No one said life would be easy; our goal is to make it worth-while.
Handling Grief When You Are A Performer
A man’s wife was dying of cancer and he asked me if there is a way to find his clown character again after going through the death of a loved one.
I wish I had no experience in this area.
But I do.
Most of us do.
No one really wants to talk about the grieving process. It is easier to talk about fun things in clowning. Our goal as clowns is to bring smiles to people’s faces.
But the dirty truth is, we are all human. We live our lives imperfectly. We make mistakes; we struggle. We have loved ones who get sick, who have accidents, who die. We have personal struggles as well, with family, relationships, work, finances, and health. In between all of these events we have moments of joy and faith that make it all worth-while.
Keep Looking Forward
It is easy to focus on the negative and get into a pattern of looking back on things that didn’t quite work out like we had planned. We can spend a lifetime looking backward, dissecting past events, and blaming others for our struggles and misfortunes. But honestly, it can do more harm than good.
When you are in the middle of depression or sadness, it can feel like the whole world is having fun except you.
The best advice I can give on that is to keep looking forward. Focus on the good things and be thankful.
If that doesn’t improve your outlook, remember there is always someone who has it worse than you.
When I start taking myself too seriously I remind myself I could have been born into a leper colony. Yes, they still exist, as I learned from friends who do mission work in India! Now how’s that for a sobering thought?
It’s Okay To Be Sad
Back when my daughter was still a teenager, I was driving her to school one morning she suddenly started talking about her Grandpa, my dad. He died in March of 2009 and they were quite the pair. She told me how she still missed him. She was surprised that it didn’t really get any easier as time went on. I had to tell her it was okay to miss him; it was okay to be sad. But that he was watching over her.
I said to her, “You know what he would say? ‘Be sure to clean up your room!’ ”
“Yeah,” she laughed through the tears, “He would.”
I have laughed through the tears throughout the years. I have sucked it up and put on a happy face and used it as a mask.
At least — it started out that way in the morning. By the time I was done that day, the clown make-up had worked its magic and healed some of my hurt. It soaked it up until it was time to wash it off, taking all the hurt and sadness with it down the drain.
And other times — when the clown makeup wasn’t enough to power through the pain — I have just taken a rest. That’s okay, too.
The death of a loved one close to us can take away our ability to laugh.
The death of my father rocked my world. But the lessons I learned in caring for him during his illness were a comfort to me. Plus, he was able to tell me to live my life and continue on with what I do best. “Breathe Pat, breathe.” he would say. Thanks, Dad.
We Need Each Other In Our Grieving Process
I have known clowns who have come to my school, Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp, for healing after the death of their spouses. One woman’s dying husband actually told her to go. She had cared for him during his lengthy illness. He wanted her to go have some fun and get back to doing what she loved.
What a blessing. What an inspiration. The truth is, our loved ones who have passed do not want us to grieve forever. They want us to live our lives joyfully.
People have come to my camp after the death of a child, sibling, or friend. Many confided in me that they weren’t sure if they should come, asking “What if I break down and cry?”
I can tell you what happened:
They did come.
They did cry.
And then they found they did not have to cry alone. Someone else at camp was going through the same thing…funny how life works out that way.
Clowning Can Help Heal
So if you are hurting, please know that your clown can help you heal. Creative expression may be part of your grieving process.
You may need to create a new character. That is okay. No, really. It’s perfectly acceptable to change your character! Since your clown character is an exaggeration of your real self, who is to say that it should or will stay the same??
Give yourself permission to grow. Give yourself permission to hurt and — best of all — to heal.
Comedy and tragedy go hand in hand. We can learn from it and grow. We can learn to make the most of our time with the people we still have with us after the loss of a loved one.
We can learn to laugh again. Hopefully, through our pain, we can make a difference for someone else.
How Do We Help Those Who Grieve?
What do we say to someone who is grieving? First of all, don’t do all the talking. I encourage you to take the time to listen to those who are grieving.
If you yourself have been through a similar loss, let them know. Knowing that you have been where they are might help them feel more comfortable talking about their grief.
Some folks choose not to clown through their grief.
I respect that decision completely. Sometimes they simply need to take a break from clowning. Performers are artists who create emotions in their audience. It’s only natural that a shock to their own emotions will block the creative process for a while.
They need time to heal.
You — as their friend — need to embrace the fact that they need that time to heal.
I cannot tell you how long that healing takes, and what will help the process. What will help us cope differs from person to person. The length of the grieving process differs, too. What is true for you may not be true for others.
Give them a shoulder to lean on, give them time to heal, and cheer them on when they decide to clown again.
They will need your support to help them “find their funny” again.
You’ll make all the difference in the world to them.
Leave a comment!
This is such a personal topic which touches our lives at one point or another. I’m sure you have advice for people reading this. What suggestions can you give? What helped you cope?
Please feel free to leave a comment below.
Clowns need to support each other when the going gets tough.
Take a look at my other article dealing with tough emotional issues.
- When “funny” isn’t enough – Dealing with depression and suicide
- A widow regains her passion for clowning
- You never know who is watching who might need your smile the most
- Clowns are a gift
- When accidents happen, performers need to be flexible
- How to prepare for an emergency in your clown club
- How to say “no” when you are overwhelmed
- Dealing with transitions in your life
- Are you brave enough to make a change?
Mooseburger Clown Arts Education has been running one of the world’s most well-rounded clown schools since 1996. Performers from all over the globe travel to Minnesota each summer for a fun and intensive clown training program. Each aspect of our clown camp is designed to meet your needs and boost your confidence as an entertainer.
Whether you want to join the circus, visit nursing homes, run your own birthday party business, paint faces, or twist balloons, there is something just for you at Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp.
Or call me toll-free to discuss your education and see if Mooseburger is the right fit for you: 800-973-6277
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