Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.
I remember when I heard that Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook and author of Lean In, had lost her husband suddenly. I had a visceral reaction to the news, giving voice to my biggest fear.
Two weeks after he passed, she wrote an incredibly moving post on Facebook about him and her loss. If you read it, there’s no way you didn’t cry.
In Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, Sandberg builds on that post as she talks about her grief, how it affects her life, and how she and her children are trying to build a new one. And in what I have come to learn is typical Sheryl Sandberg fashion, she also attempts to understand what’s happening, how grief affects our brains and what we can do to feel some kind of joy again.
The title of the book came from a friend:
Just weeks after losing Dave, I was talking to Phil about a father-child activity. We came up with a plan for someone to fill in for Dave. I cried to Phil, “But I want Dave.” He put his arm around me and said “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of Option B.”
Life is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B. This book is to help us all kick the shit out of it.
As was the case with Lean In, I know that there are lots of people who scoff at the efforts she has made. Those who say that since she has loads of money and can afford to pay people to help her with the things that she can’t do, that she doesn’t understand what ‘real’ people go through when they grieve.
But once again, Sandberg is the first person to say that she isn’t the typical person. That she does have access to resources and supports that not everyone else has. It doesn’t mean that this book doesn’t have something for others going through the same, or similar experiences.
I personally found this book moving, honest, unflinching and ultimately helpful. She works with Adam Grant (author of Originals, psychologist and expert in how we find meaning in our lives) to research how we find strength in adversity. Together they tell the stories of different people they know who have gone through a range of experiences: rape survivors, refugees, parents who have lost children to disease, women who have experienced miscarriages or stillbirths.
And like Malcolm Gladwell, Sandberg and Grant use these personal stories to illustrate the research that they have done, to show readers how they can benefit from both. With chapters like “Kicking the Elephant Out of the Room”, “The Platinum Rule of Friendship” (treat others as they want to be treated), and “Taking Back Joy”, Sandberg and Grant have created a helpful manual for anyone who is dealing with more than their share of pain and sadness.
Sandberg shares so much of herself in this book – I can’t imagine how draining the process of writing was. Sections of her journal in the months after Dave died are in the book, as well as part of the eulogy she delivered and a letter she wrote to him to say goodbye when she decided to start looking forward instead of back. She shares about falling apart at work, sitting on the floor and screaming, the despair she felt going to recitals and parents’ nights solo, the realities of the year of firsts.
And still, going through all that, losing the love of her life, she wrote this book to help others experiencing the same or similar.
If you or someone you know is going through something, I wouldn’t hesitate in picking up this book.
All proceeds from the book go to OptionB.org, a non-profit initiative to help people build resilience and find meaning in the face of adversity.