The Tension Release

There’s nothing better than uncontrollable, stomach cramping induced laughter.

Our beloved Uncle passed and with the COVID protocol and restrictions we gathered within a small family intimate funeral and internment.

It was the first time that our family had gathered since the pandemic. The tribute was a military funeral with a 21-gun salute and bugler. It was profoundly emotional and surreal to face the loss and death during this pandemic. We were unable to travel to see him during his illness or passing.

Afterwards, masks on and socially distanced together, it hit me just how I missed my family. The US of my family. My mother’s baby brother, because of the age difference, was more like a brother than an uncle to my sister and me. We hadn’t been together for a long time and being in each other’s presence felt like home.

Then it happened. Out of nowhere for no good reason.

The uncontrollable laughing fit, aka The Tension Release.

My uncle leaned over and asked who was “that woman”? I replied “That’s auntie’s best friend” and then I said the woman’s name.

My uncle replied with some random woman’s name, and I looked at him questioningly and thought perhaps, with our masks on and both being hard of hearing, that he didn’t hear me.

“What?” I asked and then I said her name again. Then he said the other name. I looked at him and said NO! And said the woman’s name again and then he said “Oh I thought we were just throwing out random names of her best friends.”

I looked at him and said, “Why would we be doing that?”

I started to giggle which turned into a fit of nearly peeing myself laughing, muffled with my mask on.

My sister sitting appropriately distanced, couldn’t hear the exchange and we tried to repeat it to her, which got lost in the repeated translation, mask muffle and laughter.

Which made us all laugh even harder. Then we (okay maybe not my sister) get scolded by another relative. All bets were off then. We fell into the deep dive of no-return hysterics.

Why? I really don’t know but I feel that the stupid nonsensical laughter was the typical tension release we needed from the stress of the last year and half and our family’s loss.

There is no logic at all as to why we make each other laugh in inappropriate moments. There is no logic to familiar intimacy, the deep knowing of each other and our shared history.

The conversation didn’t make sense but laughing that hard and harder together did. Because that is what we do. The laughter, as a tension release, that makes your stomach hurt. It has been our family’s way of dealing with life’s traumatic moments with love through humor. Even if it’s something stupid as “Who’s that lady?” brought us into a laughing fit. Random and not planned, my sister and my uncle are the two people in the world who can make me double over in pain due to laughter.

I have a hunch that other families’ dynamics include some sort of crazy tension release customs and habits.

Our Christmas usually ends up in a huge wrapping paper fight with my sister getting upset and yelling “That’s enough!” and then we all target her until she leaves the room. Some “adult” quieting the room culminates with that one last hold-out, clinging to the last tightly wadded paper ball and throwing it, which begins the mayhem all over.

Years after my mother passed, we were cleaning her house and we found the last wad of tissue paper from those Christmas Day wrapping paper fights.

At any gathering that has cake, our entire family chants “CAKE, CAKE, CAKE, CAKE”! non stop, until the cake is served. Who knows why!

These moments and memories are our family’s unconditional love and care manifested. Or perhaps plain and simply…

It’s just love. It’s just our way of loving. Our way of getting through, releasing the tension and preserving us.

From the Mayo Clinic: “When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body.” Either way I am praying that we are all moving towards a more joyous time. Filled with happiness and memories not rooted in loss.

With love & laughter,


You can read more about Stress relief from laughter on the Mayo Clinic website.

A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do.

Short-term benefits

A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:

  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.





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