Humour is a form of rongoā

Many people who took part in the Pae Herenga study spoke about ‘humour’ as a form of rongoā. Humour was used to lift the energy of the person who was ill, and it also helped to uplift the energy of those whānau manaaki caring for them. We provide some examples here.

Kuia Raewyn commented that Māori whānau tend to share a lot of laughter when they are together. Spending time visiting whānau manaaki who are caring for someone at the end of life can be really supportive, especially when you can help to uplift their spirits:

I think with a lot of Māori… there’s a lot of visiting right? Friends, whānau they all want to come, they all want to say ‘goodbye’ to whomever. But they don’t want it to be all gloom and doom, right? So, there’s a lot of laughing. There’s a lot of joking. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that they care so much. That somebody will go, ‘Oh do you remember when?’ And it will be about something maybe [jokingly] derogatory, about that person that’s lying in that bed. And everybody will laugh.

Because, you know, I could not imagine going into my Pākehā relations and going ‘dah, dah, dah, dah, dah’. Mate they would have a hernia. They’d be looking at me and going- and telling me to ‘leave’ you know. Whereas in Māoridom we’d all be laughing. We’d all be having cups of tea… And things like that. And we’d all be laughing. And then everybody, well people come and go, come and go. And then they start talking, “Oh that guy’s, he’s not [got] long is he?” You know but it helps everybody, that you can say these things and you can stand there, well sit there for hours or it might be ten minutes and laugh with the people.

When explaining the support they offer whānau manaaki who are caring for someone at the end of their life, Whaea Rihi and Matua Ned (health professionals) explained that connecting with whānau and having good manaakitanga (caring and hosting) towards hospital patients and whānau manaaki is a form of rongoā – laughter is an important part of that caring process:

Rihi: Or you might go away, and you might come back later on and just say ‘oh, how are you? Kia ora, just saying ‘hi how are you going?’ And ‘oh actually can we have a talk with you?’ So, it’s just about you know being visible, planting the seed. It might not be totally direct full on support, but it might be that indirect support and then when they’re ready to engage with you, or to have that, engagement, then they might say ‘oh actually Mātua’… It happens there a lot. So that’s why we’ve got quite a visible team who are actively out walking around on the wards and talking to whānau and it might be just going up and saying ‘kia ora’ you know.

Ned: Like I’m starting thinking about it now. Is, it comes to me and that situation I go, ‘cup of tea?’ So, I go and make them a cup of tea. And if nothing happens after the cup of tea that’s alright.

Rihi: See that’s a rongoā in itself is about knowing, offering you know that, that, that kai that manaakitanga in regards to, because sometimes they’ve been sitting there for a long time and they haven’t had a cup of tea and you offer a cup of tea it often opens up the door as we know. And it’s just the simple little things and then the conversation and making those links. So, there’s, I think there’s many forms of rongoā.

Ned: Laughter.

Rihi: There’s laughter that’s right… Awhi, manaakitanga, yeah.

Ned: Bring a bit of laughter into the room, you know. Not over excited laughter but yeah, yeah just-

Rihi: Having a wee joke with them.

Ned: I crack a little joke every now and again even though it’s a very serious time, but a little bit of laughter and it just lifts people.

Kaumātua Ned spoke about the importance of supporting someone who is grieving or going through a difficult time. When asked what awhi looks like, he said:

So, there are times when the depression is, is huge. All they want to do is just for you to sit there quietly… And I use humour as a part of that, you know…

So today went and acknowledged this wonderful kuia. And, you know, in the middle of the tears I addressed her, ‘hey you old bitch. You know. I love you. I love what you did. I love how you looked after us when we were younger. I loved it when you sat there and drank beer with us. I loved it when you sat there and smoked cigarettes with us, even though it was no good for us. But you lived to 85’… So sometimes humour is what you need and other times it’s just a quiet pat on the back – ‘kia kaha’ [be strong].

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