Life as we know it can turn on a dime! No matter how well prepared we think we are for adversity, challenge and change, the loss of a loved one can send our world into a tailspin. Matagorda County is no stranger to the loss of members of the community.
In her book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, delivers her raw perspective on the sudden loss of her husband’s life in 2015. She adopts six of her lessons from her book for her article “Back to Life” in May, 2017, O Magazine:
You Can Grow Resilience– “Resilience is like a muscle. It can be strengthened. Yes, I hurt. Those feelings would need to run their course. But my beliefs and actions could shape how quickly I moved through grief and where it took me.” Sandberg notes that experts say after six months, more than half the individuals that lost their spouse are past the acute stage of mourning. This is where planting seeds of resilience will begin to flourish.
Avoid the three P’s– Sandberg discovered them in Martin Seligman’s writings:
Personalization– the belief that we are at fault for what’s happened.
Pervasiveness– thinking that a traumatic event will color everything always.
Permanence– Sandberg notes, “For months, I felt that crushing despair would be my lifelong condition. When my children cried, I flashed forward to their entire lives without a father. The thought of forever without my husband was paralyzing.” Her rabbi advised her to allow those moments of extreme grief to pass through her, knowing they would be awful. She says, “I found that if I stopped fighting those moments, they passed more quickly.”
Tell Others What You Need– Many times we find ourselves at a loss about what to say or what to do around someone that’s suffered a loss. Sandberg said she was caught between no one saying anything to her, (called the mum effect), and individuals casually asking, “How are you doing?” She needed acknowledgement that something had happened through compassionate interaction. Sandberg says, “I decided to write about how I felt on Facebook. I began by describing the void and how easy it was to get stuck in it. I suggested instead of asking ‘How are you,’ ask, ‘How are you today?’ The impact of my post was immediate.”
Follow The Platinum Rule– Early on we remember the Golden Rule- treat others as you want to be treated. Sandberg takes it a step further by saying we need to “up our game” to the Platinum Rule- Treat others the way they want to be treated. She notes, “Nothing makes you more aware of the value of this maxim than being in pain yourself, which in turn can make you more attuned to others’ needs.”
Let Yourself Off The Hook– Sandberg reflects, “Being kind to ourselves is an antidote to the cruelty we sometimes self-inflict for not being perfect, and writing offers a powerful tool for honing this skill.”
Reclaim Joy-There’s real meaning in the adage, “Let me fall if I must fall. The one I will become will catch me.” Sandberg admits to gaining strength by just surviving. She notes, “Alongside my sadness, I found a greater appreciation for what I used to take for granted—family, friends, and simply being alive.”
I recognize the void that she spoke of in her O Magazine article. For me, it grew larger and larger with the loss of my parents and four siblings, leaving behind my sister Kathy and me. Faith is what carried us through our despair; hope and love gave us the strength to stand up and keep moving one step at a time. And yes, appreciation for family, friends and being alive is something we too are most grateful for every day of our lives. Life is a gift!
Originally published in the Bay City Tribune on Sunday, May 7, 2017.