7 Grief Lessons from "Option B" that you can pass onto your families... [part 1]

“Grief is a demanding companion,” writes Sheryl Sandberg in her new autobiography Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy that she co-authored with Adam Grant.

For those of you who don’t know, Sheryl Sandberg has quite the resume. Sandberg is currently COO of Facebook, and in the past has served as President of Online Sales at Google and Chief of Staff at the US Department of Treasury. She married Dave Goldberg while he was an Executive at Yahoo, and eventually he moved into the position of CEO at SurveyMonkey – and together they had two children. Her impressive resume also boasts a degree from Harvard and she sits on the Board of Directors of several notable businesses and organizations such as Disney and the Center for Global Development.

In 2013, Sandberg’s name came to the forefront after her book Lean In became a bestseller. Lean In brought awareness to gender biasness that continue to exist in today’s business world. Her book aimed to help women navigate these gender biases to successfully climb what she described as the “corporate jungle gym” (a corporate ladder only has one way up), all while raising a family.

Then it happened. Her husband, Dave Goldberg, died in a hotel gym while they were vacationing in Mexico with friends. He was 47, leaving behind Sandberg and her two young children.

About two years after her family’s devastating loss, Sandberg is back writing… now with co-author Adam Grant, an accomplished psychologist and professor at Wharton. As you read this book, you can almost hear the quivers in Sandberg’s voice and can visualize her shuddering through recounting not only the death of her husband, but more so the aftershocks of grief.

Death, grief – these are topics that we, in the funeral industry are surrounded by every day. We have been taught how to approach a grieving family and we have used those same five stages of grief that have been taught for decades to navigate the topic with every family we serve.

In her own time of grief, Sandberg is able to bring forth remarkable clarity to the cloudy conversation that is death and grief. Many of these lessons, we can pass on and share with client families we serve. With that being said, here are 7 lessons that Sandberg teaches us in Option B.

1. The 3 P’s don’t last: At first, a grieving person can reel as if the death of a loved one is their fault, that the pain of losing a loved one clouds all areas of their life and the magnitude of pain experienced initially will continue on forever. Sandberg jokingly advises to “Lean In to the suck” meaning – don’t be afraid to admit, to yourself and to others, that it does suck. And those first couple of times you laugh, will make you realize that the personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence of grief will get easier.

2. There is an elephant in the room: Sandberg talks of her and a co-workers relationship that became distant and cold after Sandberg’s husband died. The gentleman later acknowledged that he felt paralyzed in talking to her – afraid that whatever he said may be the wrong thing. She notes that death is not the only topic that can do this to a relationship – so can finances, divorce, cancer, rape, addiction, incarceration, and more. She advises the grieving make it known to those close to you that it is okay to talk honestly and openly about the traumatic experience, and that in fact talking about it can make them feel better, not worse. She also advises those on the other side, to not offer “is there anything I can do” as that puts the obligation on the person grieving, but to instead take action “I am bringing over hamburgers to grill for dinner, is there anything you don’t like on your burger.”

3. Self-Compassion leads to self-confidence: Sandberg defines self-compassion as “the ability to recognize that our imperfections are part of being human.” Recognizing this allows us to become motivated to repair the wrongs of the past and fix them for the future. She notes that journaling is an extremely effective way to help a person identify and organize their thoughts – thus leading to increased self-compassion; and motivation to do better in the future – thus leading to increased self-confidence.

[to be continued...]

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