When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s daughter had an upcoming father/daughter dance, she begged and sobbed for her husband, Dave Goldberg, to go with her. It was the only thing Sandberg truly wanted, but she knew it would never come to pass; Goldberg had died unexpectedly two weeks earlier.
When Option A isn’t available
The tragedy of losing her husband sent Sandberg into a tailspin of grief that she never thought she’d claw her way out of. However, as explained in the book she co-wrote with Give and Take author Adam Grant, not only did she find the light at the end of the tunnel, she feels stronger and more grateful than she did before her immense loss. Through her grief, she learned that when Option A isn’t available, the only thing we can do is drop it and “kick the sh*t out of Option B.”
No one is ever ready for when tragedy strikes, but there are measures we can take to keep our lives from spiraling out of control when it does. The book cites Martin Seligman, whose research identifies three beliefs that can inhibit recovery. These three P’s are:
Personalization: Believing that the event is our own fault.
Pervasiveness: Believing that the event will affect all areas of our lives.
Permanence: Believing that the aftershocks of the event will affect us forever.
The key to avoiding these emotional roadblocks, Sandberg explains, is resilience. Not simply allowing the feelings of despair and grief to happen but dealing with those feelings head-on in meaningful and productive ways. Resilience gives us the clarity and fortitude to push through adversity. Resilience is a discipline, Sandberg says, and like a muscle must be exercised regularly to be useful.
Two ways to build resilience
One method of flexing our resilience muscles is by journaling. Journaling comes with a surprising number of health benefits. There is an emotional catharsis in giving words to feelings and getting them out of our system. Research suggests a regular journaling practice can lead to improved emotional and physical health.
Another way to build resilience is to spend time with others. There’s a misconception that grieving people need to be left alone. The reality is they need the company of others more than ever. Being with friends and family, or spending time with colleagues at work, can help ground us when we most desperately need stability. When things feel abnormal all the time, keeping the normal, mundane parts of our lives the same can make a world of difference to helping us move on. Other people can offer us new perspectives as well, helping us identify and cope with things we might not notice on our own.
Even hard conversations are better than silence. Ask a grieving friend how they are that day. Offer to help them carry out their daily tasks like grocery shopping. These gestures give people a lifeline when they feel like they’re drowning. Studies show that simply having that lifeline—even if it’s never used—is better for people than going without.