Nothing creates a false sense of intimacy with an author quite like listening to an audiobook memoir.
At least that was my experience with Cheryl Sandberg’s memoir, Lean In. She shared so many intimate details about her life that I felt a one-sided closeness to her. And so when I saw on the news that her husband had passed away, my heart went out to her as if I knew her.
When Option B came out, I knew I had to read it. The book chronicles Sandberg’s experience of grief, informed by the insights of psychologist, Adam Scott, who co-wrote the book.
It is beautiful, honest, and reflective.
After finding her husband collapsed on a gym floor in Mexico (cause of death was heart failure), Sandberg was not only coping with grief, but also guiding her two children through the process.
Forget “leaning in” — at this time, Sandberg said she felt as though she could barely stand up. And she is not alone in this experience. Almost all of us will suffer a gut-wrenching loss similar to hers at some point in our lives.
Embracing this realization is a core part of the book. In fact, Sandberg finds solace in spending time with others who have experienced a loss similar to her own. She connects with Elon Musk, whose infant daughter had passed away at two months. Others come forward to support her as well.
Sandberg also takes time to explain what others can do to be supportive of someone recovering from the loss of a loved one. She said that some people seemed to be afraid of broaching the subject for fear of making her feel uncomfortable. But, Sandberg elucidates that really, those individuals don’t want to feel uncomfortable themselves. It’s important to acknowledge someone’s loss as they are working through it – not to bury it under the rug.
This book isn’t just about grief, however. It’s also about overcoming adversity in general. After several chapters, the book segues into a discussion on how to cope with failure, introducing a few useful tactics.
First is the concept of focusing on how you react to a failure. Once a failure is made, it can help to imagine that are being graded on how you react to that failure. Even if you get an “F” on one project, you can still get an “A” on your reaction. Sandberg also discusses the concept of a “failure resume.” On Linked-In, no one mentions the jobs that they got turned down from, or the rejections they experienced. Yet, every successful person has those failures. Registering the fact that everyone has their own failure resume makes me feel more comfortable with the disappointments that I have myself.
Sandberg also makes social commentary on the experience of becoming a widow and a single mother. She reflects on how in Lean In, she had a chapter on “Making Your Partner a Real Partner,” which in retrospect, she acknowledges was insensitive to single parents. She shares the statistic that almost 30 percent of families with children have a single parent as the head of the household. Of those single parents, 84 percent are women.
Part of why this gendered disparity exists may have to do with double standard that men and women are held to when it comes to dating after becoming a widow or widower. For men, it is much more accepted (and expected) to find another mate. The level of acceptance is not the same for women.
Despite this double-standard, Sandberg continues with her life. She seems to find affirmation in the Jewish religion, in which the grieving period for the death of a child or parent is one year, while for a spouse, the period is 30 days. There is emphasis on moving forward, which Sandberg does with grace and poise, while still keeping the memory of her husband alive.
This book was insightful, covering many bases. An excellent read.