How work helped me over­come per­sonal tragedy

Inc. (USA) - - LAUNCH -

By early 2015, Sh­eryl Sand­berg seemed to have it all: a pow­er­ful role as the chief oper­at­ing of­fi­cer of Face­book; an in­flu­en­tial voice for women in cor­po­rate Amer­ica as the au­thor of

Lean In; and a happy, sup­port­ive fam­ily. Then her hus­band, Sur­veyMon­key CEO Dave Gold­berg, died sud­denly while on va­ca­tion. Dev­as­tated, Sand­berg started pub­licly chron­i­cling her grief and her fam­ily’s strug­gle to re­sume life af­ter loss. Her widely shared Face­book post, pub­lished 30 days af­ter Gold­berg’s death, turned into this spring’s Op­tion B: Fac­ing Ad­ver­sity, Build­ing Re­silience, and Find­ing Joy, which Sand­berg co-wrote with Whar­ton pro­fes­sor Adam Grant. “I’m still get­ting through this,” she says now–but she’s also shar­ing what she’s learned.

–As told to Maria As­pan

I’VE LONG BE­LIEVED that we have to take our whole selves to work, as I wrote in Lean In. Be­cause it’s just not the case that we’re pro­fes­sional peo­ple dur­ing the day and emo­tional peo­ple at night and on week­ends. Then when I lost my hus­band sud­denly, I had no choice but to take my­self to work—but I couldn’t get through a meet­ing in the very early days with­out tear­ing up.

I feel so lucky. My boss, Mark Zucker­berg, didn’t just give me the time off I needed— and that’s some­thing I think is re­ally im­por­tant for busi­nesses to do—but he also built me back up. When I thought I couldn’t do my job, he was the one who said, “No, I think you made a good point in that meet­ing.” And so he helped me, both by ac­knowl­edg­ing the pain I was in and by telling me he still be­lieved in me.

I know that so many col­leagues have faced hard things. And I think when we are there for one an­other—not pre­tend­ing hard things aren’t hap­pen­ing, but ac­knowl­edg­ing them and sup­port­ing one an­other ex­plic­itly—we build bet­ter com­mu­ni­ties, bet­ter com­pa­nies, bet­ter work­places. We need one an­other. I never could have got­ten through this—and I’m still get­ting through this—with­out re­ly­ing heav­ily on my col­leagues and friends every day. I’m hop­ing that Op­tion B can help break open con­ver­sa­tions so we can be more of our au­then­tic selves in the work­place.

What I’ve learned is that we don’t have a fixed amount of re­silience. Re­silience is like a mus­cle we build, but we don’t only build it in our­selves. We also build it in one an­other, by ac­knowl­edg­ing the pain peo­ple are go­ing through and by be­ing there for one an­other.

FAM­ILY CIR­CLE “Long be­fore Dave died, I had learned that par­ent­ing was the most hum­bling job in the world— and now I had to re­learn how to do it alone,” Sh­eryl Sand­berg writes in Op­tionB. She is pic­tured here with her two chil­dren.

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