Patton Oswalt’s moving essay a year after losing his wife: ‘it’s awful, but not fatal’

We didn’t cover it when Patton Oswalt lost his dear wife, crime writer and investigator Michelle McNamara, suddenly last year. It was just too sad and we don’t often cover those kind of stories. Patton became a single dad to his then seven year-old daughter with Michelle, Alice, and he wrote eloquently about the trials of raising her on his own. I didn’t plan on covering Oswalt’s latest essay about life after Michelle’s death, but it was just so well written and so moving that I wanted to talk about it. It’s a missive on grief, and how life must go on when someone leaves us, yet we don’t forget them or the times we had together. I don’t know if I can do it justice in an introduction at all, so here it is:

I like what he said about how she lives on with them and how he isn’t trying to be macabre, just realistic about living without her. I also like how he’s trying to be a good person and how he recognizes that other people have their own struggles. Honestly I didn’t expect this to get to me but it was so earnest and well written that I got choked up thinking about it. I’m jealous of how well Oswalt writes, and also if you follow him on Twitter he’s awesome and pithy. Now I just looked at his twitter and found more photos of Michelle and I’m crying.

Also, 48 Hours just did a piece on Michelle and her search for The Golden State killer. She was following that case slavishly and trying to uncover the serial killer’s identity. You can watch that segment online.

Patton Oswalt and Michelle McNamara

photos credit: Getty and WENN

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21 Responses to “Patton Oswalt’s moving essay a year after losing his wife: ‘it’s awful, but not fatal’”

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  1. Mia4s says:

    I found this so hard to read, but very beautiful. Many of us have some variation of this story although most of us can’t find the words. Hopefully his talking about it is making someone feel a bit less alone. Much love to Patton and Alice!

  2. Squiggisbig says:

    Definitely didn’t tear up..

  3. mia girl says:

    Thanks for covering this. I am a fan of Oswalt… his comedy, acting talent (he was amazing in Young Adult) and yes, his Twitter feed is among the best.

    Seems he lives his life wearing his heart on his sleeve, which makes him very endearing.

    I have no doubt that in sharing what he has been going through since tragically losing his wife, he has really helped a lot of people.

  4. Aims says:

    I really like Patton. He was on Conan after his wife passed away, and he talked about it so touching and how he’s trying to keep it together for their daughter . He said how he was trying to surround themselves with family and how much his wife had kept them together . Yes he’s funny , but he’s also very in tuned and empathic . He’s written incredibly insightful posts about a variety of things. There’s no doubt he adored his wife and I hope he and his daughter find healing and peace over this horrible death. I wish them strength and serenity as the move forward and figure out their new normal without this incredible woman who loved them so much.

  5. detritus says:

    Patton has an undeniable way with words.
    He is one of my most favourite celebrities, and his words about his wife’s death are incredibly touching, and brave in their honesty.

  6. QQ says:

    He’s so Lovely and funny and excellent as a writer

  7. adastraperaspera says:

    Good man.

  8. Littlestar says:

    Maybe I teared up. Especially hard to read as a mom to a young daughter. He sounds like a good dad.

  9. Nicole says:

    Monday morning tears. So eloquent in his pain.

  10. Mannori says:

    I love Patton and I know this might sound controversial and salty, but I feel uncomfortable the way he’s stretching this much his loss and the way he’s living his mourn so publicly. I feel awful to say this but the truth is that it seems to me that he’s milking this sad story to generate a lot of tearful “awwws” and “oh–so–sweet”. Maybe is the way I’ve been raised but mourn and loss are meant to be dealt in a very private and dignified way.

    • Aims says:

      I understand what you’re saying . I think people handle grief in their own way . Some people shutdown , others talk about it because it feels good to get it out. This wasn’t a an expected passing, which in unimaginable . On a personal note , my mother had breast cancer on and off for 20 years. She passed away the day after Christmas 2015. We knew she was going to pass away, when it did happen it still felt like I got hit by a semi. I’m just now going to mom’s tombstone , because the loss was just so overwhelming . I only say this because we all deal with things differently .

    • Scal says:

      Everyone grieves differently. Some folks do better in private, others (esp those in the public eye) find it more cathartic to talk about it and to put it out there. They may view it not as milking a story, but being honest and not wanting to treat their loss as something that they have to keep secret.

      We lost our son over 2 years ago, and while I don’t post about it on social media every day, I do mention him when it’s his birthday or when we have a moment that ties back to him. It’s a life worth remembering and for me personally it wasn’t healthy to just never talk about him again in public. We are all going to lose someone eventually, and it can help people so much to know there’s someone out there that’s gone through what they are going through. Even 1-2-5-10 years later. Grief like that never ends really, you just learn new ways to live with it. Sometimes the sorrow just rears its ugly head again and it is like you are back where started. And that first year? That year of firsts? SO hard.

      But like I said, that’s me. Everyone grieves differently and has to do what’s best and most healthy for them.

      • mia girl says:

        I am so so sorry for your loss. I can’t truly fathom what you have been and continue to go through.
        Peace and love to you @Scal

      • cynic says:

        I’m sorry for you loss, also. What a horrible thing to go through.

  11. Doodle says:

    As a true crime devotee, I loved Michelle McNamara’s work. I didn’t even realize the two were married until her death, and I like Oswalt’s work as an actor as well and still didn’t put it together. I don’t feel he’s stretching his loss at all. Her death is truly a loss for a whole community and I think his essays are probably a way of dealing with his grief. He’s a creative type after all.

  12. AlmondJoy says:

    My heart đź’”

  13. smcollins says:

    My heart breaks for him. My cousin lost her husband a little over a year ago in a similarly unexpected way, leaving her a single mother to 3 young children. She’ll occasionally post things on her fb page about her grief and still trying to figure out life without him. She posted a video of one of their twin daughters singing a song she wrote about missing her dad (she’s 8). I think it helps her (my cousin) to be open about about her pain and not keep it to herself. I also think the responses she gets helps her feel supported and not alone. I don’t think Patton is trying to “stretch” anything out for sympathy, I think it’s just part of how he’s dealing with his grief which is a very personal thing.

  14. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    I don’t know how anyone can cope with that kind of loss. I have never even gotten over the loss of my beloved dog, and that was over 10 years ago. I can’t imagine having to go through life losing a spouse — or worse yet, a child. It’s unimaginable to me. I have utmost sympathy for anyone who has to go through that.

  15. Dirtydishes says:

    I caught his show last week in Nashville and while hilarious, he did break down for a few minutes and talk about his impending doom over the anniversary of losing his wife and initially having to tell his daughter about her moms death. He was very raw and real and I just wept. Seems like they were both so lucky to have each other and a neat family. “I tell dick jokes and bitch about current events and she tried to catch murders and bring peace to families – did god really make the right choice?”

  16. Lindy says:

    I think he’s so eloquent. I can’t imagine you’d kind of grief and he manages to put some of it into words that are moving and very real. I process my emotions by writing so I can understand using that form to help work through pain.

  17. lightpurple says:

    Hindsight is 20/20 but maybe he should have been concerned about all the pills his wife was using.