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Sheryl Sandberg on Love and Loss

The Facebook COO leans into grief.

Sheryl Sandberg spent the last four years asking us to “lean in.” Now she’s advocating for us to “Lean in to the suck.” This was the advice given to her by a rabbi friend a couple of weeks after Sandberg’s husband, Dave Goldberg, passed away suddenly while on vacation in Mexico in May 2015. “It was: Expect it to suck. Like, expect it. Like, don’t fight it,” the Facebook COO says.

That message underlies her new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, a memoir about tragically losing her life partner of 11 years, and, more broadly, for the rest of us, about resilience. Like everything Sandberg touches, the book rollout is tightly engineered (it is accompanied by a media blitz that includes a Time magazine cover). But as we speak in a conference room on the Facebook campus, her tears, tiny and springing from the corners of her eyes, are unconscious.

They come when I ask what in the book, co-authored with Adam Grant, she is most dreading exposing publicly. “I’m nervous. I’m even nervous to talk to you about it,” she says. “There is a difference between writing and speaking. You know, the personal parts of the book were a journal; they weren’t meant to be a book.” The book really began with a series of posts on Sandberg’s Facebook page after Goldberg’s death, the first of which broke her silence one month into her new reality. Her post was surprisingly raw and “just broke the dam open,” she describes, with 400,000 people eventually sharing her painful remembrances.

That initial outpouring led her to the recognition that the only meaning to be found in such a shattering loss would be in helping others through their grief. “When you have been through something this hard, helping people doesn’t just give our lives meaning, it gives our suffering meaning,” she says. In chronicling she also seeks permanence: “I feel a big responsibility to keep Dave’s memory alive.”

 

Originally published in the May issue of Silicon Valley

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