month. That was the thing though. You. Never. Knew. When. Or. If…. You also worked along side of local nationals at times. Don’t get me wrong, they were lovely people. However, there was always a story that some national on some base somewhere got violent. So you always had that ‘what if’ worry in the back of your head.

Combine that with intense work loads, little free time and lack of your normal daily life and world around you…that adds up to a lot of stress. (And then multiple that times 100 for those Soldiers who actually had much more intense and “outside-the-wire” jobs.) But for many of us, this pressure cooker situation was diffused with comedy.

One time in Afghanistan, some Monday mortars, aka rockets, landed on base and the sirens started wailing. In these situations, some Soldiers jump into action. Others Soldiers get out of the way. Not that we are hiding, but our place/mission is to go to the bunkers. It is essentially like civilian police and fire department workers. When they are needed, the rest of get out of their way. So when the sirens went off, I ran to the closet bunker. As I stood in the concrete bunker with about 15-20 other service members, we all start laughing at the randomness of our uniforms. It was around 4 a.m. after all and when rockets go off, you move. The last thing you are worried about is whether your boots are laced or your shirt is buttoned.

So here we were, a bunch of highly trained Soldiers, looking all unkempt. Hair was loose and messy and on our collars. Some wore a combination of their regular uniform and their fitness uniform. A few guys had no shirts. One service member, did have something very odd though. He had a coffee pot.

As he ran out of his bedroom ‘hut,’ he grabbed his morning joe along with his helmet and weapon. You never know how long an air raid will last, and he was going to be prepared! We all laughed at our appearances and sipped coffee from the pot as we took shelter and waited for the unknown with masked anxiety.

Years later and back in the states… when my mom died, my sisters and I were together for a few days. As we went through our mother’s things, we made jokes. Ok, well, I made a lot of jokes to make them laugh, but they threw in a few here or there too. We’d laugh at all the recipes our mother had printed…and never made that we knew of. We giggled over little memories of her being mad at each of us. We broke in bursts of laughter as we imitated her catch phrases until we had tears in our eyes.

Even at her funeral, I was laughing at things people said to. And sometimes, they were not even all that funny. I just wanted to laugh. I needed to laugh because frankly, I didn’t have the energy to cry. Everyone was stressed and sad and I somewhere became the “strong one.” I did not audition for the position, nor did I want it. Nonetheless, I had it. So there was no time for tears, and I knew that if I started to cry, I may not stop.

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, 

comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

~ Erma Bombeck ~

I have often been accused of being cold and not taking things seriously because of my humor too. I can see how a joke in certain times can be perceived as inappropriate or insensitive. However, if people looked past that, they’d see someone just pushing back the tears and finding a way to cope.

Is that really that wrong? And how many of you do the same?


For Writer’s Quote Wednesday’s Theme ~ Comedy.

32 thoughts on “Laughing to avoid crying

  1. Blogging is great therapy, Michelle, and the friendships you make can last a lifetime. Let’s chat through email. I’m hoping several former participants in the challenge might like to come together to share the fun and responsibilities. I’m not worried about how many people follow our blogs. It will build if the challenge interests other bloggers. My email is

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  2. Hi Michelle, This is a great post. I was in a car accident when just after I graduated from high school. One of the girls in the car died. At her funeral, the driver of the car and I couldn’t stop giggling. It was so inappropriate, but so uncontrollable. I’ll never forget how awful I felt, but I think laughter is almost an automatic stress reflex for some people. The reason I’m visiting this post from so long ago is that Colleen asked me if I would like to start this writing challenge up again. What do you think? Did you love it? Would you still participate? Might you be interested in co-hosting it?

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    • Oh Marsha. What a truly horrific experience, and at such a young age. I can only imagine the laughter was a way to cope with the gravity of the situation. I look at it like a way to release pressure from a pot.

      Oh, I so miss writing and frankly think I need this blog therapy in my life. It really helped me center my thoughts and express some creativity.

      I would not mind helping with a challenge. Maybe it would force me to get back into a writing routine. However, I cannot say I have a huge following since I disappeared for a couple years.

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  3. Pingback: #WQWWC – Writers Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge – “Autumn” – Silver Threading ~ Fairy Whisperer ~

  4. Thank you for sharing this Michelle and most of all thank you for your service to this country.

    I can relate to this as well. I was also a class clown and I’m always laughing even using ‘lol’s’ at the ends of sentences. Much of it is because I want to be liked but some of it is fear-driven. I remember in high school (a catholic college prep school to give you the scene), I had a film study class. Sister Noreen was showing a documentary on Hitler and the gas chambers. One scene showed skeletal bodies in a big heap. I started giggling and then trying to contain huge laughter inside me which was spilling out. Sister Noreen ordered me out of the class and I got some really strange looks from my classmates. Off to the counselor’s office I went. I don’t recall ever having an explanation for it at that time of my life. Now I know though that it’s a defense mechanism.

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  5. I just let my feelings out!
    If I am angry, I show it and if I cry I do, though I don’t cry often and when my little ones have seen me cry, I said, I have headache….
    The only thing I do sometimes, is smile though I am not in the mood as it tricks the brain and really makes you feel better after a while!

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    • That’s true! It is hard to be mad and smile…unless its one of the evil sinister smiles. I was depressed for awhile and just forced myself to go out and do things. It was hard at first to do them by myself but I kept going and eventually, I really started to enjoy myself.

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  6. As a veteran of chronic disease I can tell you that you and other soldiers are not alone in this! It’s a coping mechanism for dealing with adversity, particularly when it’s over long periods of time. I often say “well if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry!” and even that is said with a certain amount of wry humour. I can only be somewhat grateful to have a bowel disease thereby giving me the joy of using inappropriate toilet humour all the time 😀 It’s a shitty situation but I make the best of things 😉

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  7. Michelle, from what I’ve read, police have the same sort of coping mechanism. I think that if you and they didn’t, none of you would make it. I’m sure there are times, though, when a thought for what the other person might think or feel with that sort of response has to come first. All part of the give and take of life.


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    • I’ve heard that too, and for medical folks. I think there comes a point when our minds get overloaded that the stress has to come out. Comedy can be that pressure cooker release. But yes, we have to be careful, not everyone understands it. And sometimes, you need to apply a filter on your mouth when your head thinks of things that just might not sound so good out loud.

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  8. Michelle, what a beautiful moving piece of writing. I totally understand the military stuff being a veteran, too. We did the same things as you soldiers did. I served during peacetime but the trials and tribulations of a military member are still the same. Comedy was the only way to survive! Without that sense of humor, I would never have made it through. Thank you for your service and for the sacrifices you made to the American people. For members of the military, the comedy/tragedy way of life is real! Many hugs my friend! ❤

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