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5 Things Sheryl Sandberg Taught Us About Helping Others Grieve

posted: 06/04/15
by: Blythe Copeland

This week, 30 days after her husband, Dave Goldberg, died suddenly of heart complications, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandburg posted a heart-wrenchingly honest essay on her Facebook page. You tell her emotions are raw as she explains how she's coping in such a difficult time and describes gaining "a more profound understanding of what it means to be a mother" as she takes care of her children while her own mother cares for her. The post leaves a powerful message for anyone dealing with a loss ("You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning.") Here, five lessons you can take from her to change the way you comfort grieving friends and family--or the way you yourself grieve.

Today is the end of sheloshim for my beloved husband--the first thirty days. Judaism calls for a period of intense...

Posted by Sheryl Sandberg on Wednesday, June 3, 2015

1. Speak thoughtfully. "Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, "You and your children will find happiness again," my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, "You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good" comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple "How are you?"--almost always asked with the best of intentions--is better replaced with "How are you today?" When I am asked "How are you?" I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? 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."

2. Start a conversation. "Many of my co-workers had a look of fear in their eyes as I approached. I knew why--they wanted to help but weren't sure how...I realized that to restore that closeness with my colleagues that has always been so important to me, I needed to let them in. And that meant being more open and vulnerable than I ever wanted to be. I told those I work with most closely that they could ask me their honest questions and I would answer. I also said it was okay for them to talk about how they felt. One colleague admitted she'd been driving by my house frequently, not sure if she should come in. Another said he was paralyzed when I was around, worried he might say the wrong thing. Speaking openly replaced the fear of doing and saying the wrong thing."

3. Don't push. "At the same time, there are moments when I can't let people in. I went to Portfolio Night at school where kids show their parents around the classroom to look at their work hung on the walls. So many of the parents--all of whom have been so kind--tried to make eye contact or say something they thought would be comforting. I looked down the entire time so no one could catch my eye for fear of breaking down. I hope they understood."

4. Learn to be resilient. "Adam M. Grant taught me that three things are critical to resilience and that I can work on all three. Personalization--realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word "sorry." To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault. Permanence--remembering that I won't feel like this forever. This will get better. Pervasiveness--this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy."

5. If someone needs help, don't wait to be asked. "Until now, I have been the older sister, the COO, the doer and the planner. I did not plan this, and when it happened, I was not capable of doing much of anything. Those closest to me took over. They planned. They arranged. They told me where to sit and reminded me to eat. They are still doing so much to support me and my children."