Sheryl Sandberg is Facebook’s chief operating officer. She was married to David Goldberg for 11 years until he died suddenly on May 1, 2015, in a gym of the villa they were staying at in Mexico. Dave, as she fondly refers to him, was 47 years old.
Sandberg, an author known for her book Lean In, writes about her loss — together with Adam Grant — in her second book, Option B.
Death, like hunger, humbles us. In the 2017 Penguin Random House publication, the 10 chapters poured into the 176 pages tell of Sheryl Sandberg’s emotional state during this period of profound loss for her and her two children. In the book’s introduction she writes: “Grief is a demanding companion. Simmering, lingering, festering.”
Sandberg, who admits to bursting into tears in a meeting, also articulates the fact that leaders too are human and go through trying times in their personal lives that can affect their focus and productivity at work.
Grant, a Wharton professor and friend of the Goldbergs, flew across America to implore her “that there was a bottom to this seemingly endless void.”
He then coached her through the fog of grief and loss; they later partnered to write about resilience. Sandberg writes; “Life is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B.” This is what the book is all about. Our capacity as human beings to go through trauma, loss and pain and not only persevere through it, but regain confidence, rediscover joy and thrive.
The content of the book stems from a depth of feelings and a sharing of a grieving souls that others who have been through the same loss can comprehend immensely. However, whenever someone we know goes through a loss, most of us shut down and don’t know what to say.
Sandberg addresses this in a chapter called Kicking the Elephant Out of the Room where she writes; “When someone shows up in a cast, we immediately inquire, ‘What happened?’ If your ankle gets shattered, people ask to hear the story. If your life gets shattered, they don’t.”
This book will help readers who have not gone through a life-shattering experience know how to help those around them who have.
There is no magic formula for comforting the grieving, but taking a cue from the one in pain means doing an act of kindness.
Given more time, Sandberg and Grant would have meshed their thoughts into perhaps a more eloquent read, even though the book is quite engaging.
Sandberg is not only realistically human in Option B, she also becomes a champion of connecting people in grief as is the mantra of her employer, Facebook, with those who have not only gone through the same but also those who can help them recover. She also became the face of true leadership not only in Silicon Valley but also in the corporate world.
Sandberg and Grant urge the grieving to seek more compassion for themselves, and write — not only about what they are grateful for but also what they find joy or pleasure in — and share with loved ones. It hastens healing. So does faith in God and finding purpose.
In the end Sandberg admits that “writing this book and trying to find meaning have not replaced my sadness”. However, it has made her stronger. “Option B still gives us options. We can still love... and we can still find joy,” she concludes.