‘Death ends life, but the relationship DOESN’T END’
Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and her book, Lean In, inspired women all over the world. Her husband, Dave Goldberg, was her rock, but their partnership came to a shocking end when he died suddenly from a cardiac arrhythmia, aged 47. Now she’s co-written a new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience And Finding Joy
When I lost Dave, in many ways I lost my footing. I lost my way of parenting, the person I turned to for the work partnership and the home partnership.
The first few days were horrific, but I had to carry on for our two children, who were seven and 10. It is unimaginable to sit down with your kids and tell them they’re not going to see their father again. I had a happy childhood, and my biggest worry was that their lives would be destroyed by what had happened.
I poured out my fears to psychologist Adam Grant, who is a friend. He reassured me that children are surprisingly resilient, and many go on to have happy lives after losing a parent. He convinced me there was a bottom to this seemingly endless void; that while grief was unavoidable, there were things I could do to lessen the anguish for my children and myself.
I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain, and I wanted to know how much I had. Adam taught me that our resilience isn’t fixed. It made me feel that there was something I could do about it, that it was like
The last thing Dave would want is for my kids to be miserable for the rest of their lives
[continued from previous page] a muscle that could be built up.
Being at home was, and still is, the hardest thing, because it’s the place where I am most aware of Dave’s absence. It is why I went back to work 10 days after he died, during the hours when my kids were at school. Having somewhere to go was important – even if I couldn’t get through a meeting without crying, even if I had to run to the bathroom and hide my tears.
My kids have told me they’re jealous that I still have a father. I want them to know they can be angry sometimes, they can be sad. Telling them their feelings are normal, and that they could express those feelings, was important.
Four months after Dave died, I was dancing at a bar mitzvah. In that minute I felt okay, and then I was overwhelmed by guilt. We have to give people who have faced loss permission to be happy. The last thing Dave would want is for my kids to be miserable for the rest of their lives.
I never wanted to date again – I had found the person I wanted to spend my life with – but he is not here any more. Building a relationship after tragedy is really hard. But I feel lucky that, for the most part, my friends and family were supportive [when I met someone]. Giving myself permission was an important part of the process.
It’s two years since Dave died. I don’t cry every day like I did, but occasions like my wedding anniversary are still very difficult. There are everyday moments when the grief comes over you as well. When my son’s team lost at basketball the other night, I thought how proud Dave would have felt about how our boy was coping with it.
I love Dave as much today as I ever did. I never realised how deeply you can love someone. This book is my love song for Dave. Death ends life, but it never ends the relationship.
We all deal with loss: jobs lost, lives lost, love lost. The question is how we face it. Resilience comes from deep within us, and from support outside us. It comes from gratitude for what’s good in our lives. It comes from analysing how we process grief and simply processing grief. Sometimes we have less control than we thought, sometimes more. When life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface and breathe again.
Sheryl: ‘Our resilience can be built up’
Sheryl’s ‘option A’ was to spend her life with Dave