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Nora McInerny

Image via The Globe and Mail.

“Terrible, Thanks for Asking” is hosted by “notable widow” Nora McInerny. It’s a title she’s dubbed herself, given the bizarre number of tragedies that have surrounded in a short period of time. Spurred by the death of her father, then her husband from brain cancer six weeks after that, and the later miscarriage of her second child, Nora tackles grief with an honesty and irony you don’t often hear. She notes that as a culture we’re not really  allowed to give grieving a space. “We’re good at hiding it. Compartmentalizing it. Experiencing in private.”

Grief isn’t just those several months after whatever life event caused it. At some point, we have to keep living. But how can living and dying inside work together? Nora describes, “Did you know grief isn’t just crying? Grief isn’t just a facial expression or physical act? Did you know a grieving person can do a lot of things like laugh, and go to movies, and grocery shop and raise a child, all while bleeding to death internally? Well, now you know. So you won’t be surprised when it happens to you.” Nora’s built a career on public speaking and is a published author. (Also the founder of a “hot young widows club,” which kind of makes you wish you were a widow so you could join it.) She’s got some grief trophies in her case, summing up the macabre talent as “owning your own story and not letting other people define you by what they think your life is like.”

“We’ve spent our summer with some amazing people around the country talking about life experiences and feelings and I only cry in like 60% of the episodes.”

As Nora describes her motive through her own story, her tone isn’t condescending. Just the opposite. She uses warmth and humor to open up her personal catalog of grief and relate to the listener on a human level. The tone is like a This American Life episode without a lot of the immersive background noise or music. It’s that reflective voice that lulls you into the storyteller’s world. Poised, but with cadence. You’re not bored, you’re waiting for the page to turn. There is some background sound--plinky piano to convey the social awkwardness of actually answering “Terrible, thanks for asking” to someone who might ask you. Or soft piano to carry a sorrowful memory.

If you’re scared of your feelings, this podcast is probably for you ( ;) ). Nora won’t throw any embarrassment about showing emotion in your face. Her ability to let people feel comfortable in their grief is overheard in the clips of future episodes. She says, “We’ve spent our summer with some amazing people around the country talking about life experiences and feelings and I only cry in like 60% of the episodes.” Expect candidness from Nora’s podcast, with well-placed dashes of wit, which proves her point--even if you’re having other emotions like humor, you can still grieve.