‘Death ends life, but the re­la­tion­ship DOESN’T END’

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Gh Spotlight -

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

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