5 Key Takeaways From Reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Book: Option B.

I’m currently reading Sheryl Sandberg’s latest book: Option B. I have to admit, I was hesitant to pick it up. I probably wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been assigned by a book club that I’m in.

I knew it was about how she managed through the sudden death of her husband just two short years ago. (And I have to confess, time goes by so quickly I was sure it had been far less than that.)

My first reaction when I found out she had written a book was: Another one?? How can this woman pump out another book while she was grieving? And doesn’t this make her a single Mom now and isn’t she the CFO of Facebook still?

How do people do it?!?

And, I will also admit, I really didn’t want to think about how I would manage if my husband died suddenly.

And… death in general. Really. Burying my head in the sand?

Maybe.

OK, yes, definitely.

AND we are all aging and people around me are getting older, making their way through serious, life-ending illnesses. My own parents are aging and I’m not ready to say goodbye to anyone.

I don’t like saying goodbye.

Yet Sandburg’s latest book, aptly sub-titled “Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” captured my interest on the introductory page.

I was curious. How do people make their way through the grieving process after losing a loved one, suddenly, or not?

How do you make your way through the grieving process after losing a loved one?Click To Tweet

Years ago when I was a little girl I had the great fortune of growing up living right next door to my grandparents. I would visit them almost every day. Of course, they eventually passed away. My grandfather went first. I remember visiting my grandmother, who was now sitting alone in the TV room they would typically share each evening, and I would ask her how she was.

“I miss him,” she would say.

Yes, I guess she did – they had been married for 49 years, raised five children, enjoyed 11 grandchildren, and had lived their lives together.

How do you say goodbye to someone you have shared most of your adult life with?

I am not going to pretend for one minute I know what this is like.

But I will say Sandberg has a lot to share regarding building resilience, being respectful of others and the assumptions we make about each other.

She shared a great many other things that can benefit us as we live our often frenetic, career-building, child-raising, life-loving lives, whether we are personally dealing with the death of a loved-one or not.

The death of a person isn’t the only thing that causes grief in our lives.

We can experience loss on so many levels – loss of a job; loss of a friendship; loss of our health; loss of the way things “used” to be…

And for us to be successful and move through it, it’s important we face it and build our resilience so we can find joy again. No matter what we are working through.

It’s important to face loss and build up resilience in order to find joy again.Click To Tweet

How do we build resilience and find joy again?

I may end up writing about Option B again but for now, here are my key takeaways from Sandburg’s book so far:

  • People need to know they are not alone
  • Counting blessings can increase happiness and health
  • Resilience is a muscle we have to build
  • There is cultural pressure worldwide to conceal negative emotions
  • If you want others to be more open with you, you have to be more open with them

1. People need to know they are not alone

Whether you are grieving for a lost loved one or are trying to get through the monotony of daily routines, people need to know they are not alone.

Whatever you are going through, whatever you are experiencing, most people like to know they are not in their experience alone.

There is a reason why they say small communities with close-knit, life-long, relationships produce happier people overall than larger cities with so many ways to disconnect.

This is one of the reasons why social media has become so wildly popular.

“Using social networking sites, such as Facebook, makes a direct impact on our happiness.” Reports the Chartered Institute for IT.

And think of it yourself – I find I am spending more of my downtime on Facebook than watching TV as I love connecting with my friends and family who live across the miles — or even across the neighbourhood.

I know it makes me feel happier to connect with others and share my life’s experience with others. How about you?

2. Counting blessings can increase happiness and health

And what about gratitude? I have all my personal coaching clients start their program with me with a simple exercise I like to have them repeat daily for at least a week. It involves practicing gratitude for what they have and what the day brought them – coupled with practicing intention for what they want the day ahead to bring.

It’s not just about saying your prayers in the evening, as you may have been taught as a young child, it’s also about being thankful for what you have.

It’s been clinically proven to release positive endorphins that will help you feel happier and, subsequently, healthier.

So Sandburg took the advice of her psychologist seriously and started practicing gratitude, every night, no matter how sad she felt.

She shares how it helped move her through this grieving process and appreciate the many things she still had to be grateful for, even without her husband in her life anymore.

3. Resilience is a muscle we have to build

Sandburg’s book is filled with examples of how she had to practice resilience. It didn’t come easily or naturally.

How do you get used to the sudden loss of a loved one? Or of a sudden job loss for that matter? Or the loss of anything that leaves an imprint on your heart?

It takes practice.

As Sandburg says:

“Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. It comes from gratitude for what’s good in our lives and from leaning into the suck. It comes from analyzing how we process grief and from simply accepting that grief. Sometimes we have less control than we think. Other times we have more.”

'Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us.' ~ Sheryl SandburgClick To Tweet

4. There is cultural pressure worldwide to conceal negative emotions

I found Sandburg’s observation fascinating where there is pressure to act in certain ways depending on what culture you are in.

For example, in China and Japan, the ideal emotional state is calm and composed. In the United States, being excited and enthusiastic are more cultural norms. So, being an introvert is more accepted in China and Japan and being an extrovert is more accepted in the U.S.

However, the subject of grief is universally buried under the rug, outside of publicly accepted locations of grief, such as a funeral.

And what about other subjects of grief? What about miscarriages? What about the slow and pervasive loss of a loved one through Alzheimer’s Disease? What of the loss of an unexpected lay-off or the loss of a dear friend who moved across the miles?

What about these kinds of losses?

We experience loss in so many ways in our daily lives, and we often find ourselves grieving in silence.

5. If you want others to be more open with you, you have to be more open with them

Whoa. That’s a big one. Especially if you’re an introvert.

How many people do you know – or perhaps even yourself – wish you heard from people more often? That you got invited out to dinner, or to a movie? That you were asked to do something versus having to reach out to make it happen?

I have heard this time and time again from various people in my life – where they wish they were thought of.

The same goes for being open with others. If you are a closed book and unreachable, it sends a pretty strong signal to the outside world this is the way you expect them to be.

Sandburg – a high-level executive – wasn’t used to sharing her inside self with the outside world, even though Facebook’s mission is:

“To make the world more open and connected.”

Sandburg changed her tune with an open and authentic Facebook post that ended up opening the floodgates of compassion.

Once she posted it, messages literally poured in from friends and family expressing concern for Sandburg and their own fears of bringing up the difficult topic. They started sharing their personal stories of loss and grief and demonstrated empathy that Sandburg had not yet experienced.

And it helped.

And what does this mean to you? If you are still here, I imagine this article has struck a chord with you in some way.

What are you grieving? How do you want to build connection? What do you need to build your resilience muscle for?

I’d love to hear.

Message me with your thoughts or post in the comments below.

We all need to watch out for each other, and to be there for each other.

No matter if we are the one grieving, or the one reaching out to the griever.

Let’s build a more compassionate world. Together.

Susan Elford

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Personal Balance Equation Workbook ABOUT SUSAN ELFORD

Susan Elford is a PR Strategist & Leadership Coach who especially loves to work with people who want it all: a fulfilling career or business while living a balanced life. Susan helps her clients get real about their strengths and celebrate and promote them so they get more of what they want: success at work; success in business & success in life.

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