We want so badly to lean-in and give Sheryl Sandberg a big hug. Our favorite life coach, best selling author and, of course, COO of Facebook again opened her life to us. In a post about her month since losing her husband, Dave Goldberg, she generously reminds us of the fragility of life and relationships.
“I have gained a more profound understanding of what it is to be a mother, both through the depth of the agony I feel when my children scream and cry and from the connection my mother has to my pain. She has tried to fill the empty space in my bed, holding me each night until I cry myself to sleep. She has fought to hold back her own tears to make room for mine. She has explained to me that the anguish I am feeling is both my own and my children’s, and I understood that she was right as I saw the pain in her own eyes.”
Through her struggle to make sense of her new reality, she cautions the most helpful people are those who acknowledge the reality of what has happened, not those who promise it will all be ok. We often hear people say, “you’ll be fine,” or “I’m sure it will all work out.” Those are throw away expressions. We may not be fine. Things will workout, but not as we’d hoped. Accepting these realities allows for a more honest exchange about the real hurting that’s happening. Sandberg suggests, instead of saying “how are you doing?” ask “how are you today?” This subtly represents a huge shift of acknowledging the person can only take it one day at time. This understanding provides comfort.
“I have lived thirty years in these thirty days. I am thirty years sadder. I feel like I am thirty years wiser,” she wrote.
“‘Let me not die while I am still alive.’ I would have never understood that prayer before losing Dave. Now I do.’
This week we watched as Vice President Joe Biden buried his oldest son, Beau Biden. His life of public service commenced with the death of his wife and daughter and now as he prepares to leave the executive office he’s been reminded of those early days and the pains of death again.
Sandberg, who wrote “Lean In,” one of the best books of advice for young women I’ve ever read, allows herself a vulnerability in her Facebook post that offers insight from a perspective we rarely hear public figures discuss.
She offers practical information:
“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.”
She talks about keeping perspective :
“I have learned that resilience can be learned. 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. He 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.”
We highly recommend the reading the whole post.