Facebook No. 2 Sheryl Sandburg Shares What She’s Learned About Loss and Grieving 30 Days After Tragic Death Of Husband

June 3, 2015
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Article by Claudia Assis, Marketwatch

Facebook Inc. No. 2 Sheryl Sandberg on Wednesday posted a moving essay about mourning the death of her husband, Dave Goldberg.

It was her intention, she wrote, to give back to those who have helped her through her grief and also to mark the conclusion of the first 30 days of mourning, a period that has a special meaning in Judaism.

Goldberg, the CEO of SurveyMonkey, collapsed and died at a gym while the family was on vacation in Mexico last month.

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Here are some of our favorite passages, both for people grieving and for those around them struggling to find the “right” words:

You will have a choice

“You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well. But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.”

Replace ‘How are you?’ with ‘How are you today?’

“I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. … Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, ‘You and your children will find happiness again,’ my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, ‘You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good’ comfort me more because they know and speak the truth.”

A practical matter: Pull over when you hear a siren

“I have learned some practical stuff that matters. Although we now know that Dave died immediately, I didn’t know that in the ambulance. The trip to the hospital was unbearably slow. I still hate every car that did not move to the side, every person who cared more about arriving at their destination a few minutes earlier than making room for us to pass. I have noticed this while driving in many countries and cities. Let’s all move out of the way. Someone’s parent or partner or child might depend on it.”

Learn to ask for help

“Until now, I have been the older sister, the COO, the doer and the planner. I did not plan this, and when it happened, I was not capable of doing much of anything. Those closest to me took over. They planned. They arranged. They told me where to sit and reminded me to eat. They are still doing so much to support me and my children.”

Resilience can be learned

“[The writer] Adam M. Grant taught me that three things are critical to resilience and that I can work on all three. Personalization — realizing it is not my fault. [Grant] told me to ban the word ‘sorry.’ To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault. Permanence — remembering that I won’t feel like this forever. This will get better. Pervasiveness — this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy.”

Say hello to the elephant in the room

“I told those I work with most closely that they could ask me their honest questions and I would answer. I also said it was okay for them to talk about how they felt. … One of my favorite cartoons of all time has an elephant in a room answering the phone, saying, ‘It’s the elephant.‘ Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room.

Don’t take a day for granted

“I have learned gratitude. Real gratitude for the things I took for granted before — like life. As heartbroken as I am, I look at my children each day and rejoice that they are alive. I appreciate every smile, every hug. I no longer take each day for granted. When a friend told me that he hates birthdays and so he was not celebrating his, I looked at him and said through tears, ‘Celebrate your birthday, goddammit. You are lucky to have each one.’ My next birthday will be depressing as hell, but I am determined to celebrate it in my heart more than I have ever celebrated a birthday before.”

And make the best of Option B

“I was talking to one of these friends about a father-child activity that Dave is not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, ‘But I want Dave. I want option A.’ He put his arm around me and said, ’Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the [expletive] out of option B.’ ”

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