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  • Writer's pictureGretchen Seefried

Terrible and Incredible, Thanks for Asking

I just listened to the latest episode of Terrible, Thanks for Asking (TTFA, for short), a brilliant podcast created by writer Nora McInerney. Besides having a deep capacity for compassion and empathy, Nora is also riotously funny and unapologetically irreverent. Her honest and self-deprecating humor reassure me that maybe I’m not so screwed up after all. Nora shares her thoughts with no ulterior motive other than a commitment to fostering empathy through connection.

A few years ago, in quick succession, Nora lost her second pregnancy, her father, and then, her first husband (to brain cancer), when their son was just a toddler. A widowed mother at 31, Nora somehow found the heart to keep on keeping on. From writing Hot Young Widow’s Club, a resource offering “lessons on survival from the front lines of grief” to starting Still Kicking, a nonprofit to provide financial support to people going through awful times, to creating TTFA, a podcast that tells the stories of regular people who have been through terrible things, this gal is changing the way we talk about difficult things like loss, trauma, and grief. But, let me reassure you, this podcast isn’t dark and depressing even though some of the stories will make you cry. In fact, by shining light on the crap that life deals out, Nora creates a safe space for people to share their own crap. As the saying goes: “if you can share it, you can bear it”.

This podcast feels like such a relief during a time when the social media world is pushing us to hide our true selves and to curate our feeds so that we always appear perfectly in control. Nora normalizes out-of-control. She listens, and teaches us new ways of listening. She doesn’t try to fix anything, or change anyone. She doesn’t say “well, at least this” or “it could’ve been worse”, or “you should hear what happened to me”. She just encourages people, who have been through something hard, to share their stories. The stories each become part of a collection, as well as a point of connection.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with parenting; and the answer is… everything. Sharing our experiences as parents – not the carefully curated photos of perfectly outfitted, happy camper kids, but the raw, emotional and embarrassing moments that make us all human – is how we not only survive, but thrive. I am grateful that someone like Nora has started a conversation in which we all can take part.

This latest episode was all about how two contradictory things can be true at the same time. About how life can be both amazing and awful within the same breath. This really resonated. Even with my children all grown, some weeks seem to bring each of them, and therefore us as well, from the highest highs to lowest lows. But the fact is, that’s just life.

I’m guessing that’s what Nora’s new book, No Happy Endings will remind us of – that life is messy, And when you’re a parent, it’s good to get used to messy.

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