Terrible, Thanks for Asking

What's Gonna Happen To Me? - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled “What’s Gonna Happen To Me?” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.

Britt is raising money to provide free therapy for black men. Support her fundraiser here. You can also follow her on Instagram at @dr._britt.


Hi. I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.”

In our last episode, we met Britt. And if you have not listened to that episode, you are not allowed to listen to this episode. I’m not letting you. I will pause it with my own fingers. I will reach through your phone, your listening device. I will hit pause. You can’t listen to this! There’s not a lot of rules at this podcast, and mostly nothing is in chronological order. Go nuts! Skip around! But in this case, you will want to listen to the previous episode, which is called “Untying Knots.” So don’t listen to this one if you haven’t listened to that one. But if you did listen to that episode, welcome back.

When we left off, it was 2016, and Britt and her husband Sonny have just had one of those fights. A dumb fight where, looking back, you can’t really remember even what it was about, just that you were mad (and you were probably right).

And in that moment, Britt calls — of all people she can ask for relationship advice — Harry. She calls Harry. The guy who was married when he got Britt’s mom pregnant. The guy who told Britt that he would never claim her as a child. She calls THAT guy. Who isn’t THAT guy anymore, because he’s Dad, now. So she calls her dad.

And he tells her, “Look, nobody’s perfect. Sonny’s not perfect. You need to talk to him. You need to work it out.”

Nora: Was his, uh.. was his advice good? Did it work? 

Brittany: It definitely did. And even if it didn't, it's just like… he gave some! You know what I mean? This is something I felt like I was waiting for my whole life. And, you know, finally, it's something that he was, you know, able to give. But it was just so interesting to me that that was the first person that I reached out to.

It’s not just the advice that matters, it’s the fact that she thought to call her dad at all. It’s the fact that he answered. The fact that he listened. It’s the fact that it’s not just Britt and her mom against the world. She has her husband, Sonny. And she has a dad. She has a sister! And she has her dad’s family… this whole network of people that she didn’t have before.

Nora: How had your growing a relationship with your dad… what did your mother think of that?

Brittany: I think she was actually happy about that. Part of me thinks that she's just like, “Well, this guy has nothing on me, because he really wasn't around. So this is cute, What they got going on, but it doesn't compare to the relationship that, you know, me and my daughter have, because I raised her.” But I think she was very supportive of it. And she was very happy that, you know, we were talking. And she would even say or ask me, like, “Hey, like, did you talk to Harry?” And so, yeah, I think she was very supportive of that relationship.

Nora: That's sweet.

Brittany: Yeah.

Nora: Like she got, like… what she wanted from, like, walking you into that diner.

Brittany: Right.

Nora: You know?

Brittany: Exactly, so it's like, mission accomplished.

So many missions have been accomplished in Britt’s life so far. Her mother, Marva, has recovered from breast cancer. Britt has finished her master’s in mental health counseling, and she’s started a private counseling practice.

She and her husband, Sonny, are married, and they’re ready for kids. After a childhood of stress and anxiety and anger over her biological father abandoning her… things for Britt were not terrible. At all. 

Britt had spent her teen years resenting and sometimes raging at her dad. But now, she gets to spend time getting to know him. Which is also a way of getting to know herself. 

Brittany: I was able to learn a lot of who I am as a person that came from him. Like, he's a very chill, like, laid back person. And I feel the same, you know, about myself. You know, it's cool to kind of be able to say, like, “I'm just like my dad,” because I've never been able to say that prior to that conversation. So we were really able to get to know each other. He was very excited about, you know, me getting married. He was very excited about the prospect of him being a grandfather to potentially a grandson — because he already has a granddaughter, my niece.

Sonny and Britt are NOT pregnant yet, but ya know, dad’s excited! And he’s ready to order a grandson! Dad is also… well, he’s not retired, but he’s supposed to be retired. Because he’s old enough, and everyone is telling him to just chill out, stay home, do a crossword. But he’s still working, and one day in June, he has a fall on the job, and he’s taken to the hospital. Britt’s sister calls to let Britt know, and it’s not a huge deal, she says.

Brittany: And so they were, like, running tests, finding out what was going on. And so I was talking with my, you know, back and forth with my sister, back and forth with, you know, a few cousins on that side of the family and just kind of getting updates and information. And I think I said like, “Do I need to come?” And so my sister was like, “I don't think you need to come. You know, everything is, you know, pretty OK. He's just kind of banged up from the fall.” 

So I think as time started to go by, they started to kind of find things. They found, like, a blood clot, I believe. I'm not sure where exactly it was. And after finding the blood clot, things just kind of rapidly started happening. 

Britt gets developments from her sister and from her cousins. And they assure her that she doesn’t need to fly out. Dad will be fine. And then a few days later, the phone rings  again. And it’s not fine.

Britt’s dad is dead.

Britt and Harry had come so far in these recent years. They built a relationship first by untying all of the things that had kept them apart — the anger, the shame, the guilt. And now, just when things are getting really good, he’s gone.

This is the second father that Britt has lost. But unlike the death of Dada, where Britt and her mother weren’t in the obituary or invited to the funeral… where she learned to invalidate her loss and swallow her grief like a hot coal... this loss is different. Of course it is. Britt’s a grownup now, and she’s a therapist herself. She knows how important it is to grieve. And she lets herself do that. 

Brittany: And I remember at the burial, you know, as they lower the casket. And I was just looking down at the casket and I said to myself, you know, “I'm glad that my tears are tears of grieving the loss of a loved one as opposed to grieving the lack of an opportunity to mend this relationship.” Or even guilt. Like, these tears are not tears of guilt. They're not tears of, “I wish I would have. I wish I could have. I wish I should have.” These were tears of, “I'm really gonna miss this dude. Like, he was pretty cool! And I'm sad that we won't get an opportunity to continue to have that.”

Nora: But you didn't have to be angry anymore.

Brittany: I didn't have to be angry. Because I got it all out in my Nissan Altima. My burgundy Nissan Altima, outside in my first apartment. I got it all out, and I told him everything that I wanted to say, and he heard it. And we were able to move forward, you know, with all of that information. And so there weren't any tears of anger. There weren’t any tears of guilt. No tears of regret. It was all sad. Mourning for this person's life that I will no longer get to have. 

Brittany won’t get to see her dad hold her kids. She won’t get to invite him out to New Jersey for Christmas. She won’t get to call him the next time Sonny ticks her off. She got 10 years with him as her dad, and... that’s it. That’s all there is. That’s all there ever will be. 

Brittany: But at least I was able to learn — or at least my father was able to teach me — that I have to be vulnerable, and I have to communicate the hard things. And even when you communicate the hard things, sometimes you don't get the results that you want. And then sometimes you get these really great results. And so I think that's what my father taught me. And being able to be open with him about how I truly felt. And I'm talking about everything — from the anger to the rage, to the disappointment, to the embarrassment... all of it. And so I was able to bring that part into my marriage, which made things very, you know, successful with me and Sonny. 

Sonny. The Pippen to Britt’s Jordan. Her husband. Her partner. He’s one of the people who will get her through this loss. Who will keep helping her say “yes” to her life and to her own goals. 

Britt and Sonny are opening a group private practice for mental health counseling. They’re running a small business together. Building a life and a future together. Which is big, because Britt’s the only child of a single mother. She spent her childhood trying to make sure she never had to find the answer to the question, “What will happen to me without my mom?” 

Having a partner is emotional and physical and financial security — all things that Britt longed for when she was growing up.

Brittany: When I became, like, a woman, and I started to do, like, woman stuff —like taking care of myself and paying bills and having to, like, figure life situations out and make really tough decisions — I really start to look at my mom as a woman as opposed to, like, my mom, you know? And things that happened growing up, I'm just like, “Well, I get it now and I understand her more, and I can have more compassion because now I know what it's like to be an adult that has responsibilities.” So I think the more you become an adult, the more you're able to see your parents and even those older adults in your life as actual men and women.

Britt sees her mom as a woman who worked really hard for her child. Who was hurt by men, by life, but still kept going. And this is not just an appreciation of what Marva did for Britt, but how Britt grew from all of her mother’s pain. All of her mother’s struggles. Britt is a highly competent adult woman because she learned from her mother’s example.

Because even though she’s had to unlearn a lot of her mother’s emotional habits, there is no unlearning that Marva taught Britt how to keep going. How to survive when things felt unsurvivable. 

And in 2018, when Marva had already moved to Louisiana to live closer to her own siblings, Britt is going to need those lessons more than ever.

Because Marva is sick again.

We’ll be right back.  

We’re back. And Britt’s mom, Marva, has cancer again.

Brittany: So at this point, the breast cancer has kind of leaked into her lung and her liver. And so now at this point there's so many different complications from now having Stage 4 breast cancer. And so on top of my mom's pre-existing conditions, which was diabetes, she had high blood pressure, kidney issues from the diabetes. So we kind of knew that the prognosis wasn't great.

The first time Marva was sick, she’d passive-aggressively expected Britt to drop everything and move back to Chicago to take care of her. And Britt did not do that. She’d instead visited every month, sent money and hired the help her mother needed. But she’d stayed in New Jersey to build her career and her relationship with Sonny. 

This time is different in almost every way. Britt has just lost her dad. The fragility of life is obvious to her, and Marva is once again Britt’s only parent. So Sonny and Britt drop everything and head to Louisiana.

Brittany: I remember getting to the hospital and, you know, seeing her. And she was just so excited to see me. And she was trying to talk. And I'm like, “But you have a ventilator, like, you can't talk to me!” But you knew she was just excited to see me. And I believe she was also excited to see Sonny also. And so she actually survived that. So she got off the ventilator. She was able to go home. Really, like, the month of May and June, I was basically in Louisiana with her.

Britt is there in Louisiana because she wants to be there. And because she can be there. Because the life that she had wanted to establish for herself when her mom was first sick? She established it. 

Brittany: I was already established as a business owner. Already established as a therapist with clinicians. A group private practice. I was fully able to kind of be in the moment and ask the questions, you know, face to face with doctors and, you know, really be with her and really understand, you know, what was happening to her and what I needed to do to be supportive, you know, towards her. 

As a kid, Britt lived in fear of her mother dying. Without her mom, where would she go? Who would take care of her? What would happen to her?

But grownup Britt doesn’t have that same fear, because while she takes care of her mom, Sonny takes care of Britt. 

Brittany: I always said that, you know, I'm going to marry a person so that when I do eventually bury my mom or, you know, have to take care of my mom because of some kind of medical issue, they will be right there by my side to help me. And I knew that that's something that Sonny was absolutely hands down capable of doing. And that's exactly what he did. So moments where he was just like, “OK, it seems like you need a break. Maybe we should stop. Maybe, you know, let's go take a walk. Let's go take a drive, and then we'll come back to this tomorrow.”

She and Sonny do it all together, going back and forth between New Jersey and Louisiana to take care of the business and to take care of Marva. 

Brittany: And things just continued to just kind of decline, like she wasn't really able to be in the house home by herself. There had to be like someone, you know, with her. There was like hospice care that was involved. And then, you know, we got her into a nursing home. And I'm looking at her and I'm just like, this woman is so full of life. Like, she would just randomly start dancing in the middle of the house. Or, you know, this woman had such a sense of humor that was just like… wow, that was, like, super witty. Like, where did you come up with that? And I'm like, this woman is so full of life. So to see us even talking about hospice or to see us even talking about a nursing home is just like... that's devastating for me, because I'm just like, she's just so full of life. 

Marva’s death is Britt’s biggest childhood fear come true. As a child, she’d worry that if anything happened to her mother, she’d have nowhere to go. Nobody to care for her. But when Marva dies in July 2018, Sonny is there. He makes Britt take a long weekend in New Orleans after the funeral, hoping to help her recharge and re-set before they go back to New Jersey, and back to the rest of their life. A life where she and Sonny take care of each other. And there’s a comfort in knowing that even though Britt is now an adult orphan, Sonny has her back. She has a place in the world, and it’s with him.

But here’s the thing about anxiety: It is irrational. It doesn’t say to Britt, “Look, I know your mom is dead, and it’s bringing up a lot of your childhood fears but hey, relax now, you’ve got this guy!” At least not for long or not loud enough. That comfort Sonny provides? It doesn’t relieve that deep-seated anxiety she’s had since childhood. That sense of instability that Britt has been trying to stabilize her entire adult life. Instead, the focus of that anxiety just shifts.

Brittany: That question, that lingering question that I always had growing up with my mom now is kind of shifting over to my spouse, where it's just like, “If something happens to you, what's gonna happen to me?” And so I think I was very anxious about, you know, something happening to him. You know, men just don't go to the doctor. 

Nora: Oh, my god. It's the most annoying thing about them.

Brittany: It's so annoying. And it's just like, just go! Like, the first time he went to a dentist was when he was like 31, 32. 

Nora: Oh, my god. 

Brittany: But here's the kicker. The kicker is that he didn't have any cavities!

So unfair. Very unfair. I hate that. I hate that, and same with my husband. But Sonny gets it. He knows why Britt is worried about him. She just lost BOTH of her parents. And from Day 1, Sonny and Britt’s relationship has been about mutual care.

Brittany: We take care of ourselves, then that's taking care of each other. 

So they do that! Sonny goes to the doctor, and everything is fine! He’s fine! So the plan is to keep being Pippen and Jordan. They’re ready to have kids. They’re still building their business. 

And it’s time for a quick break.

We’re back. It’s December 2019, and Britt is having one of those days where you’re just kinda in a bad mood for no reason. Like, for example: Britt, who’s always a pretty laid back person, is having this meeting with a colleague, and she’s short with her. Just kind of snippy. It’s just… an annoying day. 

Brittany: And I get a call on my phone. And it's a  number that I don't recognize, a number that's not saved. And I don't usually pick up calls that I don't know. And I remember thinking to myself, like, “I have to pick up this call.” Like, even though I don't know who this is, I know I have to pick it up. So I pick it up. And it's the church. And so the church that he worked at, the secretary, who also happens to be, like, his work mom, she calls me and she says, “Are you with Sonny?” And I said, “No, he's, you know, up the street at the store getting something for the church. And he's also like, you know, getting paper for the office.” And so she's just like, “You need to go, because he just collapsed at the Best Buy.” And so everything in me was just like, wait a minute. What? Like, I just saw him. Like, we had breakfast this morning. I asked him to deposit some checks from the office, and I had given him the checks and we said, “I love you.” And he went to Best Buy and… what are you saying? He collapsed?

When Britt got the call about Harry… and the calls about Marva… there was never anything she could do right away. There was this cooling off period — a forced kind of perspective — created by that distance. It takes time to book a flight. Takes time to pack a bag. Takes time to even decide if that’s the right course of action. But Sonny is her husband, and he’s up the street at Best Buy, so Britt runs out to the parking lot… and remembers Sonny has the car.

Brittany: So my office manager is running after me, and she's just like, “I'll drive you.” As soon as we pull up, there's cop cars, there's two ambulances outside, and that my heart just sunk even more. Like I felt like at that moment I was just going to pass out. And so there was just something they said, “OK, just keep moving, just keep going.” And so I go in, and I see him on the floor, and I see then working on him. And there's, like, multiple people around. And they put me in, like, this small room, like they're just like, you know, let's get you away from the scene. 

The room that they put her in is a security room, where for some reason Britt can see the security camera footage of the paramedics working on her husband, so she’s not away from the scene. She actually has a better view of the scene… and she doesn’t like it.

Brittany: I think I remember, like, pushing the screen off of the desk, because I just didn't want to see it. And at this point, they're saying to me, “We have a pulse. We don't have a pulse. We're gonna take him to the hospital right now.”

Britt’s office manager drives her to the hospital, where there’s another room for Britt. Another place for her to wait for the doctors to come and give her an update. And when they do, they tell her that Sonny is dead.

Brittany: I'm just like, no, that's not possible. And I actually said to them, “Your shifts aren't over. Your job is to save lives. So you need to go back in there and save his.” And I remember getting up and literally pushing them to the room that he was in. Like, I wasn't violently pushing them. I was just like, “All right, guys, let's go.”

Nora: Back to work!

Brittany: Back to work.

Nora: Back to work. I do not accept that answer. I do not accept that.

Brittany: It’s not a no. It’s not a no. And so they did.

Britt has lost two fathers and a mother. She’s survived. She has thrived. But she is not going to lose Sonny. Not yet. Not like this. For 20 more minutes, Britt waits for a miracle. For better news. 

Brittany: He came back out, and he’s just like, “There's nothing more than we can do.” And I remember thinking to myself, like, this is something that I was not expecting. And I say that because, you know, sometimes I tend to run on the anxiety side, and that comes from my childhood, of course. And so the anxiety for me helps me to plan for the future. It helps me to navigate what's going to happen next. And this time around, I'm just like, “This, I was not prepping for. This was the person that I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. This was the person that I was supposed to have children with. Like this is the person that we were supposed to ride off into the sunset and do really great things and influence the people around us together. This was not supposed to happen.” And in my mind I'm like, “Where were you, anxiety? You didn't prep me for this.” And there were moments in time in our marriage where I think I was very anxious. But then there's a part of me that's just like, I can't be anxious about this, because I'm losing out on precious time with him. So I learned how to begin to manage my anxiety around his health because I realized it was a direct connection to my anxiety about my mom. And that whole piece of this person is supposed to take care of me. And if something happens to them, what's going to happen to me?

It’s December 20th. Britt’s office manager takes over. She calls all of Britt’s friends to let them know that Sonny has died. Britt’s best friend from Chicago is on her doorstep by 11 that night. Another friend cancels a trip to Florida with her boyfriend to just come be with Britt. Four of Sonny’s sisters are out of town, but the one who is in New Jersey rushes to be by Britt’s side.

There’s a funeral. There’s Christmas. There’s that immediate impact of death, that first PLOP! into those icy waters and then there’s just life.

I struggled with the phrase “acceptance” of grief early in widowhood. Obviously, I accepted the loss. Ya can’t reject it. Ya can’t send it back like a cold burger at Applebee’s! Bad example. Applebee’s would never serve you a cold burger. The point is, I was not DENYING that Aaron was dead. Britt is not DENYING that her husband is dead. But any therapist — including Britt! — will tell you that acceptance is really about how you incorporate the loss into your life. It’s about what you do with his shoes. What you do with your life moving forward. It’s about truly living with the reality of the loss.

And that’s a process you go through as life goes on. It’s a process that’s familiar to Britt, because she’s done it so many times before. She did it as a small child when Dada died. She did it as a tween, when Harry told her to never address him in public again, that she would never be his daughter. She did it when Harry died, and she did it when her mother died. 

It’s not unfamiliar territory, but every loss brings you to a new place in grief. There’s that old adage about how you never step in the same river twice — grief is like that, too. It might be just as cold, just as swift, but the grief she has for Sonny is entirely different than the grief for her mother, or for either of her dads. And it’s about more than just death. It always is.

Brittany: And so the primary loss is actually losing the physical person. The secondary loss is really losing the function and the role of that person in your life. And so, for Sonny, he was so many things for me when it comes to him being an encourager. He'd be making it lighter. He'd be encouraging me left and right about like, you know, how things are gonna be OK. He was such a settler. He settled everyone and brought so much calm to everyone. 

There’s also the acceptance of what will never be. Britt and Sonny were trying for kids. And since his death, her period is late.

Brittany: You know, I was trying to decide, like, is this pregnancy or is this grief? And I'm just like, “I'm sure it's grief. But let me just check,” because we had been trying and you know, we had talked about starting a family that year. And so I said, “Let's do it.” You know, let's see if I am pregnant. 

If she is, that’s a little piece of Sonny — it’s a BIG little piece of Sonny — that she gets to keep. And if she’s not, that’s another loss to process. So she buys a test. She pees on it. She waits two minutes, and then she looks.

Brittany: And I wasn't. And, you know, to be honest, I was crushed, but then I was also relieved at the same time. And, you know, I really — not to pat myself on the back, and I know this is going to sound strange — but I guess I'm really just proud of myself for being able to hold two different spaces at the same time, you know? Because it was that one space of: I really wanted to have a kid, because I really wanted to have something that connected me with this man, his entire life. And then at the same time, I'm like, I'm also relieved that I'm not, because I don't really... I wouldn't want to... to have a child and to raise a child by myself without him. Like, if that was the case, then obviously that's what I would have to do. But I would just feel so sad for that kid that he wouldn't, or she wouldn't, get a chance to experience how great their father was.

What Britt just said there — about being able to hold two different spaces at the same time — that’s the greatest thing you can do for yourself when you’re in pain. We tend to think of empathy as something that we extend to other people. And yes, absolutely! Do that. Keep doing it. But we need our own empathy, too. We need to remind ourselves that more than one thing can be true and usually is. That we can hold pain and relief in each of our hands. That the things we’re sure are at odds with one another are more complementary than we ever thought they were. 

Because a baby is not the only connection that Britt could have with Sonny.  When she and I speak, it’s been about five months since Sonny’s death. She’s preparing for his birthday — her first without him — and she isn’t just mourning him. She’s celebrating him.

Brittany: I'm a person of faith and I'm a Christian. And so I believe that Sonny is enjoying eternity, right? And currently with God right now. And I'm just like, if he is having the time of his now-afterlife, right? And just having such a wonderful experience and just full of joy? Why is that something that I cannot have access to for myself? Not that every moment is going to be joyous and not that every moment is going to be happy. But I can still make room for those things. Because I think what happens is that people look at people that grieve or even — I'll say widows, because now a part of the club — I think people look at widows as these one-dimensional people that are always sad. And that's not the case. You know, we are still very multidimensional, especially now as widows, because there's multiple feelings that we have throughout an entire day. Right? So there's sadness, there's happiness. You know, sometimes there's, you know, maybe some guilt, maybe there's some resentment, and then maybe we're back to feeling content again. So we're not these one dimensional people that are constantly sad or just constantly just in this state of grieving. People have to understand when it comes to supporting widows, when it comes to supporting people that are grieving, we can't put them in this glass box where we just kind of shove them away and say, “Well, you know what? They're grieving and they're sad. So we're just going to leave them alone.” Right? And that's like the worst thing that you could do for anybody that's grieving. And so invite widows and people that are grieving to places. Give us choices and give us opportunities. Because that's what's going to help us to heal. 

It’s too soon to say that Britt has healed. She’s healing. And I think it’s always an -ing — which I looked up, and that is a gerund, not just an -ing, which I vaguely remember from Mrs. Maureen Desmond’s 10th grade English class, where she administered the Slade Grammar Test, and I failed it three times but still became a writer.

But Britt is heal-ing. I’ve heard different therapists and people who have been through therapy say that you should treat yourself as kindly as you would your 5-year-old self. But Britt is doing something even better than that, and something I think could be so helpful for grieving people who are missing someone who loved them. She’s treating herself the way that Sonny would treat her. 

Brittany: And even during times where, you know, I have a business in the middle of this crisis. And so it's just like, you know, how am I navigating that? And there's been so much work I've been doing for the business, it's not even funny. And if he were here, he'd be the person to say, “You need to take a break,” or “Here's a cup of tea,” or “Here's some water,” or “Here's lunch,” or “Here's dinner, I'm going to start on it.” And it's like now I have to do all of that on my own. And so I think it's those secondary grief moments that hit me really hard because it's like, OK… the reality is, I'm here, and I'm quarantined by myself. Right? And even if it wasn't a quarantine situation, and I was still out and about doing things, my teammate isn’t here. My partner isn’t here. You know, like Jordan and Pippen, like Pippen's not here. You know what I mean? So it's like, it's just kind of Jordan doing everything on his own. And he can’t. As great as he was, he can't do everything by himself. 

And Britt can’t do it all, either. The thing is, she is on her own. The answer to that childhood question, the question that persisted through her adulthood: What’s gonna happen to me? She is living the answer right now and every day. What’s going to happen to her is unknowable and unimaginable. When it comes to grieving, even though she’s a therapist, she’s not Jordan. She’s not Pippen. She’s whoever the last guy on the bench was. She’s the water girl. She’s the kid who wipes the sweat up after the players fall. I was always jealous of that kid. I would’ve been so good at it.

Point is, even though she’s a therapist, even though she’s an orphaned widow, Britt, like all of us, is still figuring it out.

Brittany: No one knows how to do this. Nobody knows how to grieve. Nobody knows necessarily how to help someone that's grieving. We're all figuring this out as we go, one day at a time and sometimes one hour at a time. So all you need to do in this season of someone grieving, or if you're a supporter or someone that's grieving is to just show up. Like, just show up. Like, just be there. And if there's something that, you know, the person needs, be that person that can say, “OK, I can do that for you.” Or if you can't do it, “I can find someone that can do that for you. If that's what you need right now.”

Sometimes what we need is completely impossible for us to have. We want the person who is gone — and there’s nothing anyone else can say or do that will make that happen for us. That will replace that for us.

And if you’re a grieving person who is listening to this and you’re like, “But I don’t know what I need! I don’t know what to tell people!” You are so lucky — we are so lucky — that Britt is a therapist. Because what she said about being able to hold two things? We need to do that for ourselves and for each other over and over and over. We need to let ourselves miss what we lost while also letting ourselves live on. We have to let ourselves hold our heartbreak and our hope at the same time.

Accepting what she lost when Sonny died doesn’t mean that Sonny is locked up in the vault of her past. Acceptance is not a closed door but an open one. And you can see that in the way that Britt’s relationship with Sonny has continued to evolve since his death.

Britt has friends. She has family. She has tons of people who care about her. And she still misses Sonny. She still wants to be a mom. To be a wife again. And she still misses Sonny. Their relationship isn’t over, it’s just different. And when Britt needs help that only Sonny can give her, she still turns to Sonny.

Brittany: There was an issue that came up in the business and I said to myself, “Okay, what was Sonny say to me right now?” Because my anxiety is taking over. I am trying to figure this out myself, but I'm just like, “What would Sonny say?” And I really just kind of, like, take a step back, and I close my eyes, and I think about exactly what he would say. And I think that's what helps me feel close to him, because of the fact that he was able to be so calm, so on point, so encouraging in the moment, which is absolutely what I need. So whatever I need in the moment, I'm able to pull it from a place that he would pull it from. Which is why he will be my family forever. You know what I mean? Like even if, you know, if I decide, you know, at some point in time to remarry, like, whoever I remarry has to be the most secure person ever, because he has to understand that Sonny will be my family forever — including, you know, his family. His family is my family. We're gonna be family forever. And that's something that whoever, you know, comes along will absolutely need to understand.

This has been “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” I’m Nora McInerny. Our producer is Marcel Malekebu. Help from Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, Hannah Meacock Ross, our digital producer Jordan Turgeon, our editor Phyllis Fletcher. And our theme music is by Geoffrey Lamar Wilson. We are a production of American Public Media. And this episode of this podcast is dedicated to Sonny, to Marva, to Harry… and to Britt. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.