Laughter is good medicine for grief

Laughter is good medicine. File photo

We all know laughter can be some of the best medicine. But what about being the one performing the punch lines? A new group in west Michigan hopes to help people through the grieving process by getting them on stage.

The idea is that emotions are emotions. Whether you're laughing or crying you're experiencing some strong feelings. And Healing Improv helps you keep those emotions moving so you're not stuck inside your grief.

It started from tragedy but is helping others deal with theirs.

At the Healing Improv workshops you'll find people acting out characters and pretending to be giant machines, working on classic improv games.

There are lot of laughs, but the reasons why they come together are anything but funny.

"In 2009 my son died. On the football field during practice he was 10 years old," said Bart Sumner, the founder of Healing Improv.

In the middle of his own grief, Sumner created Healing Improv last year in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

"I started to realize that the improv, which had saved me the year after David died it gave me some place to go, something to do. It sort of gave me a mini vacation away from my grief, those kind of games and stuff might be able to help other people too," said Sumner.

By using these games, Sumner teaches people how to let loose and be silly. It's something many of them haven't done in years.

For the past several months he's been hosting free workshops where those grieving the loss of loved ones meet up and let go.

"It sort of gives them that permission to have fun again and to move forward," said Sumner.

For Sumner it's a way to turn a lifetime of work and years of grief into something that can benefit others. "I'd give up any of this to have my boy back. But short of that how can you not use what you've done your whole life to try and help people."