⏲ Read Time: 5-7 minutes
Death: It’s the conversation none of us want to have, yet it’s something we will all endure at one point or another. No matter your religion, your upbringing or your social norms, it’s the one thing that doesn’t discriminate and it’s the one thing that relates us all as humans.
No one is comfortable talking about death, but it happens. Sometimes as unexpectedly as author Sheryl Sandberg explains in Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. While on vacation, her husband Dave passes away unexpectedly and she’s left with the aftermath of coping with the grieving process with her two young children.
What she teaches in this book is that when life delivers earth-shattering news, it can seem almost impossible to find joy in anything again. She discusses the ways that she and her friend, Wharton professor Adam Grant discover the various ways people build resiliency, which can be compared to the likes of building a muscle. Resiliency is not something we are born with, rather, it’s something we develop and tone overtime.
I think it’s really important to note that this is NOT a grief counseling book. This is by no means, a fool-proof way to navigate through the grieving process. People grieve differently and what may work for Sandberg may not be feasible for others. Keep this in mind if you decide to pick this up.
When I added this to my Must-Read list, I didn’t do it because I had recently suffered from adversity. Rather, I had periods in my life where I suffered through things I thought would ruin me and wanted to see how my recovery process differed from Sandberg’s.
When I was 17, I lost two very important people in my life in close proximity (roughly ten months apart) when one of my childhood friends passed away from her battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and when my grandfather passed due to a brain aneurysm.
At the age of 20, I was more or less forced to withdraw from my dream school because financial situations weren’t in my favor and I couldn’t afford going to college, even with a 3.84 grade-point-average. For the following year after, I spiraled into depression with suicidal thoughts because I felt an immense sense of shame and failure because I couldn’t afford school. I drank my feelings away, ignored a lot of responsibilities and felt as if I were a massive letdown in every facet of my life.
The biggest takeaway I took from this book is not how to cope with losing a loved one. For me, it was the admitting that self-compassion is something I really need to work on. That admitting that you’re having a tough time with something is okay. Sandberg even noted that a lot of us feel that it’s almost inappropriate to admit we’re having a rough time.
I’m someone who has always struggled with this mental health stigma. That if I suppressed any negative thought, it would simply go away. Out of sight, out of mind.
One part of the book that Sandberg describes is that for her entire life, she had gone to bed thinking about what she had done wrong that day and with a change of implementing gratitude into her daily routine, it was a way to help cope with adversity.
This really resonated with me because I am someone who is incredibly hard on themselves. There is nothing in this world that a person can say/think about me that I haven’t already said/thought about myself. Adopting the act of gratitude, if even for the small things, has helped keep these negative thoughts at bay, but it’s something I still need work on.
Another point that stuck out with me was the fact that we want others to be happy, but we don’t allow happiness for ourselves. Sandberg writes “having fun is a form of self-compassion; just as we need to be kind to ourselves when we make mistakes, we also need to be kind to ourselves by enjoying life while we can”.
I have an immense sense of pride and respect for Sandberg for her sharing one of the hardest times of her life. I know it’s not easy to open up about topics like this, but these are conversations we need to have more often. I took a lot more away from this than just learning how to cope with grief: It gave me a way of changing how I look at myself in the mirror and how to grow should life throw a curveball my way.
Rating: 5 out of 5