How work helped me overcome personal tragedy
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.