Comedian Patton Oswalt is used to sharing personal stories onstage, but after the sudden death of his wife Michelle McNamara in April 2016, Oswalt told Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz that he wrestled with how to include his grief in his work.
In the interview, Oswalt and Seitz discussed everything from McNamara’s passing to Twitter bullies. Oswalt told Seitz that grieving is an ongoing process. “I’m waking up every day and living. It’s hard to describe it as ‘healing.’ It’s more like you’re evolving,” Oswalt said. “You know, you never truly heal. But you do evolve into someone different, someone who can still live life and experience joy.”
Citing C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, Oswalt explained that fear is part of grief, and that knowing that can help you understand loss. “Dealing with other people’s grief and other people’s loss, it can feel like sadness,” he said. “You can certainly feel empathy. But you don’t feel this sense of fear like, ‘Is this world even for me now?’ That’s a new feeling. Once you realize that people going through real grief are actually feeling that, you can communicate with them so much better.”
In his new standup special Annihilation, which is now available on Netflix, Oswalt gives a funny and deeply personal performance in which he describes, among other things, what it’s been like to suddenly be a single parent. Oswalt reflected on filming the special, telling Seitz, “I remember the night before, getting ready to do the special, I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.”’
And while Oswalt told Vulture that he doesn’t consider himself an expert on grief, he’s continually learning how to keep living, including his recent announcement that he’s engaged to actress and legal mediator Meredith Salenger (which, of course, provoked some heartless Twitter backlash), and overcome hardships in the wake of his loss. “I’m trying to be optimistic and also be aware that there are other challenges on the way,” he said. “Just because we deal with one phase of grief or take one step doesn’t mean there aren’t other obstacles ahead.”
Read Oswalt’s full interview on Vulture.