Sheryl Sandberg’s Reluctant Identity


As Sheryl Sandberg begins to navigate the world of widowhood, it brings to mind – no doubt for many widows – those first days and weeks, functioning on survival spouse autopilot. In her Facebook note she spoke of her gratefulness, which so many of us acknowledge, the yin yang of heartbreak and gratitude. I too found myself telling mourners at my husband’s wake that I felt ‘lucky’ to have had what we did, though he died suddenly at 50. There is no set number of years that quantifies a lifetime.

Unlike many of us, Sheryl mourns in the public eye. Though she might prefer to crawl under the covers rather than be out in the spotlight, she’s helping others by her strength, resolve and kindness. Akin to the grace with which Jackie Kennedy navigated widowhood, Sheryl’s been a beacon during the dark days that so many in the widowed community have experienced. Thank you, Sheryl, may you continue to find peace and comfort on your journey.

  • As Joyce Carol Oates wrote after losing her husband, “for all who are grieving, there is no way to survive except through others.” Accept help from those trusted and dear to you.
  • Keep a journal.  Writing about the day-to-day events during this traumatic time will be cathartic.  As a writer, you’ll no doubt find the process comforting and alleviating.  Memories endure, details fade. Years later, you’ll be amazed by the specifics in your notes. And in awe of how much you did.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Whenever that first moment comes when you hear yourself laugh, don’t stop. And don’t feel guilty.
  • Rest. Food. Move. Take care of yourself.  Pardon the truism, but getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising regularly is more important than ever.
  • Be good to yourself. This isn’t quite the same as taking care of yourself, but rather allowing yourself to indulge in creature comforts and guilty pleasures (regardless of how inappropriate that phrase sounds to you right now). Don’t resist what calms and comforts you, whether it’s playing Candy Crush or eating fried Oreos.
  • After the funeral, life settles into the new normal. Silent phones and quiet homes. Half beds. Long nights. Empty seats. Fresh tears erupting with new condolences. Life unraveling like a video rewinding. Try not to withdraw. Reach out. Get out. Stay connected. Please forgive the cliché. Though it might sound outrageously ridiculous directed at the COO of the largest social network in the world, you’d be surprised what widowhood can do.
  • We will all grieve and mourn and move on, at our own pace and in different ways. There are no rules or timelines, even for high-profile individuals.
  • Your celebrity status has brought condolences from around the world and throughout the global village, strangers near and far. Embrace the gargantuan good will.
  • Find joy in something every day.