How Patton Oswalt Found Love with Meredith Salenger After His First Wife's Sudden Death
A year and a half after the passing of his first wife Michelle McNamara, Patton Oswalt wed actress Meredith Salenger
Patton Oswalt has found love again after heartbreak.
Here’s a look back at how Oswalt’s life has changed since last April.
A tragic loss
On April 21, 2016, McNamara died in her sleep at age 46. In an instant, Oswalt became a widower — and single parent.
McNamara, who was writing a book about a serial rapist and killer at the time, was working long days and nights and unable to sleep due to anxiety and nightmares. Worried about her health, Oswalt suggested she take a night to “sleep until you wake up.” McNamara took some Xanax and went to sleep — but never woke up.
The next morning, Oswalt remembered waking up early to get Alice dressed, packed and off to school. On the way home, he picked up an Americano coffee and left it on McNamara’s bedside table — around 9:40 a.m., he recalled.
Hours later, he checked to see if his wife was up yet. She was still in bed — not breathing. The paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene. While a cause of death was not declared by the coroner’s office at the time, Oswalt said he believed the Xanax was to blame.
In February, Oswalt revealed McNamara’s cause of death: “We learned today the combination of drugs in Michelle’s system, along with a condition we were unaware of, proved lethal,” he wrote in a statement to the Associated Press.
Oswalt also explained that the couple had “no idea” McNamara had a heart condition that caused blockages in her arteries. According to Oswalt, the blockages, combined with her taking the medications Adderall, Xanax and the pain medication fentanyl, were responsible for her passing.
Learning to cope
“It’s awful, but it’s not fatal,” Oswalt began. “That’s the dispatch I’m sending back from exactly one year into this shadow-slog.”
He went on to say that he had removed his wedding ring and placed it in a box of keepsakes.
“I couldn’t bear removing it since April 21st, 2016,” he wrote. “But now it felt obscene. That anonymous poem about the man mourning his dead lover for a year and a day, for craving a kiss from her ‘clay cold lips.’ I was inviting more darkness. Removing the ring was removing the last symbol of denial of who I was now, and what my life is, and what my responsibilities are. But it’s not fatal.”
“I’m not making today any sort of dark ritual or painful memorial. No graveside visit. Those are for when Alice and I have something exciting to say to her. No candle lighting or balloon launching. We think of her every day — she’s still so tied into our worlds, in a way that’s encouraging, and energizing. So why light a flame that will die, or release a balloon that will disappear? Michelle’s gone but she wasn’t the kind of soul that disappears or dies out.”
A new beginning
In June, Oswalt stepped out for the premiere of Baby Driver with a very special guest by his side: his girlfriend Salenger. The couple held hands while posing for the cameras.
Salenger — a 47-year-old Harvard-educated actress with credits in TV and films including Lake Placid and Hollywood Heights, plus voiceover work for cartoons like Star Wars: The Clone Wars — also tweeted an adorable selfie with Oswalt in the theater.
At the time, a source close to the couple told PEOPLE the relationship was “new” and the two were “very happy.”
“They met through mutual friend Martha Plimpton,” said the insider. “They started chatting as friends and it blossomed from there.”
A month later, PEOPLE exclusively confirmed that Oswalt and Salenger were engaged.
“It’s official. I’m the luckiest happiest girl in the universe!!!!” she gushed on Instagram. “I love you @pattonoswalt I love you Alice Oswalt! #YesYesYes.”
“I put the ring in a marzipan [Star Wars] Slave I replica and said, ‘Will you be my Padawan of Love?’ ” Oswalt quipped of the proposal on Twitter. “She maced me but said yes later.”
Hitting back at critics
After facing harsh blowback on social media for getting engaged 15 months after McNamara’s death, Oswalt and Salenger defended their decision on social media.
On Facebook, Oswalt referred to his critics as “bitter grub worms,” thanking blogger Erica Roman for writing an article in their defense.
“This is so amazing. And SO well-written,” he wrote. “I expected some bitter grub worms to weigh in (anonymously, always always always) with their much-needed opinions when I announced my engagement last week. And I decided to ignore them. But yeah, I felt this rage. And Erica articulated it better than I could have ever hoped. So there you go. Thank you, Erica.”
Salenger also posted Roman’s article alongside her own defense of the couple’s engagement.
“Everyone has been so lovely to us… ALL of Michelle’s siblings and friends and family… a few trolls have strong opinions,” she wrote. “But I think for Patton, having met and found love after over a year of intense therapy and openly grieving and dealing with his pain…I am grateful to be the one who helps him climb out of the depths of grief and find some joy again. And most of all… Alice is happy and feels loved.”
“I have waited 47 years to find true love,” she continued. “Creating our family unit while honoring the brilliant gift Michelle has given me will be my life’s goal and happiness. I am deeply in love with both Patton and Alice and very much looking forward to a beautiful happy life having adventures together.”
WATCH: Patton Oswalt Opens Up About Emotional Wedding to Meredith Salenger: ‘This Is a New Level of Joy and a New Life’
Staying strong for Alice
Since McNamara’s death, Oswalt’s top priority is taking care of their daughter.
“If I hadn’t had a daughter and my wife died, we wouldn’t be talking right now. I’m not saying I would be dead, but I would be a shut-in alcoholic,” he told Playboy in August. “Everything would have shut down. I wouldn’t have been about anything. But with Alice, it was and is ‘You got to get up.’ ”
“There were times when I had to get her to play a game on her iPad or start a little project, and then I would say, ‘Oh, let me go upstairs,’ and I would go put my head in a pillow and just scream and cry because I didn’t want to break down in front of her,” he confessed.
Still, the father-daughter duo opted to stay in their family home, admitting that a move “would have been more painful,” and have felt like they were “running away from Michelle’s ghost.”
And at the end of the day, Oswalt said he chose to move forward with his life for the sake of his daughter.
“I’m moving forward — clumsily, stupidly, blindly — because of the kind of person Alice is,” he wrote in a December 2016 first-person essay for GQ. “She’s got so much of Michelle in her. And Michelle was living her life moving forward. And she took me forward with her. Just like I know Alice will. So I’m going to keep moving forward. So I can be there with you if you need me, Alice. Because I’ll need you.
“I can do it,” he added. “I can do it. I can do it. Because of you, Alice.”