Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg will never forget May 1. Her husband, Dave Goldberg, failed to return from the gym at their Puerta Vallarta hotel. He died later that day after suffering head trauma and blood loss from a workout accident.
Praise flooded in from all directions of Silicon Valley. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said Goldberg was, “One of the truly great people on the planet. Dave was of almost unimaginably remarkable character.” Jeff Weiner from LinkedIn remembered Dave as “one of the kindest and most generous friends I’ve known.”
In the December series, No End to Love, we’ve looked at letting go with grace. But where is the grace when an ending has been forced upon you?
For Sheryl Sandberg, radical acceptance has been key. In her essay following the close of sheloshim, she wrote:
I have learned that resilience can be learned. Adam M. Grant taught me that three things are critical to resilience and that I can work on all three.
Personalization – realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word “sorry”. To tell myself over and over, “This is not my fault.”
Permanence – remembering that I won’t feel like this forever. This will get better.
Pervasiveness – this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy.
In the midst of profound grief, Sheryl Sandberg has also come face-to-face with an astonishing experience for a COO: vulnerability. Indeed, the tenderness of vulnerability has allowed her to fully receive what others are so graciously willing to give. She told a bittersweet story about forming a back-up plan for her children’s events with a close friend:
We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, “But I want Dave. I want option A.” He put his arm around me and said, “Option A is not available. So let’s kick the shit out of option B.”
I still mourn for option A. I will always mourn for option A. As Bono sang, “There is no end to grief…and there is no end to love.”
This week, it’s time to take one last look at the endings you’ve faced in 2015. If this year has brought a hard ending or two, it is your choice to decide what will travel with you. Will you choose endless grief or love?
Your start-up company suddenly shut-down, but not before you built a strong professional network as well as a good set of friends. A break-up may have been painful, but you’re crystal clear about the importance of being true to yourself. Or, like Sheryl Sandberg, you’ve continued to honor a loved one’s impact on your life, in spite of missing them every day.
Reconciling your loss may require taking life one day, or even one minute, at a time, but healing and restoration are on the other side of this very dark valley.
What will you take into 2016? What will be your new normal? Well, there’s always option B.