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Final guest of The Forum season: Nora McInerny on April 19

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: In her latest book, "No happy endings: A memoir," McInerny explores the mixed emotions of moving forward with love, a second marriage and a blended family in a style that Kirkus Reviews calls "reflective and tender writing on finding new meanings and a different life after heartbreaking loss."

The 79th season of The Forum series at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will close with a presentation from humorist and writer Nora McInerny, titled “Processing grief and stress.”

The event will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, in Schofield Hall auditorium. Tickets can be purchased online or in person at the Service Center in Davies Center.

McInerny’s presentation will be 60 minutes, followed by a 30-minute Q&A session with audience members. There will be no livestream of this event, and audience members must be present to ask a question.

Sharing hard-earned understanding   

As one of the few certainties in life, death will touch all of our lives if it hasn’t already, and McInerny wants to reshape societal expectations of and reactions to people living with grief.

Within the span of a few months in 2014, the Minnesota native was dealt three devastating losses: her father died of cancer, her second pregnancy ended in miscarriage and her husband lost his battle against an aggressive brain cancer.

A widow and single mother of a toddler at 31, McInerny faced a world and a life she says she found to be full of misguided assumptions, palpably uncomfortable conversations and confusing expectations about grief and how those experiencing it should eventually “just move on.”

By 2019, the self-proclaimed “reluctant grief expert” presented the fourth most-viewed TED Talk of the year, titled “We don’t ‘move on’ from grief. We move forward with it.” McInerny is the author of four books on this and related topics, and is the host of a podcast called “Terrible, thanks for asking,” which offers a weekly platform for frank and open discussions for people living with grief and loss of all kinds.

In a 2019 interview with Vogue magazine, McInerny spoke candidly about facing down the expectations of others who had the best of intentions but simply couldn’t relate to or understand her struggles.

“Part of the challenge of living according to other people’s expectations is that those expectations are subject to change without notice,” McInerny says. “I was too sad for some people; I was not sad enough for other people. On days when you are truly struggling, it’s clear that people really don’t want to see that. They want to be able to give the world the report that, ‘She’s doing great. Wow — what an inspiration.’ I really internalized all those expectations — I did not have an example for what grief really looks like.”

McInerny admits she has “made a career in talking about death and loss.” With her signature humor, compassion and realism, she seeks to break down barriers that tend to isolate those living with loss or adversity, encouraging her various audiences to trust in their own strength in facing all of life’s obstacles.

McInerny remarried in 2017. She and her husband have one son together and three children from previous marriages.

In the long-standing tradition of the series, this final Forum guest of 2022 will be introduced by Blugold psychology major Devion Rehbein, a junior from Waunakee. As a student of psychology, Rehbein is pleased not only to introduce our esteemed guest but also to meet the woman whose words profoundly impacted his family as they grieved their beloved grandfather in recent years.  

“Ms. McInerny's TED Talk focused our thoughts on the idea that lost loved ones are part of who we are, they move forward with us,” Rehbein says. “Her perspective on resilience is helpful to people facing any type of hardship, not just grief or loss — it's relevant to everyone.”

Joann Martin, a student affairs program specialist for UW-Eau Claire’s Activities, Involvement and Leadership office, was pleased with the committee selection of McInerny as the final speaker of the 2021-22 Forum season.

“Nora McInerny, a Minneapolis native, shines a light on uncomfortable topics with disarming humor and the concept of radical acceptance — learning to accept difficult realities without judging or trying to change them,” Martin says. “She makes resilience feel more attainable.”