“Terrible, Thanks For Asking” is an American Public Media podcast that’s asking real people to share their complicated, difficult, honest feelings about how they are. The majority of these stories are rightfully sad but filled with hope, compassion, and even a teeny bit of humor. If you want to experience the full range of human emotions in under an hour, you’ve come to the right place.
Author Nora McInerny hosts “Terrible, Thanks For Asking.” Since 2016, she’s interviewed over 200 people on their life stories, from survivors of crime and assault, to survivors/fighters of illnesses, to war veterans, and everyone in between. Episodes rarely go over an hour long. It reminds us of podcasts like “Heavyweight” and any of Esther Perel’s projects, so if you are fans of those, be sure to check out this one.
From the start, Nora’s narrated intro let’s you know exactly what you are in for with “Terrible, Thanks For Asking.” Like that singularity that so many people feel after tragedy, this podcast is dedicated to expanding not-so-peculiarity. In this podcast, you’ll be told stories of real people overcoming whatever it is they’ve needed to overcome.
Episodes are all a tiny bit different. The stories are unique – some more so than others – but are all tied together under the Terrible Umbrella. In a recent episode, titled “October 8, 1988,” McInerny begins to tells us a bit about the singularity of grief – how it creates this bubble of isolation around those who experience it. The idea that our suffering is so singular is, ironically, so universal.
This episode is about a car crash that killed an entire family except the eldest daughter, and the daughter of the drunk truck driver that hit them. Both of these women tell their stories of that day and all the days after. The daughter of the driver would imagine that the young girl who survived the fiery crash had a perfect family that was ripped from her too soon – a loving mother and father, and three rambunctious little brothers, who gave her everything they could.
When, in reality, the father was a PTSD-addled war veteran who beat his wife and terrorized his children, and his eldest daughter had to take on the role of the protector for her brothers. But, obviously, his death wasn’t some sort of godsend. The two women grew up fatherless, family-less, wondering about what was happening on the other side of the crash. When, one day, one of them reached out to the other on Facebook Messenger. The other didn’t see it for a year, but when she did open it, it was October 7th, one day before yet another anniversary of the crash. And, so, their two lives had finally collided much less violently than it had years and years before.
You are nearly guaranteed to tear up listening to this podcast. It is guaranteed to take your breath away. It’s a bit sad but also uplifting. We won’t tell you what to feel while listening to “Terrible, Thanks For Asking.”
Other episodes have included Amanda Knox. She lost all control of her story and is still struggling to get back the reins. There’s the stories from two of Isaiah Goodman’s victims; he was a scammer who defrauded clients out of over $2.3 million. There’s the story of a woman who feels like she’s lost her cherished independence with an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, a climate scientist trying to bring hope to our increasingly desperate need to reverse climate change. There are stories of adopted children, friends who battled cancer, a recovering alcoholic who is both queer and a church leader.
All of these stories are so universally unique but not unrelatable. McInerny gives her interviewees space to think and speak, creating a raw, insightful space for these people to tell their stories. And it all seems deathly serious, but you’ll laugh just as much as you’ll cry. “Terrible, Thanks For Asking” is gritty and heartfelt and so beautiful, you’ll have to listen to find out more.