Sheryl Sandberg, author of the famous book “Leaning In” and Facebook COO, recently opened up about the terrifying and tragic moment when she found her husband Dave Goldberg dead in a hotel gym in her new book on grief, “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy,” which was released today.
Her candor and vulnerability is unusual in the Age of Social Media Perfection, with many people (celebs or not) often posting beautiful photos of ultra-pretty lunches and family shots. For someone so public, it’s especially refreshing, considering vulnerability can be seen as a sign of weakness (even though it’s so not), and American norms around discussing tragedy are mixed.
In her book, which she co-wrote with with psychologist and friend Adam Grant, she revealed the last thing she said to Goldberg (who died of a heart attack), as People pointed out:
“The last thing I ever said to [my husband] was, ‘I’m falling asleep.””
Apparently, she and Goldberg were in Mexico celebrating a friend’s birthday, and she woke up from a nap to find him on the gym floor:
“We found Dave on the floor, lying by the elliptical machine, his face slightly blue and turned to the left, a small pool of blood under his head. We all screamed. I started CPR. Rob took over from me. A doctor came and took over from him.
When his brother Rob, in shock himself, said we had to go, I took a few steps out of the room, then turned around and ran back in, hugging Dave as hard as I could. Eventually, Rob lovingly pulled me off Dave’s body.”
One of the saddest parts of it all is the fact that their children were deeply affected, writing that her children went through a harrowing grieving period:
“Day after day my kids’ cries and screams filled the air. In the moments when they weren’t crying, I watched them anxiously, waiting for the next instance they might need comfort. My own cries and screams — mostly inside my head but some out loud — filled the rest of the available space.”
In this way, Sandberg’s book becomes about how to deal with loss, grief, and rebuild one’s life after trauma occurs. Everyone deals with loss and trauma, making the book a necessary read for all. In fact, Sandberg wrote an op-ed in the New York Times this morning about building resilient kids, explaining how her family began to rebuild.
One afternoon, I sat down with my kids to write out “family rules” to remind us of the coping mechanisms we would need. We wrote together that it’s O.K. to be sad and to take a break from any activity to cry. It’s O.K. to be happy and laugh. It’s O.K. to be angry and jealous of friends and cousins who still have fathers. It’s O.K. to say to anyone that we do not want to talk about it now. And it’s always O.K. to ask for help. The poster we made that day — with the rules written by my kids in colored markers — still hangs in our hall so we can look at it every day. It reminds us that our feelings matter and that we are not alone.
If anything, it also proves that we are not alone in our grief–or ever. We can work through our feelings together.