Patton Oswalt Says Life After Loss Should Be Called a 'Numb Slog' Not a 'Healing Journey'


On Thursday night, Patton Oswalt headlined his first hourlong stand-up special since his wife, Michelle McNamara, died in April.

People reports that the comedian was a half-hour into his set before telling the audience at the Beacon Theatre, “Six months and 12 days ago, my wife passed away… There’s no way to segue into that. It’s just my life and it’s kind of all-consuming. And it sucks. It sucks.”

He then talked about what life has been like, observing that the way we talk about recovering from the loss of a loved one doesn’t fit the experience:

“A lot of the terminology that people use when you’re going through something like this is just ridiculous,” he said. “If I hear the term ‘healing journey’ one more time… It is not a ‘healing journey.’ It’s a ‘numb slog.’ It’s just, ‘Well, it’s the end of another day — guess I’ll do that tomorrow.’ It’s just a numb slog until you start feeling s— again.”
“If they would call it a ‘numb slog’ instead of a ‘healing journey,’ it would make it a lot easier,” he continued. “Because if they call it a ‘healing journey’ and it’s just a day of you eating Wheat Thins in your underwear, you’re like, ‘I guess I’m on my healing journey.’ But if they say you’re going to have a ‘numb slog,’ you sit there going ‘I’m nailing it!’ ”

He also talked about his daughter Alice, and how he broke the news to her the day following McNamara’s death, keeping her home from school and spending the morning with her. Alice soon wanted to return to class, which Oswalt says was a good choice, in part because of the other students lack of filter was refreshing: “Monday was me taking her to school and the kids saying ‘Were you sad when Alice’s mom died?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I was—what a great question.’”

McNamara was a lauded true crime writer, who was finishing a book on the Golden State Killer at the time of her death, which Oswalt has pledged to see published. He said during his special that their views of the world, influenced by their respective crafts, often conflicted:

“I’m very very OCD,” he explained. “I like logic and order and neatness. And sometimes I would fall into that cliché where I would say ‘Well everything happens for a reason I guess.’ And she would go, ‘No it doesn’t. It doesn’t happen for any reason. S— just happens. There’s no closure, there’s no order and there’s no meaning. It’s whatever meaning you try to put on it but nothing happens for any reason. Get that out of your head.’ ”

He added, “Now that’s been proven to me in the shittiest way possible. She won the argument in the worst way!”

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