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B. The Importance of Laughter During Bereavement

Narrator: This is Science Today. Laughter may seem inconceivable during a time of bereavement, but according to University of California, Berkeley social psychologist Dacher Keltner, people who can laugh in the months following a traumatic event such as the death of a spouse, do better than those who show anger.

Keltner: There's this common assumption, which we call the grief work hypothesis, which is that in order to respond adaptively to the death of a spouse, you have to work through and process your negative emotion - the pain and the distress of the death and in particular, the anger - that you really have to work through it.

Narrator: But Keltner found that people who were positive during bereavement - long considered a sign of denial or poor grief functioning - actually did better in the long run.

Keltner: People who showed smiles of pleasure and also laughter as they talked about their deceased spouse six months after the death actually were doing better one year later and then two years later as well, both in terms of their reduced grief severity and also their physical health.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.