Sheryl Sandberg's 7 Confessions About Losing Her Husband Are Hard to Read -- But We All Should

sheryl sandbergIt's been a month since Facebook COO and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband, David Goldberg, suddenly while on a family vacation. It's an especially poignant loss because Sandberg has been so vocal about how much her husband enabled her career by "leaning in" at home as a father and a spouse. Yesterday Sandberg finally expressed how she feels about her soul mate's death in a tribute on Facebook. 


Sandberg does not downplay the incredible hearbreak she's been feeling since her husband's death. She acknowledges that she has at times gotten lost in "the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, contricts your ability to think or even breathe." But she says she has a choice between that and trying to find meaning. "When I can, I want to choose life and meaning."

She also says she was helped when other people shared their stories of grief with her. So out of gratitude, she writes, "I am sharing what I have learned in the hope that it will help someone else."

Here are some of the things Sheryl Sandberg has learned.

"Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not." Every time someone told Sandberg that everything would be okay it hurt -- because it's just not true. It's not okay, at all. I'm cringing at all the times I've said this to someone.

Sandberg says she appreciated it when people said, "how are you today" (rather than just "how are you?"). "When I hear 'How are you today?' I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day." That one little word makes a world of difference, doesn't it? I'm going to remember that.

"I have learned how ephemeral everything can feel—and maybe everything is." You can lose everything supporting you at any minute, with no warning. Sandberg says she's heard from many women who lost their economic security with a spouse's death, and who are living without any emotional support. "It seems so wrong to me that we abandon these women and their families when they are in greatest need."

Sandberg says she's learned how important it is that we move out of the way when we hear an ambulence coming. Her husband died immediately, but she didn't know that when she was riding with him in the ambulence. How many of us just tune out the sounds of ambulances? 

"I have learned to ask for help—and I have learned how much help I need." As mothers who do so much this is an especially hard lesson for us to learn.

"I have learned that resilience can be learned." That's a relief. None of us feel "ready" for whatever tragedy might befall us. But maybe we could learn.

"There are moments when I can’t let people in," Sandberg admits. Sometimes she was comforted when people reached out to her, but not always. She writes about attending a school event and not being able to make eye contact. "I looked down the entire time so no one could catch my eye for fear of breaking down. I hope they understood."

This reminds me of a mom in my son's class whose husband also died suddenly. Sometimes I wasn't sure what to say to her. I think you just have to be present and get a sense of how they're feeling that day. It's hard to do that when we're all so busy with our own thoughts and tasks.

"I have learned gratitude. Real gratitude for the things I took for granted before — like life." Can we ever get this reminder enough times? I don't think so. Sanberg had a friend who said he didn't want to celebrate his birthday. As you grow older you might start to agree with that notion, but Sandberg says she told him, “Celebrate your birthday, goddammit. You are lucky to have each one.”

Sandberg says she was making plans for a father-child activity event. She was trying to think of an alternative for Dave, her husband. “'But I want Dave,'" she cried to a friend. "'I want option A.'” Her friend put his arm around her and said, "“Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.'” Sandberg ends her tribute with this -- and it's just heartbreaking in its hope and defiance and pain and love.

Dave, to honor your memory and raise your children as they deserve to be raised, I promise to do all I can to kick the shit out of option B. And even though sheloshim has ended, I still mourn for option A. I will always mourn for option A. As Bono sang, 'There is no end to grief . . . and there is no end to love.' I love you, Dave.

What do you think about Sheryl Sandberg's tribute?


Image via Sheryl Sandberg/Facebook

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