Comedian shares moving post on realities of grief after wife's sudden death

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Kayleigh Dray
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In April 2016, US crime writer Michelle McNamara tragically passed away in her sleep at the age of 46.

With no known medical conditions or prior warning signs that her health was at risk, McNamara’s death came as “a complete shock to her family and friends, who loved her dearly.”

Her husband, San Francisco-based comedian and actor Patrick Oswalt, and her seven-year-old daughter, Alice, have been struggling to come to terms with their grief.

And, 102 days after his wife’s unexpected passing, Oswalt has taken to Facebook to pen an emotional post about the realities of living with all-consuming grief.

He wrote: “Depression is the tallest kid in the 4th grade, dinging rubber bands off the back of your head and feeling safe on the playground, knowing that no teacher is coming to help you.

“But grief? Grief is Jason Statham holding that 4th grade bully's head in a toilet and then f**king the teacher you've got a crush on in front of the class. Grief makes depression cower behind you and apologise for being such a dick.”

Oswalt continues: “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 s**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.”

Despite feeling emotionally drained, however, Oswalt’s post was not without its optimism; he explained that he intends to finish McNamara’s unfinished book, The Golden State Killer, and that he is grateful for all of the support he has received from family, friends, and fans, in the wake of her death.

He also made sure to thank his wife for giving his daughter the best start in life, adding that she had put the “best parts of her[self] into Alice, like beautiful music burned onto a CD and sent out into the void on a spaceship.”

Oswalt also promised that he will soon get back to doing all the things he does best, such as writing, and acting.

“[I want to start] 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.”

The comedian finished with a vow to “start being funny again soon”, adding: “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!”

Oswalt has been largely silent on social media since McNamara’s death.

However, in May, the 47-year-old made sure to share his young daughter’s words of wisdom about coming to terms with her own grief.

"When your mom dies you're the best memory of her," Alice said, according to a tweet from her father. "Everything you do is a memory of her." 

McNamara attended the University of Notre Dame and earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Minnesota.

She later went on to found her website, True Crime Diary, after becoming interested in cold cases.

“I kind of just did it almost as a lark at first, not figuring it would become such a regular thing but that was sort of the impetus for it,” she said in a 2007 interview. 

“I wanted to get more involved in the cases than fuelling my own curiosity.”

Her website covered both breaking stories and cold cases, but, as a writer, she made a conscious effort to steer away from famous murders.

Instead, McNamara focused on mysteries that had been overlooked, or had not gained public attention.

Writing on her own website, she explained: “True Crime Diary is not interested in looking back at notorious criminals and saying, wow. We're interested in looking at unfolding cases and asking, who?”

Her articles and investigations have been praised by critics as "excellent and thoughtful", and she had a large following of fans on social media.

However it seems as if McNamara's husband was always her biggest fan; in fact, she even revealed that he was the one who persuaded her to set up her website in the first place.

“She wrote lines that stung & hummed. 13 years in her presence was happily humbling. #RIPMichelleMcNamara,” tweeted Oswalt at the time of her passing.

He included a link to make donations to 826LA, an organisation that helps students strengthen their writing skills. 

Image: Rex Features


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.