A month ago, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s husband suddenly died while working out on a treadmill.
On Wednesday, Sandberg posted an essay about dealing with the overwhelming grief.
Sandberg says she wrote it in order to share what she’s learned “in the hope that it helps someone else.”
One particularly helpful passage is about what to say to someone like her — someone who is grieving.
Here’s what Sandberg wrote:
I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be ok, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be ok.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be ok? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me. Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be ok but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple “How are you?” — almost always asked with the best of intentions — is better replaced with “How are you today?” When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realise the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.