As a successful businesswoman in the technology sector, Sheryl Sandberg is the epitome of success. She has steadily climbed lists of most influential businesswomen for the last several years with a thriving career at Facebook, book-writing, and her advocacy work.
None of that success mattered to her on May 1, 2015. Her husband of over a decade, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly at a mere 47 years old during a vacation in Mexico.
She used her experience to create the phenomenon, “Option B.”
Image via CEO Magazine
Option B: Moving On After Death And Building Strength
After struggling with her grief of the loss of her partner for several months, Sandberg realized she had to move forward. With the help of her friend Adam Grant (also a notable author, psychologist, and professor at the University of Pennsylvania), they co-authored Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.
The Three P’s
Loss and grief are devasting and the pain is pervasive, but Sandberg encourages her readers to avoid the three P’s. Psychologist Martin Seligman helps explain the three mental hurdles that make grief so unbearable:
We blame ourselves for what happened.
This tragedy touches everything.
Everything has changed, nothing will be the same.
What Is Option B?
The story goes that mere days after Goldberg’s death, Sandberg was crying to a friend, telling him that she just wanted her husband back. “Option A is not available,” he told her, “So let’s just kick the s— out of Option B.”
Sandberg writes about her own experience as well as personal anecdotes and stories to address grief generally. Meanwhile, Grant adds his personal research and an academic explanation for various phenomenon and situations. Option B is a guide and a resource for the bereaved. It’s a map for recovering and finding happiness again. It’s also a tool for those who aren’t grieving and a guide for how to “lean into the suck.” Grieving is hard, but knowing what to say or do around someone grieving can be especially difficult.
Advice For The Grieving
Something that kicked Sandberg out of her despair was knowing that her children, now without a father, really needed her. Her co-author Adam Grand, explains this phenomenon:
“One of the things I learned from Sheryl is that we really become resilient for other people, not for ourselves. I think the moment she really started to see the possibilities for hope and joy was when she said, ‘Look, if I don’t find a way to move forward, then my kids are going to have a harder time recovering.'”
You should absolutely seek resilience and joy for yourself, but also for the people who rely on you.
Advice For The Non-Grieving
The book offers advice for the proper thing to say (or not say) to those experiencing a loss. Using notes from the personal journal she began on the day of her husband’s funeral, she offers advice for people on the other side. One tip she gives: Don’t ever ask a grieving person, “How are you?” They’re likely trying to maneuver through a sea of ever-changing emotions. Rather, you should ask, “How are you today?” It’s a bite-sized question that shows compassion without adding more stress.
Even if you’re not currently in grief or supporting a grieving loved one, Sandberg shares wisdom for you. Sandberg and Grant also tackle pre-traumatic growth. Grant explains:
“When we talk about pre-traumatic growth, for us, that means, can you experience all those gains without the tragedy? Can you bring more gratitude into your life, more meaning into your life, a greater sense of perspective and personal strength, without having had to suffer?”
Losing someone changes us. Learning to overcome grief is something that makes us stronger. Grant and Sandberg explore harnessing that strength for those who haven’t experienced loss.
Sandberg’s advice is excellent and is backed up with research, but it’s not for everyone. Complicated Grief is a condition affecting millions of Americans. Complicated grief can result in emotions so powerful and intense that it feels impossible to move forward. Anyone suffering from complicated grief should be encouraged to seek formal treatment.
While complicated grief can be debilitating, it does not have to be permanent and it is treatable. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help and support for these types of experiences with grief.