Patton Oswalt Talks Grief After Wife’s Death: ‘I Would Be a Shut-In Alcoholic’ Without My Daughter

Patton Oswalt and daughter Alice Oswalt attend the premiere of "Inside Out" at the El Capitan Theatre on June 8, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

Patton Oswalt revealed that his 8-year-old daughter, Alice, saved him as he struggled to deal with his wife Michelle McNamara’s tragic death in April 2016.

The 48-year-old actor discussed his state of mind after McNamara died in her sleep from a mix of prescription medications and an undiagnosed heart condition. “This is going to sound selfish, but I’m forever glad that I have Alice. 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,” Oswalt told Playboy for the September/October 2017 issue. “Everything would be shut down. I wouldn’t have been about anything. But with Alice, it was and is ‘You got to get up.’”

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The King of Queens alum said that Alice gives him purpose every day. “If there were no reason to wake up, I would be morbidly obese. I’d be rewatching movies I’ve seen a million times, and I would have wallowed and sealed myself off in a falsely comforting bath of despair,” he said. “Depression is not terrifying. Depression is seductive and comforting. It sticks around so long because it creates this false sense of ‘Oh, here’s where I’m safe.’”

Patton Oswalt and his daughter Alice Oswalt ride The Dragon roller coaster at LEGOLAND on February 6, 2016 in Carlsbad, California.
Patton Oswalt and his daughter Alice Oswalt ride The Dragon roller coaster at LEGOLAND on February 6, 2016 in Carlsbad, California. Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

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His priority was making sure Alice was OK. “The first few weeks were a little rough. There was crying at night, but she bounced back. She’s a really happy little kid, and she goes to this thing called Our House, a fantastic grief group for kids. But there were times when I got really worried, like what if she’s just putting on a show for me, trying to be brave but inside she’s dying?” the stand-up comedian continued. “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.”

Oswalt revealed that he hasn’t yet moved out of the home he shared with McNamara. “I redecorated a little, but I just thought, I’m going to need to get through the trauma of the grief and then I’ll go through the trauma of moving,” he told the mag. “Moving out of the house would have been more painful than staying in it. It would have been like running away from Michelle’s ghost rather than giving her ghost time to leave at its own pace.”

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The Ratatouille voice actor has since moved on and got engaged to Meredith Salenger in July. “My fiancée and I started talking February 28, through Facebook,” Oswalt revealed of his relationship with the actress. “We have friends in common and we were messaging, and it just turned into every night for three months — February through May. We would talk about everything, writing these short novels to each other every night.”

When they finally met in person, it felt right. “It was as if I had known this person since we were teenagers and we both had unrequited crushes since we were 14 and now it was finally crashing together,” Oswalt shared. “Even though I’m at this level of joy I didn’t think I would ever feel again, I still wouldn’t recommend those extremes to anybody. I’d like people to have this joy without that despair.”

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