The ‘Modern Love’ Essay Husband Opens Up About Grief

modern love

Jason Rosenthal’s wife wrote ‘You May Want To Marry My Husband.’ Here, he shares his experience.

Remember the heart-wrenching 2017 “You May Want To Marry My Husband” NYT Modern Love essay? Amy Krouse Rosenthal wrote about her love story with her husband, Jason Rosenthal, just before dying of ovarian cancer. Jason fills in the blanks with a memoir: My Wife Said You May Want To Marry Me. Taking from his own experiences, he opened up about telling his own story and offers some tips on handling grief as the pandemic turns our worlds upside down.

Wake-Up Call: We read your Modern Love column when it came out. lt must’ve been such a strange experience because so many people fell in love with your wife and your love story. What was it like to have this really personal, honest essay, which is so beautiful and so moving, be so widely read and widely received?

Jason Rosenthal: It was surreal at first. I was so absorbed in my grieving process, way down in the depths of as sad as one could even contemplate being. And so it sort of all was floating around. And I didn’t quite realize how overwhelming it was until I sort of began to lift that fog. You know, one thing I do remember is I went to the Starbucks close to my house and there was Amy on the front page of the newspaper. I’m like, “This is my wife.” The guy, the barista, was like, “Well that’s great. Who cares?” But it was just an interesting moment. I didn’t feel a lot different because of the attention, until later when I began to process it.

And so now you’ve written a memoir that kind of picks off where she left off. Can you tell us why you felt it was important to share this journey with us? What made you want to share your story with the world?

You know, I gave my Ted talk in April 2018 because I had been approached by tons of media.

And before that, it just didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel right. I wanted to be able to say what I wanted to say in my own way. And so when I did that in my talk, the response was almost immediately really overwhelming. I quickly realized that so many, many, many people have a shared story of loss, and connected with me in ways that I never expected.

So then I wrote my own Modern Love column, a response to Amy’s love. I got this opportunity through that. A publisher approached me and I wanted to share my story, because as Katie did for me, for example, you know, I think it’s important to help each other as we go through these experiences because you feel so stuck and so lost.

There’s not a clear roadmap to handling grief. So what advice would you offer to someone who is experiencing grief right now? What would you tell them?

Literally all of us, at this particular moment, in this crazy time, are experiencing loss and grief. We all have our different experiences with it, but it’s sort of our shared story. Some people might just be missing their normal routines of going to the gym. Others may have someone who’s really, really sick. I think my message is twofold: It’s normal to feel really sad and anxious during this type of experience. And on the other hand, we’re going to get through it and we’re going to get through it together. It’s been astonishing for me to see how humankind has come together for total strangers, for each other, for our community. We really see the amazing qualities of humans during a crisis like this.

What do you hope that people take away from your book?

I want to give some people hope that true love and raising a family can be a real joy. I want to convey to people that loss is part of everyone’s life and in particular, end-of-life issues are important to discuss and talk about before they tend to be really extreme. And also that there’s your ability to be resilient. I consider that I went through some of the most unspeakable pain anyone can ever endure, and yet somehow I’m able to keep going and to find joy in my life. And I consider that a gift that Amy gave me that I’m trying to pass along to the universe.

As you move forward with your life, what things are you doing to carry Amy along with you?

Almost everything. One of the things I spend a lot of my time with now is the foundation I found in her honor, it’s called the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation, and the mission is to support work of early detection of ovarian cancer. And we’ve also had the great good fortune of donating tens of thousands of books to kids in need all over the country. That’s super meaningful. I’ve also been blessed to speak literally all over the world on these topics and I bring Amy with me every time I do that because I talk about her ability to communicate with people, and her spirit, and her connection. I really just think I reframed the way I try to appreciate the small moments in life, which was something that she did naturally, it was part of her DNA.

What do you hear from people when you’re giving these talks around the world?

I hear stories of loss that have made a huge impact on people, ranging from losing a path to having a spouse, obviously ill, or you know, dies of unspeakable disease, to going through a horrible divorce. But somehow, people feel that they can talk to me and connect with me because my story was so public and they know what I went through. I continue to this date, to get emails and correspondence from people who are going through something because they’ve either come across my essay or something else I’ve done.

How are you holding up now in this strange time?

I feel really fortunate that two of my children, who work and live in Manhattan, drove back about a month ago. We’re hunkered down together and it’s given me a sort of new opportunity to experience them in different ways.

And are there any interesting challenges in having them back at home?

To be honest with you, no. We all do our work all day long, and then I prepare a meal or we watch a movie or play ping pong. It’s been pretty special.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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