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Action Plan In Time Of Grief?

It is the universality of approach of the book that makes this story into one that has the power to become the practical handbook for all

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When the Yaksha asked Yuddhishthir, in the Mahabharata, ‘What is the greatest wonder in the world’, Yuddhishthir answered that even though countless people die every day, humans do not accept their mortality. They live in denial of it and this is the reason why we buy real estate on fault lines, or in places with water shortage; this is the reason we are deeply shocked when we hear of death of a colleague or a close one, rather than accept it as a natural occurrence — to be anticipated.

Like the Buddha said, we will all face ‘Dukkha’, we are all mortal, and we will all experience bereavement also. We are culturally not equipped to face death. We do not allow for rational conversations on death — indeed allow no mention of it from our loved ones — and live in denial.

Sheryl Sandberg’s life changed significantly when her partner of 11 years, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a treadmill suddenly, during a vacation in Mexico. As Facebook’s COO began dealing with the aftermath of loss, and picking up the pieces to move on with her children; Sandberg focused on “option B”, a new way of living that overcomes grief, adversity, and once again instills joy.

This is the premise of the book  Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.  It is a thinking person’s guide to grief management. It is compelling reading with its brutal honesty and the baring of the most personal moments — that she turns into the most extraordinary learning situations that celebrate the living and life. It is a combination of gut-wrenching raw emotion and a measured and intellectual look at coping mechanisms in equal parts.

In the book, 47-year-old Sandberg, pulls you into her world and makes you examine your own responses in situations where you have not known what to say to comfort a bereaved friend. She tells you that keeping quiet and ignoring the elephant in the room is much worse than being reminded of loss. She makes you confront your own emotions in the face of inevitable eventualities — and she does this with lucidity and honesty.

Sandberg has previously written Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (2013) and established Lean In Foundation, a non-profit entity to help women in their careers.  

Option B deals with anger, guilt, break down, dependence and moves towards bouncing forward and taking joy back in one’s life. The most moving parts of the book are, however, about how she helps her children to cope with this loss. She talks of raising resilient kids and has four major mantras that the family lives by: respect feelings, sleep, forgiveness and teamwork. For every such emotional action plan — she discusses the neurological reasons behind resilience. The book continuously takes you through the personal and then steps back to see it as a human experience. It is this universality of approach that makes this deeply personal story into one that has the power to become the practical handbook for all.

Sandberg connects deeply with people — and is unembarrassed by the amount of help she needed from friends and family. We are generally taught to hide grief and put up a brave face after a few days. She talks of well-meaning friends saying it is time she moved on — it has already been six months. But she legitimises the time you need, she legitimises all feelings and helps you cross over to brighter days.

The book was best summed up by a colleague who said that she wished she had read it when her father passed away. It would have helped her greatly.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Alpana Parida

Parida is CEO, DYworks

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