Please Guard Your Hearts For Patton Oswalt's Beautiful, Terrifying Description of Grief
It’s been 102 days since Patton Oswalt lost his wife, Michelle McNamara. She died in her sleep, from causes still unknown (at least to us, the public, despite how strongly we all always feel we need/deserve information). A few weeks after her death, Patton came online to deliver a brief but heartbreaking eulogy, a terrible reminder for us all to hug our loved ones tightly and often.
And now Oswalt has written another statement, 102 days after losing his wife, and it’s beautiful, and harrowing. He starts with the characteristically, deftly glib, “Thanks, grief.” We talk a lot around these parts (in part because it has thankfully become an important subject finally being admitted to a wider conversation) about depression and mental illness. And this is not meant AT ALL to diminish depression or anything else happening inside our heads and bodies, but Patton’s point here seems to be that for those of us who have spent our lives struggling against our own brains, it can be surprising, even shocking, when another kind of desolation invades.
Thanks for making depression look like the buzzing little bully it always was. 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 fucking the teacher you’ve got a crush on in front of the class. Grief makes depression cower behind you and apologize for being such a dick.
102 days can sound like a long time. It sounds like a good amount of time to turn grief into something productive. But fuck that. Grief doesn’t want to made into anything else. It just is.
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 shit 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.
Patton goes on to talk about how the kindness of strangers really did mean a great deal to him. That not just his friends and family, but the love of strangers, as weird as that may be, is beautiful.
I could break down the rest of his words, but that won’t add anything. Here is his Facebook post (click that “see more” for all of it), and a warning, it’s going to hurt. As he talks about his wife, himself, and their 7-year-old daughter, it will hurt. His process from frozen to crawling, leading maybe to walking and, you know, being funny and stuff someday— it will hurt. For those who have never felt this kind of grief, it’s not pleasant to see, and for those who have, it’s a torment to relive. But it’s fucking human, and we can all be grateful that someone as eloquent and beloved as Patton can put these feelings into words.
Fuck you, death. And thank you, Patton. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hug everyone I love, one at a time, forever.