Empty Space, Part 2.

Empty Space, Part 2.

Further thoughts on the territory of hunger and ache. (For part 1, see “Empty Space”: the sometimes-painful act of letting go, and being willing to sit with our hungers.) I didn’t plan to write any more on the subject, but then there was a confluence of events: A podcast. A performance. A pastoral pondering. So I guess I’ll be doing a little series on grief, hunger and ache.

The podcast

Around the time I wrote that entry on empty space, my husband surprised me with a sojourn to NOW HEAR THIS, a podcast festival in Manhattan. Attendees got to sit in on the recording of several podcasts that are kinda hot right now (Lavar Burton Reads, Lovett or Leave It) and as we were walking out of one particular taping, I heard a voice say “JEN AND ROB?” 

It was Mr. Hans Buetow—one of my best friends from college, whom I haven’t seen in a decade.


He’d flown out from Minnesota, where he produces the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking.

I’d heard of the show, but after that chance encounter, I began listening in earnest. And Terrible, Thanks for Asking has become my new favorite thing. It’s hosted by Nora McInerny, who at age 31 suffered through the death of her husband, her father, and a miscarried baby, all in the space of six weeks.

I know.


Each episode, she interviews people who are coping with some sort of grief: relationship grief, depression, recovery from rape, death of a loved one from cancer or overdose or murder. If you are aching over anything at all, I highly recommend it—for at least three reasons:

1. You will feel less alone. And if what you are aching about is not nearly this serious, you will get a reminder of scale.

2. It’s a hard poke-in-the-chest that life is short, and our time with the people we care about is fleeting. And it’s a call to empathy—that people around us are suffering all the time, and we have no idea.

3. It’s the most honest treatment of grief I have ever seen. Grief comes in all flavors. It flip-books through a hundred feelings and expresses itself in unexpected ways. Grieving people do laugh. (McInerny herself is very funny.)

It’s also made me ponder
all the kinds of grief there are.

Not just over deaths and losses, but also
lives we will never live,
paths we will never take,
storylines we can never pursue.

And maybe, too, people we hoped to be,
but aren’t. (Or aren’t yet.)

These seem like lesser griefs—certainly less dramatic—but this one podcast is teaching me how they might be grieved well.

More on grief and ache next time in Empty Space, Part 3: The Performance.

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