Allen Klein on Loss and Laughter—and Other Ways to Navigate Grief

Allen Klein shares why he wrote his wise, supportive book Embracing Life After Loss: A Gentle Guide for Growing Through Grief and why laughter is so vital even after a devastating loss—a time we rarely associate with humor.

He also shares his favorite advice to aspiring authors, along with his favorite knock-knock joke (we had to know!), and so much more.

Allen is a bestselling author and an award-winning speaker, designated as a Certified Speaking Professional by the National Speakers Association. He’s the recipient of both a lifetime achievement award from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor and a communication and leadership award from Toastmasters International. He’s also the former director of The Life-Death Transitions Institute in San Francisco and inductee in the Hunter Hall of Fame of Hunter College, New York City.

Q: What sparked the idea for Embracing Life After Loss?

A: It came out of an experience I had after my wife died. I had gone out and tried to find a simple book that would inspire me and help get through my grief. Instead, all I found were big tomes telling me of all the negative things I might encounter in the grief process. That was not what I needed. I wanted something that was easy to read and uplifting. Not finding that type of book, I wrote my own.

Q: You’re the former director of The Life-Death Transitions Institute in San Francisco and a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. How did these two seemingly disparate roles inform the writing of Embracing Life After Loss?  

A: Most people don’t put humor and death together. However, since humor is one of the best coping tools we have, and since dealing with loss is one of the most stressful things we will encounter in our lifetime, it seemed important to me that we acknowledge the benefits of humor during that time.

I also know, from the death of my wife at an early age, that it is not easy to find anything to laugh about during the dying, death, and grieving process. I therefore show readers the five stages of gently going from loss to laughter. First, acknowledging the loss. Second, learning from it. Third, slowly letting go of the loss. Fourth, starting to fully live again. And, finally, laughing and enjoying life once more.

Q:  Loss, particularly when it’s recent and fresh, can feel massively overwhelming. It can literally leave us breathless. What would you like someone who feels crushed by their grief to know?

A: This too shall pass. It may not seem like it will, but it will. You will be able to get on with your life. And, yes, it will be difficult. And, yes, your life will be different after your loss. But if it is any comfort, know that your loss will also present itself with new opportunities which, if embraced, can help you grow and realize the preciousness and beauty of life.

Q: Besides practicing humor, what’s your favorite activity, exercise, or suggestion for readers to start using to embrace life after loss right now?

A: Once simple thing…get out of the house. After a loss, there is a tendency to stay at home. And that is natural; it can feel safe and comforting. But nothing happens until you get out of the house. Even just walking up the block and back can help you see that there is a whole world waiting for you with open arms.

Q:  Do you have a specific writing ritual (maybe even a wacky, silly one!)?

A: One slightly humorous thing I do related to my writing is make sure that I’m at my desk by 9am. My office is on the second floor of my home, so I sometimes race up the steps to make sure I’m on time. And if I’m late, I tell my boss (that’s me) that there was a lot of heavy traffic on the steps.

 Q: What’s one theme you’d like readers to take away from Embracing Life After Loss?

A: I would like readers to be inspired and know that it is possible to not only put loss in the background, but also find a joyful life on the other side of loss.

10 Rapid-Fire Favorites:

  • Favorite scent: lilacs
  • Favorite sound: a Broadway show tune
  • Favorite taste: marzipan and/or pickles (not together!)
  • Favorite sight: the tops of clouds (only seen from an airplane)
  • Favorite way to spend a weekend: time in the garden, a good meal, a soul-nurturing show or movie
  • Favorite part of the writing process: getting just the right words to express my thoughts
  • Favorite way to spark your creativity when it’s sinking: take a break (get some tea, go outside for a few minutes)
  • Favorite knock-knock joke: (a bit off-color) Knock-Knock. Who’s there? Marmalade. Marmalade who? That’s what we’ve been trying to find out.
  • Favorite word: love
  • Favorite advice to give to aspiring authors: Sit down and write every day. Writers write.

You can learn more about Allen Klein at

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