With 'Terrible, Thanks for Asking,' Nora McInerny Looks to Create a Forum for Others to Find Solace, Support and Strength

By Steiner, Andy | MinnPost.com, February 10, 2017 | Go to article overview

With 'Terrible, Thanks for Asking,' Nora McInerny Looks to Create a Forum for Others to Find Solace, Support and Strength


Steiner, Andy, MinnPost.com


For the last half decade, Nora McInerny has been in the public eye.

It all started with her wildly popular blog, "My Husband's Tumor," which chronicled her love affair with Aaron Purmort, Purmort's brain cancer diagnosis, their marriage, the birth of their son Ralph, the miscarriage of their second child, the death of McInery's father, followed all too shortly by Purmort's death.

Before Purmort died, the couple wrote his obituary, a tragicomic memorial that revealed his secret identity as Spider Man. The obit went viral, and write-ups appeared in many publications, including "Slate," "Time," "Buzzfeed" and the "The Huffington Post." Last year, McInerny published "It's Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool, Too)," her memoir about living life in the midst of tragedy. She's also written first-person essays for "Cosmopolitan," "Elle" and the "New York Post."

Throughout it all, McInerny's been breathtakingly funny, honest, raw and resilient, focused on sharing her unique life story with the world.

Now, with her new American Public Media podcast, "Terrible, Thanks for Asking" (TTFA), McInerny is moving the focus away from her own story and instead focusing her formidable attention on the lives of others.

Let it out

McInerny got the idea for TTFA from the mountains of emails sent to her from people who had their own difficult stories to tell.

"After Aaron died, after the obit went viral," McInerny said, "I've never had an empty inbox. I felt like I needed to respond to everyone, but sometimes it was just so overwhelming."

Most of the emails were from "people who are experiencing something terrible and they wanted to be seen and heard," McInerny explained. She knew this feeling all too well: "They were writing to me because the people around them stopped talking about what had happened or even speaking to them sometimes because they thought that their story was over or maybe they didn't want to make them uncomfortable by bringing it up again." But the truth is, McInerny continued, most people who experience tragedy actually do want to keep talking about how they are feeling. They just don't always get the opportunity.

"We tend to avoid hard conversations," McInerny said. But she thinks we should have those difficult conversations. It is a way to heal -- and to help others heal, too. And that's what she wants her podcast to be about.

"I was so lonely after Aaron died," she said. "Even though a million people knew he was dead and everybody would like my Facebook status, I would go places and see people I cared about and I'd act like I was fine even though I wasn't actually fine at all. I needed people to ask me how I was doing and I needed them to listen when I told them the truth."

Birth of a podcast

Since McInerny realized that she found a measure of solace, support and strength in sharing her story with others, she decided she wanted to create a forum where she could help other people do the same thing.

"I decided to do something that wasn't about myself," she said, "something that helped other people who do not have the same sort of platform at their disposal, who aren't famous or even internet famous. I wanted them to have a way to be heard."

After a little research, McInerny decided to pitch her idea to APM Producer Hans Buetow. "I had the idea. I had the name," she said. "Someone told me that Hans made podcasts," she paused, and laughed: "So I very professionally sent him message on Twitter. …

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