Grief & Nate Bargatze

June 28, 2024

The sign outside of the arena reads “Nate Bargatze: June 26th”. We’re at the fieldhouse where our basketball teams play but tonight there will be no sports, only comedy. I’ve been waiting for this date night with my husband for months. He bought the tickets as a present, a gift. We didn’t know how serendipitous the timing of this event would be until we were standing in it. 

And here we were, standing in it.

This is the week nearing my mother’s death anniversary. It’s a week that is heavy and filled with grief. It doesn’t matter how many years it’s been since she passed, this week always comes and knocks the wind out of me, again and again and again. It is a marking on the calendar that not only reminds me of my mother’s final days, but it evokes such a physical response, it’s as if I’m reliving those harsh times all over again. 

Movies used to end with text that read, “The End”. These dates on the calendar always feel like that, the end— no miracles, no answered prayers, just the end of my mother’s life.

Knowing the significance of this week each summer, I usually hide away. I usually stay far away from people, and things. I like to be alone, though knowing I’m not actually alone, for grief sits with me, an unwanted companion. 

But tonight, we’re here– at this fieldhouse full of thousands of people, and hopefully laughter too. 

We get to our seats just in time. The show begins and with each opening act I’m a chaotic wiggle of laughter. I laugh and I laugh and I laugh. 

And as the lights flicker and the crowd cheers, the incredible Nate Bargatze walks onto the stage, and from the moment he speaks, I laugh and I laugh and I laugh some more. 

And with the laughs there are tears. Not my usual grief-induced tears, these tears are pure joy and humor. They are a distraction from the heartbreak of the grief I’m carrying. I’m so lost in Nate’s words and jokes that I can’t feel the heaviness. I’m so amused by his act that I’m fully present, right here in this moment. 

It’s not me and grief, alone and broken, as it usually is on this summer night in June. Instead, it’s me and my husband (and thousands of other people) and laughter. It’s fun and funny. It’s a blessing that I can’t explain. They say that “laughter is the best medicine” and tonight is proof. No medicine has ever helped my grief. No medicine has ever dissipated my grief or made it lessen. But tonight, listening to Nate Bargatze, laughing until my belly hurt, covered and healed my broken heart– if only for a few hours. 

Tonight Nate Bargatze lifted the weight of my grief. His jokes gave my brain a break from the pain and filled my mind with laughter, and joy, and amusement. 

It’s certain that Nate Bargatze knows he makes people laugh, but I wonder, does he know that he briefly takes away their grief? Does he know that he fills their empty spaces with humor, even if only for a short while? Does he know that he shines light on the darkest of times, and that light gives not only laughs but also hope— hope that grief won’t always feel unsurvivable? 

If he doesn’t, I’ll tell him.

Mr. Nate Bargatze,

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You made me laugh during a time where laughter felt impossible. You made me smile. 

You allowed me to set aside my grief momentarily and feel the beauty of life again. You didn’t take away the heartbreak of losing my mother, but you made me forget about it for a short time. It takes something and someone very special to have that capability. If you know grief, you know how true that statement is. 

Your work, your jokes, your act, all provide more than silly laughs. They provide hope that not only I can laugh again but that I’ll keep laughing, even in the midst of loss and ache. 

You are a blessing and your jokes heal— if only for tonight. 

Who knew that a date night watching Nate Bargatze would remind me that there is hope and humor and beauty in life, even while holding profound loss. 

Laughter really is the best medicine.

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A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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