You can maintain hope and find joy even after suffering a tragedy.
Resilience is like a muscle you can build.
Only in her mid-40s, Sheryl Sandberg faced the unimaginable. The COO of Facebook and author of the iconic best-seller Lean In found her husband, Silicon Valley executive Dave Goldberg, dead during a vacation in Mexico. He had suffered from a cardiac arrhythmia while exercising.
After the shocking loss, she would then have to face her children, her demanding job and her own seemingly bottomless grief. “We all live some form of Option B,” Sheryl writes. This version of her life—without the love of her life by her side—became Sheryl’s Option B.
Co-written with psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant, Ph.D., Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy shows how the capacity of the human spirit can help you to persevere and rediscover joy even after facing tremendous pain and adversity.
“We plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events,” writes Sheryl. In processing the death of her husband and partner, she found she had to overcome the three P’s that, according to psychologist Martin Seligman, Ph.D., stunt recovery and elevate depression:
- Personalization: the belief that we are at fault.
- Pervasiveness: the belief that an event will affect all areas of our lives.
- Permanence: the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever.
“When we realize that negative events don’t mean ‘everything is awful forever’ it makes us less depressed and more able to cope,” Sheryl writes. Studies show that moving away from all-or-nothing thinking helps us become more resilient. “Tragedy doesn’t have to be personal, pervasive or permanent, but resilience can be.”
Two years after Dave’s death, unbearable grief still hits in waves, but she aspires to choose meaning and joy and hopes to help others do the same. Here are a few of the hard-won lessons shared in the book:
Even in the darkest hours, you can remain hopeful. “That’s the thing about faith…it helps you know that sooner or later this too shall pass,” she writes.
Use hope to take steps forward
Grounded hope is the understanding that if you take action, you can make things better.
Treat yourself with extra kindness during times of stress. Our inner critic can be our own worst enemy.
Share your story to heal
While not everyone feels comfortable talking about personal tragedy, there is powerful evidence that opening up about traumatic events can improve mental and physical health.
Find the gratitude
After loss, the emptiness of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays can be especially hard. See these milestones as moments to be cherished. Post-traumatic growth (change experienced because of adversity to rise to a higher level of functioning) can help you gain appreciation for life.
Live with empathy
Loss can result in a heightened awareness of the suffering of others and the ability to live with more compassion.
Connect with others
Empowered communities build collective resilience. We find our humanity—our will to live and our ability to love—in our connections with each other.
Build resilience together
Humans are wired for both connection and grief, and we naturally possess tools to recover from loss and trauma. But it is something we need to constantly reinforce. “Resilience is not a fixed personality trait,” she writes. “It’s a lifelong project.”
Visit optionB.org to connect with others who are coping with challenges. Read stories of people who have built resilience in the face of loss and adversity.
Sandra Bilbray is a contributing Editor to Live Happy and the founder and CEO of TheMediaConcierge.net.