This is my first blog post and I will use this space to share reflections on words that matter and thoughts about what is touching me in my life. This post will be about a book.
I recently finished reading Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. I heard Sheryl being interviewed on CBC radio a few weeks ago and was drawn to her poignant story, relevant insights and tender wisdom. In short, Option B is about the sudden and untimely death of Sheryl’s husband, Dave Goldberg, at age 47, while the two of them were on Mexican vacation, far away from their two young children. Sheryl, noting that Dave had been gone for longer than anticipated, went to find him and discovered him at the resort’s gym where he had collapsed and died...and that’s when events unfolded at both warp speed and in slow motion. The book captures and retells some of those early, awful moments of discovery, of the trip home, of telling her children their father had died, of the early days and weeks. But in addition to this basic story, the book exploreswhat Sheryl’s friend said: “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of Option B.”
Easy to say, but how does one do that? The book explores the concept of resilience, and how to develop it so that one can move from a trauma to experience “post-traumatic growth”. The book’s chapters trace Sheryl’s steps along this journey and what helped and what hindered progress. She explores such things as the impact of words, of friends’ actions, of work relationships, and of honouring and recreating family traditions.
I know I was drawn to this book because of two of my own experiences—first, I discovered my mother, dead in her bed, when I was fifteen years old and, years later, discovered a colleague near death at the gym (I talk about these experiences in Transforming Memories); and second, I also experienced the death of my husband, albeit knowing it was coming and that he was not 47 but just over 70. While I know that every trauma is different and unique for the people touched by the trauma, I also have come to deeply understand some of the core elements of the path to resilience Sheryl describes and which I have mirrored:
- How important it is to acknowledge trauma and talk about it
- To not hide from pain but to honour it, to embrace it
- To maintain traditions that feel important and also develop new ones
My mother died over 50 years ago and my husband died over three years ago. I feel both experiences have led me to ‘post-traumatic growth’. I’m OK and Sheryl Sandberg is on the path to OK. Resilience is possible for all of us. Life gives us reasons to develop ‘resilience skills’ but we don’t have to wait for trauma—we can learn the skills for self-compassion and self-confidence any time. I recommend Option B as a primer and Transforming Memories as a catalyst!
Please note: If you check out the blog category On My Bookshelf, you will discover annotations about books I have found to be important, inspiring and insightful... each group of four books, changing monthly, is from a list I’ve compiled over recent years. I love books and I hope you will share titles of books which have been important to you.