Child loss is never funny. Before losing a child, I didn’t realize how many storylines involve this topic. Of course, most are tragic, meant to evoke emotion. Yet some, for reasons unexplainable to me, use it for humor.
I remember being cautious about watching television after losing our son and checking ahead for triggers in the storyline. We were sad enough, we didn’t need reminders or reasons for a good cry. I also recall the time I declined an office outing to see a movie about a child that died, months after losing my own. Co-workers were cruel enough to suggest it, much less had the audacity to get upset when I didn’t attend.
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But recently I’ve noticed a morbid trend in using child loss as the punchline, whether in a show, standup routine, or candid conversation.
We turned off a comedy the other night, in which the plot involved main characters pretending their child died to get sympathy from their neighbors. They were laughing it up as well-wishers mowed their lawn and brought by casseroles. Their defense was that they didn’t make up the story but rather it was a misunderstanding they never corrected. At first, I sat there in disbelief until the disgust led me to turn it off.
How is this funny to anyone?
In a search on this topic, I was appalled to find a list of almost a hundred “dead baby jokes”. That anyone could have the morbid humor to write one is unbelievable but an entire list? Perhaps it is because talking openly about child loss is taboo and sure to catch attention. But if the jokester ever truly experienced the nightmare they would find nothing to laugh about.
Or, maybe they can.
I also discovered a comedian, Ali Wong, actually uses miscarriage as part of her routine. To make matters worse, the punchline is how she was relieved after the miscarriage because they were twins. Humor is relative but I just cannot fathom how someone could find this funny. No amount of money, fame or ratings would be worth using my son’s death as the platform. I understand this may be the way she is choosing to heal but I would have a hard time sitting through her show.
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One of the jokes we, as a child loss community, see the most often and cause disgust or anger are memes about “keeping your child alive today,” as if it were an accomplishment to be applauded. Trust me, those of us who’ve lost a child ponder every day what we could have done differently to have saved ours.
Sometimes it’s a natural reaction to want to laugh when something tragic has happened.
On the mild side, I would compare it to chuckling when someone falls, to which I am guilty. At my grandmother’s funeral, I remember all my cousins sitting together and laughing during visitation. To an outside observer, it may have seemed untimely. For us, we were sharing funny memories growing up at her house and it was a beautiful way to remember her.
There is research to support we may laugh at tragedy because of nervousness, a way to relieve our minds of what cannot be imagined. I remember my first chuckle after losing our son and how foreign it felt in my throat. It took time before laughter felt normal -and permissible again. Yet, even a decade later I could never be in a place where it felt ok to make a joke about the loss. Because child loss is never funny.
Photo Credit: Momentmal on pixabay
In 2008, my world as I knew it changed forever, with the sudden loss of our 14-year-old son, Austin. The journey to my blog (and attitude toward life) was bumpy and tearful, beginning at a memorial blog for my son. I later chose to take another path, challenging myself to find the JOY in every day, despite the sadness I still felt. I love and miss him daily but I’m living my life to honor him – and celebrating every moment it brings. My goal…to find and share the joy in every day. You can find me at Joyful Challenge