Patton Oswalt: 'The Worst Day of My Life Was When I Had to Tell My Daughter' About Her Mother's Death
"I can get up and I can do my job and I can be a dad but the wound is there. It is healing. It's not shut yet ..." the actor and comedian says in his new Netflix special Patton Oswalt: Annihilation
Patton Oswalt is using comedy to open up about the one single moment that changed his life forever.
In his new Netflix special, Patton Oswalt: Annihilation, the actor and comedian goes into detail about the aftermath of his wife Michelle McNamara’s sudden death, how he told their daughter, Alice, and how he continues to fight through grief.
“Just over a year, I became a widower and I have, I’m moving along as best I can,” says Oswalt, 48. “I can get up and I can do my job and I can be a dad but the wound is there. It is healing. It’s not shut yet …”
“Also, there’s no sense to it,” he later adds. “My wife was a true crime writer and researcher and the phrase she hated the most was, ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ She would say, ‘No it f—— doesn’t. It’s chaos. It’s all random, it’s horrifying and if you want to try and reduce the horror and reduce the chaos, be kind that’s all you can do.’ ”
“We learned today the combination of drugs in Michelle’s system, along with a condition we were unaware of, proved lethal,” Oswalt wrote in a statement to the Associated Press in February.
Though losing his spouse was beyond painful, Oswalt says the aftermath was more difficult.
“The second worst day of my life was the day that my wife passed away, that was the second worst day of my life,” he says. “The worst day of my life was the day after when I had to tell our daughter. My wife passed away while she was at school. In between screaming and vomiting and freaking out, I talked to the school and told them what happened and what to do and the principle talked to me and she was amazing and said, ‘She can’t come home from school and then you tell her and then she has to go to bed. You can’t send her off into sleep and that trauma just hit her. Tomorrow is Friday. Keep her out of school, have a fun daddy/daughter morning and then at noon tell her and be there with her while she works through it.’ ”
Adding, “‘ It’s going to be horrible but just be there.’ She said, ‘Tell her in the sunshine.’ That’s how she put it. We did it — in the morning we went and had fun and I sat down with my daughter. I looked at my daughter and destroyed her world. I had to look at this little girl that was everything to me and take everything from her. That’s going to be longer for me to recover from than my wife passing away.”
With support from family and friends, Oswalt and Alice continue to work through the pain, taking it day by day.
“We got through the summer which was its own nightmare. And then first day of first grade which I had to do alone. Normally my wife would go online and fill out the forms and I somehow did it and I’m walking her up to first grade. As I’m walking her up to first grade, I can’t believe there’s lunch in her lunch box, she has her backpack. I got her new clothes like, ‘Okay, maybe I can do this.’ ”
“But it also hit me as I’m walking her up, I had not visited my wife’s grave since the funeral. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t bear to go there. I was like, you know what, I’m going to go visit Michelle’s grave and I’m going to sit and talk with her and I’m going to say, ‘This world need not concern you anymore. I’ve got it. You go do what you have to do. You’re not gone because I see so much of you in Alice and I want to keep that healthy and happy and growing. That’s my job now.’ ”
“It’s awful, but it’s not fatal,” wrote Oswalt, who is now raising daughter Alice as a single father. “That’s the dispatch I’m sending back from exactly one year into this shadow-slog.”
He went on to say that he took off 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.”
Now, Oswalt is getting ready to walk down the aisle with his fiancée, Meredith Salenger.
The couple went public with their budding romance in June at the Los Angeles premiere of the movie Baby Driver.
A source close to the couple previously told PEOPLE, “it’s new and they’re very happy.”
“They met through mutual friend Martha Plimpton,” the insider said. “They started chatting as friends and it blossomed from there.”