He’s one of the funniest people in the world. Patton Oswalt is an accomplished comedian, writer and actor. In 2007, he was the voice of Remy in Pixar’s Ratatouille.
But for the last few months, Oswalt has been pretty silent. He’s not being funny, or writing scripts. Instead he’s been grieving.
On April 21, 2016, Oswalt’s wife of 11 years, Michelle McNamara, suddenly passed away in her sleep. She was 46 years old.
Since then, his career in funny business has been on hold, while he takes time to grieve, care for the couple’s daughter and finish Michelle’s last book—remarkably, it was left nearly complete when she passed.
It’s been 102 days, and Oswalt will be the first to tell you, it hasn’t been easy. He took to Facebook recently to openly talk about his grieving process. In just over 700 words, Oswalt perfectly reflects just how insurmountable grief truly is. His raw and emotional post tries to put words to the heartbreak of suddenly losing a partner.
He starts by comparing depression and grief. Oswalt is no stranger to the battles of depression, and yet he emphasizes how much different and harder grief has been for him. He then goes on to make some powerful points that are more than worthy of a mic-drop:
“If you spend 102 days completely focused on ONE thing you can achieve miracles. Make a film, write a novel, get MMA ripped, kick heroin, learn a language, travel around the world. Fall in love with someone. Get ’em to love you back.
But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have sh*t to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel “wiser.” You will not have “closure.” You will not have “perspective” or “resilience” or “a new sense of self.” You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe. And you’ll also realize that 102 days is nothing but a warm-up for things to come.
You will have been shown new levels of humanity and grace and intelligence by your family and friends. They will show up for you, physically and emotionally, in ways which make you take careful note, and say to yourself, “Make sure to try to do that for someone else someday.” Complete strangers will send you genuinely touching messages on Facebook and Twitter, or will somehow figure out your address to send you letters which you’ll keep and re-read ’cause you can’t believe how helpful they are. And, if you’re a parent? You’ll wish you were your kid’s age, because the way they embrace despair and joy are at a purer level that you’re going to have to reconnect with, to reach backwards through years of calcified cynicism and ironic detachment.
Lose your cool, and you’re saved.
Michelle McNamara got yanked off the planet and out of life 102 days ago. She left behind an amazing unfinished book, about a horrific series of murders that everyone — including the retired homicide detectives she worked with — was sure she’d solve. The Golden State Killer. She gave him that name, in an article for Los Angeles Magazine. She was going to figure out the real name behind it.
She left Alice, her 7 year-old daughter. But not before putting the best parts of her into Alice, like beautiful music burned onto a CD and sent out into the void on a spaceship.
And she left me. 102 days into this.
I was face-down and frozen for weeks. It’s 102 days later and I can confidently say I have reached a point where I’m crawling. Which, objectively, is an improvement. Maybe 102 days later I’ll be walking.
Any spare energy I’ve managed to summon since April 21st I’ve put toward finishing Michelle’s book. With a lot of help from some very amazing people. It will come out. I will let you know. It’s all her. We’re just taking what’s there and letting it tell us how to shape it. It’s amazing.
And I’m going to start telling jokes again soon. And writing. And acting in stuff and making things I like and working with friends on projects and do all the stuff I was always so privileged to get to do before the air caught fire around me and the sun died. It’s all I knew how to do before I met Michelle. I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do now without her.
And not because, “It’s what Michelle would have wanted me to do.” For me to even presume to know what Michelle would have wanted me to do is the height of arrogance on my part. That was one of the many reasons I so looked forward to growing old with her. Because she was always surprising me. Because I never knew what she’d think or what direction she’d go.
Okay, I’ll start being funny again soon. What other choice do I have? Reality is in a death spiral and we seem to be living in a cackling, looming nightmare-swamp. We’re all being dragged into a shadow-realm of doom by hateful lunatics who are determined to send our planet careening into oblivion.
Hey, there’s that smile I was missing!”
He shares his wrestle with the full range of complicated emotions that grief holds at its center, and his letter serves as a reminder of how broken and lost we all often feel in the wake of a tragedy.
The difference is, most of us usually grieve in private. Oswalt sharing his thoughts and grieving process publicly is brave, and admirable. There’s someone, somewhere reading his words and knowing that they are not alone, knowing that there is someone else struggling through the same thing, and knowing that there is a light in the darkness.
Patton Oswalt’s words are not funny right now, but instead raw. They’re true, and passionate, and emotional, and they’re something that everyone can relate to and needs to hear.