Fixing the Funny Bone: The G.R.I.T. Method to Heal with Humor
Jennifer J Keith
Gremlyn Productions, 2022
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Certified Humor Professional Jennifer Keith shares personal experiences of trauma cushioned by humor to empower you with the skills to take those traumatic losses in your life and soothe them with lessons of learning and laughter. Finding the funny is an arduous process when facing trauma and loss, but moving through the pain with a balance of humor and joy can ease the memory of the darkness next time the triggers pop up. You too can embrace the healing of trauma and loss with humor – it doesn’t mean trauma is funny at all – and reduce the stress of your memories by finding the funny faster.
As a certified Humor Professional and current president of the International Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, Jennifer J Keith discovered the brain remembers two things – trauma and humor. Using her G.R.I.T. method of using humor to process trauma and loss, Jennifer finds ways to fix the funny bone and find the funny faster when surrounded by disappointing and upsetting events. If your brain is remembering the difficult times anyway, why not cushion them with a little bit of light, levity, and laughter? Jennifer has degrees in English, journalism, theatre, technology, and educational leadership, proving that she doesn’t want to nor should any of us grow up or stop learning. Jennifer recently added TEDx Speaker and author in the same month and encourages you to take funny bone breaks – integrating humor into daily life, career, and family situations which can transform situations from barely tolerable to memorably positive. Jennifer lives in central Illinois with her husband, two daughters, and three dogs. You can follow her at jenniferjkeith.com
Why can’t life be like a romantic comedy?
After waiting until I was nearing 30 to find my forever boyfriend, I anticipated the proposal bliss that only soap operas and romantic comedies portray better: the gazebo overlooking the pond, the ring sparkling in what was left of the setting sun, scripted words that highlighted me (my favorite topic), and hearts swelling from anyone who heard the repeated tale no matter how many times it was repeated.
Instead, I was dating a pragmatic, practical, thoughtful, researcher, executor of well-thought-out-plans – someone who doesn’t thrive on spontaneity, let alone LIKE surprises – he wanted to give me the ring IN THE JEWELRY STORE.
Here I am – the director of my own proposal, I GIVE him the proper script essentially, complete with settings and critical lighting cues – when to pick up the ring, where to take me at 5 p.m. to maximize the setting sun, the obvious answer of my acceptance. I let him choose his own words.
But as we arrive at the gazebo and begin to walk up the stairs to fiance’d bliss, we notice it is flanked with teens boys, dripping with a mix of marijuana and Axe body spray, bloodshot eyes, skateboards and half-devoured party-size bags of chips.
This is NOT in the script.
So I’m faced with a dilemma – climb the stairs to the gazebo and ignore the teens who have now discovered us as a new source of entertainment, or choose to give up my plans for an epic proposal and just go get proposed at the lakeside 50 yards away.
What do you choose?
What do you choose when life’s plans don’t work out as they are pain-stakingly scripted?
I remind myself that despite most of the script not going according to plan, I at least don’t have to recast the leading man, for now, and stomp down to the lakeside, dejected, annoyed, with the sounds of cool ranch chips crunching in my wake.
A disappointed yet determined fiance-to-be, I plop down on a beautiful bench, a calming ripple of water splashing ever-so-softly, the ring picking up the setting sun in all its shiny edges, words of love being expressed so beautifully, my beloved dropping to one knee and the unmistakable sound of his khakis ripping completely down the middle.
He is mortified.
I am overjoyed.
Not by the engagement ALONE, but truly because I now had a story – not the fluff-filled Hollywood version I wrote – even better – a FUNNY story, the one that rings true for me, for my husband (although he hates the story and denies it ever happened).
Don’t worry – I have affidavits from the teens to verify.
Murphy’s law is in full effect with a twist – anything that can go wrong can be funny – and funny is memorable.
The “funny bone” isn’t really a bone at all.
It’s a nerve in the elbow that if hit in just the right spot, you get a tingling or prickly sensation, almost a dull pain. It’s temporary but painful – difficult to forget.
The ulnar nerve lets your brain know when it’s bumped against the humerus bone, the long bone that runs from elbow to shoulder. We usually feel the impact in our 4th or 5th fingers as that’s where the brain transmits the pain signal.
The nerve, on the other hand, travels much farther than just in your elbow. That nerve starts in the spine, runs up through the neck and down the elbow to the 4th and 5th fingers. The main objective of this nerve is to control the sensation in those fingers in addition to help the muscles in your hand control fine motor skills and grip.
So it’s definitely an important part of our anatomy.
But, like anything else, when we hurt, it can last a while
We connect this “funny” sensation with a funny-named bone – the humerus – and the nickname of “funny bone” was born.
There really isn’t anything funny about it though, not when we hit it and it instantly feels like ice cubes flowing through the veins and then an electric shock we assume only lightning can provide.
But the good news is, it’s temporary.
It’s short term.
The pain goes away.
The memory may not, not for a long time, and it may dictate how we tenderly approach a situation again where the funny bone was bumped and caused us pain.
It teaches us.
Sometimes we get the message.
Sometimes we don’t.
Over the years, I have hit the actual funny bone numerous times, and I have also discovered that humor can be a superpower to help you not only heal from the pain of loss and trauma but also to enhance the memories that linger and trigger.
Trauma is not funny.
Let’s be very clear here.
BUT if we find pockets of joy, of laughter, of humorous situations around those dramatic, traumatic, painful moments, when we visit those memories, or process those memories, or experience a triggering event that calls those memories to the surface again, they may not seem as devastating as they once were.
The G.R.I.T. method, detailed in this book, is one I developed over years of struggle and laughter.
Dolly Parton’s character Truvy in the 1989 film Steel Magnolias says, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”
I wondered for years if I was the only one – the only one who laughed and cried at the same time, and not just laughing at inappropriate or “wrong” times or crying because I laughed so hard.
That movie convinced me that it was a normal thing to do, something even adults struggle with, and it sparked my interest in learning more about laughter as emotion and its role in processing grief and trauma.
So I gift to you the benefit of years of research and experiences that taught me the keys to processing grief and trauma with humor.
It’s also permission for you to experience grief with EVERY type of loss.
It’s okay. You’re okay.