Sheryl Sandberg picks ‘Option B’ in her book on resilience

Sheryl Sandberg picks 'Option B' in her book on resilience

NEW YORK — Though perhaps best known as Facebook’s No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg is also a mentor, a mother, a billionaire and an author. When her husband Dave Goldberg died suddenly in 2015 while they were vacationing in Mexico, she added “widow” to the list.

“The grief felt like a void, like it was sucking me in and pushing on me, pulling me in and I couldn’t even see or breathe,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press. “People who have been through things like this told me it gets better. And I really didn’t believe them…. I want other people going through things to believe it does get better.”

Her new book — “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy,” written with psychologist Adam Grant — chronicles the devastating loss, her grief and how she emerged from it with a new perspective on life. A humbled follow-up to her first book, “Lean In ,” it’s also a how-to, drawing from studies and the experiences of others to describe techniques for building strength and resilience and ways to support those going through hard times.

Sandberg also uses the new book to address what she now sees as shortcomings in the career advice she offered women in “Lean In.” Surveying the world as a wealthy corporate executive rendered her oblivious to the circumstances faced by less fortunate women, she acknowledged. Not everyone can lean in; not everyone wants to.

“I didn’t get it,” she wrote. “I didn’t get how hard it is to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home.”

THE FIRST MONTHS

The most affecting parts of the book recount not just Sandberg’s grief, but that of her children. When she had to tell them that their father died. When, arriving at the cemetery for his funeral, they “got out of the car and fell to the ground, unable to take another step. I lay on the grass, holding them as they wailed,” unable to protect them from their sorrow.

It did get better, though slowly. Sandberg returned to work at Facebook in a haze, unable to summon her previous self-confidence.

“I couldn’t understand when friends didn’t ask me how I was. I felt invisible, as if I was standing in front of them but they couldn’t see me,” she writes, adding later, that by staying silent in such situations “we often isolate friends, family and co-workers.”

At Facebook, Sandberg has long been an advocate of “bringing your whole self to work,” meaning a willingness to share your personal life with co-workers. But this can get tricky when it comes to facing trauma. Sandberg found it difficult, and even considered carrying around a stuffed pachyderm to encourage co-workers and even friends to talk about the “elephant in the room.”

PICKING UP THE PIECES

Then one day, about a month after Goldberg died, she decided to post on Facebook about her grief, her gratitude toward her friends, and her related tumultuous feelings — for instance, coming to believe she would never again feel real joy. She wrote it out, not planning to share it publicly. After some more thought, she decided it couldn’t possibly make things worse.

The change was immediate. Friends, co-workers and strangers — many of whom had dealt with loss themselves — began reaching out. It helped, Sandberg wrote. The post has been shared more than 400,000 times and has some 74,000 comments. It opened up a conversation.

“I know it almost sounds silly because I certainly work at Facebook and I know what Facebook’s mission is,” she said. “But experiencing it for myself was a very … deep experience.”

Talking about these things, as difficult as it might be, can be a lifeline. As is getting help at work, something Sandberg acknowledged not everyone can. Facebook has recently extended its bereavement policies to allow employees more time off after the death of a loved one. But Sandberg says supporting people once they are back at work — including reminding them that their contributions are needed and welcome — is just as important.

“Death is not the only kind of adversity that summons up the elephant,” Sandberg wrote in the book. “Anything that reminds us of the possibility of loss can leave us at a loss for words. Financial difficulties. Divorce. Unemployment. Rape. Addiction. Incarceration. Illness.”

BUILDING STRENGTH

A few weeks after she lost her husband, Sandberg was talking with a friend, making plans for someone to fill in for a father-child activity. Crying, she told the friend “But I want Dave.” He put his arm around her and said, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the s— out of Option B.”

Sandberg said she believes strongly in pre-traumatic growth — people’s ability to build up resilience before something bad happens so that they are able to deal with it better. She has peppered the book with anecdotes and studies about resilience, from the story of Malala Yousafzai, the 19-year-old Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace laureate, to that of the survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes described in the book (and movie) “Alive.”

“Tragedy does not have to be personal, pervasive or permanent, but resilience can be,” she writes. “We can build it and carry it with us throughout our lives.”

Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press

Just Posted

WATCH: Moms Stop The Harm respond to opioid crisis

Someone asked her if she does the work for her son. McBain said: “No, actually. I do it for your son.”

Man arrested at gunpoint outside Vic High

Police were called after he allegedly threatened a teacher with a knife

Skydiver lands safely after cutting away main chute

Central Saanich emergency services called after witnesses saw spiralling chute

Man struck and killed on the Pat Bay Highway

Pedestrian struck while crossing near Mount Newton X Rd in Central Saanich

VicPD cuts school liaison program over budget impasse with Esquimalt

Six officers, including three school liaisons, to be reassigned to frontline duties

VIDEO: B.C. ‘escapologist’ stuns judges on Britain’s Got Talent

Matt Johnson says televised water stunt was closest he’s come to death

Charges follow collisions between pickup and police vehicles in Nanaimo

Majore Jackson, 32, and Andrew John Bellwood, 47, from Nanaimo, face numerous charges

Been a long day? Here’s cute puppies in training

Group is training next batch of assistance dogs at Vancouver International Airport

78 Mexican farmworkers displaced after fire tears through building on B.C. farm

Flames broke out Thursday morning in building that housed up to 80 workers at Abbotsford farm

Cartoonist captures public mood following Toronto, Humboldt tragedies

Cartoonist said he was trying to find a bit of positivity with an image that has garnered attention

Whitecaps host against Real Salt Lake looking to snap 3-game losing streak

Ending their losing streak is all the Whitecaps care about when they host Salt Lake in Vancouver

Montreal Habs goalie Carey Price stops by B.C. hometown for rodeo

Famous goaltender tries to blend in with the crowd at first BCRA-santioned event of the season

B.C. hires 20 more conservation officers

The province announces 12 new locations for conservation officer services this year

Most Read