The above photo is of Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, and her late husband, Dave Goldberg. She’s sitting on his lap and giving him a huge smack on the cheek, and he’s clearly loving every minute of it. It’s the perfect picture of a beautiful couple in love, which is why the Facebook post below it will break your heart.
Sandberg talks of the last 30 days; really, the first 30 days of her new life, her new normal. Wednesday marked the end of sheloshim (which marks the completion of religious mourning for a spouse in Judaism) for her beloved Dave. And while she is stricken with grief, she wants to “choose life and meaning” when she can.
“I have lived thirty years in these thirty days. I am thirty years sadder. I feel like I am thirty years wiser,” she writes.
Sandberg goes on to tell us what she’s learned, from pragmatic to seemingly unattainable, and what she hopes to pass along. And while it’s clearly written by a smart, savvy woman, it’s also as raw and real and touching as anything your best friend, brother or mother might say to you.
She first addresses what motherhood has taught her — not just being a mom, but also being a daughter. “I have gained a more profound understanding of what it is to be a mother, both through the depth of the agony I feel when my children scream and cry and from the connection my mother has to my pain.”
She goes on to say that her mother has been lying in bed with her at night, “holding me each night until I cry myself to sleep.” Sandberg suggests that being a mother can sometimes mean feeling twice the pain, but it’s also a source of great joy. “As heartbroken as I am, I look at my children each day and rejoice that they are alive. I appreciate every smile, every hug.”
Sandberg admits that before all this, she never really knew what to say to others in need, something to which all of us can relate. Telling someone that everything is going to be OK is pretty much the last thing you can/should say. There’s something canned and false about it.
“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,” Sandberg shares. “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.”
Sandberg not only knows she can ask for help but also how much help she needs. She’s learned that “resilience can be learned,” that everything she’s going through isn’t her fault, it doesn’t have to affect every aspect of her life, and it won’t feel like this forever. And she has learned about gratitude: “Real gratitude for the things I took for granted before — like life.”
Sandberg is so unabashed and exposed in her grief in this tumultuous time, when one can have a good day or a few happy hours in a sea of terrible ones. Her beautiful, emotional essay might help anyone going through those same feelings of loss, and make them feel a little less alone.
Her entire Facebook entry is below. (WARNING: You will need Kleenex.)