The Current

How grief can lead to joy: Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg explains Option B

Growth can come from grief, according to Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg. After her husband Dave Goldberg's death, she shares how to build resilience and find joy in her book Option B.
(Matt Albiani/Penguin Random House)

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Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg were a Silicon Valley power couple. 

In her bestselling book Lean In, Facebook chief operating officer Sandberg wrote about how she and her husband, who was SurveyMonkey's CEO, leaned on each other.

But that suddenly came to an end on a trip the couple took to Mexico in 2015. Goldberg died from cardiac arrhythmia at the hotel's gym.

Dave Goldberg and Sheryl Sandberg were married for 11 years. (Courtesy of Sheryl Sandberg)

Sandberg was the one who found him. 

And then she had to return home to California to tell her children — then aged seven and 10 — that their father was gone.

"My biggest fear was that in that same instant that Dave had the cardiac arrhythmia that killed him, we would have wiped out my children's happiness," Sandberg tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Sandberg fell into a deep grief that she calls "the void."

"As anyone who's ever been through anything like this will tell you, you feel in those early days and weeks and months that you're not going to survive an hour, let alone a day, let alone a week."

Looking for help, Sandberg called a friend, psychology professor Adam Grant — and together they embarked on research into resilience, and the ability to grow through grief.

They've assembled what they learned in a new book called Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

Sandberg has a key message she wants to get out to others in the depths of grief.

"In the early days, people told me I would not feel this way forever, and I did not believe them," says Sandberg.

"The grief was so all-consuming and overwhelming that I just thought it would always be there. Years later, while the sadness lingers, it's not what it was then."

"And I want so much for other people to know that."

4 family rules Sandberg and her kids wrote together

1. Respect feelings

"I told this to my kids. It was just harder to tell myself," Sandberg says. She explains there are times crying will overcome you in inconvenient moments like in the middle of class — and this needs to happen.

2. It's OK to feel happy

"Let yourself laugh. Don't ever feel bad about that."

3. Jealousy is normal

"There are times when you're going to feel jealous of other kids, or even of me, because I still have a father and you don't. Accepting our feelings rather than fighting them is such a big part of this."

4. Understanding permanence

"Those feelings are not forever, even in a totally horrible grief.... And if we respect it, and lean into it, and take the cry break we need, we know that moment can pass."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.