When confronted with darkness. With the hard. With the heartbreaking. With the frightening. With the unimaginable. With the stressful. With the soul-stealing. We use humor.

It has always been our favorite coping mechanism. Our way of bringing a little light into the dark. Our way of soothing our souls — just a bit. Our way of taking the thing that is too hard, too big, too overwhelming and breaking it down.

And sometimes. We just hid behind the shield. Until we didn’t have to deal with it any more.

We started family therapy when I was eleven. I wonder sometimes — if they shouldn’t have broken us up. Separated us for these discussions on the “big, bad thing.” But they didn’t. And we would squirm nervously and giggle in the sessions. We would crack jokes. We deflected for an hour until we didn’t have to talk about it anymore.

And maybe my younger self wasn’t ready. But when my older self went back, she knew that you only get out of therapy what you are willing to put in. And if you don’t put out the hard, the heartbreaking, the little lies our brains tell ourselves — you never get out the tools to cope.

’Cause humor, eases the tension. Opens up the window just a crack. Let’s the air in. But you have to open that door eventually. You have to say the things. Use the words. Take the frightening, the unimaginable and throw it into the light.

And we joke. To cheer each other up. To ease the terrible burden of horrible distance when you’re hit with news that takes your breath away. Knocks your socks off. Rocks your boat.

When the possibilities in the future spell out things you never wanted to imagine. You use humor. Just to show you’re present and there.

’Cause it’s really hard to cry over texts or facebook.

And you think. Oh. Who wants to hear that. Who wants to hear my soul pour out for hours as a sob. As a wail. As both a denial and a fear.

And maybe, you go off. And cry in a quiet place. Because you are too far away. From the people who would hold you. And say. We got you. And pull you into that net and shield.