I recommend Option B in the strongest terms. At least for people who have lost a loved one. Not everybody will want a book about a sudden death, grieving, learning to adjust, and finding ways to rebound. It’s not a life we choose for ourselves, but, at times, trouble finds us. That’s when this book will help. Sheryl tells the story of her husband, David Goldberg, who, while exercising in a Gym in Mexico while they were on vacation, unexpectedly died of a heart attack.
Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer, tells her compelling story in a compelling way. Well-written, well-researched, with practical helps and tips for navigating the uncharted territory of a sudden loss, her book provides a much-needed resource for those who come after. I can imagine that she also benefitted from this project as a way of dealing with her and her family’s grief. Like many such projects, this one brings strength out of weakness, value for others out of helplessness for ourselves. Sandberg interweaves her personal stories and experiences with the stories of others and with much valuable research information. She documents on book end pages to keep the reader engaged.
How We Interpret Tragedy Negatively
Sharing one of the most helpful analyses of our misperception of disasters which befall us, Sandberg early on draws on psychologist Martin Seligman. For decades Seligman studied how we deal with setbacks. Our greatest misperceptions, he says, which hinder our recovery, begin with P: Personalization enables us to conclude that we are at fault; Pervasiveness leads us to believe that a disastrous event will impact every area of our life; Permanence tells us that the results of our tragedy will last forever. “The loop in your head,” she says. “repeats, ‘It’s my fault this is awful. My whole life is awful. And it’s always going to be awful’” (16).
What Do I Say?
People often want to know, “What do I say to someone who’s lost a loved-one?” “When you’re faced with tragedy,” Sandberg answers, with a quote from writer Tim Lawrence, “you usually find that you’re no longer supported by people—you’re surrounded by platitudes. So what do we offer instead of ‘everything happens for a reason’?” Laurence suggests, “the most powerful thing you can do is acknowledge. To literally say the words: I acknowledge your pain. I’m here with you” (43).
Finding yourself surrounded by platitudes recalls biblical Job with his friends, as I describe in my Tragedy Transformed: How Job’s Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours (2015). Feeling with the bereaved offers the best avenue of approach. Ordinarily, we feel helpless, so, to extricate ourselves from our awkwardness, we often blurt out what’s unhelpful, if not hurtful. Instead, be patient, listen, feel, hug.
Two weeks after Dave’s death, Sheryl prepared for a father-child activity. “I want Dave,” Sheryl cried. “Option A is not available,” her friend replied, then offered to help her make the best of Option B.
I found Sandberg’s Option B a pleasure to read. I confess to reading a lot of books on suffering and tragedy. But for someone who looks for hope in the bleakness of grief, they will find Sandberg a sturdy guide on which to lean.
[Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, New York: Knopf, 2017. Picture: commons.wickimedia.org no copyright infringement intended. Other resources on Tragedy: https://www.gordongrose.com/responses-to-tragedy/ https://www.gordongrose.com/responses-to-tragedy -ii/ See also Marlys Johnson, survivor to husband’s death from cancer: renew purpose.com
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