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A few weeks after her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly in Mexico two years ago, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was confronted with an upcoming father-child event at her young son’s school. She discussed her options with a good friend.

“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 s*#t out of Option B.’” [13]

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy is the result. The book, co-authored by Sandberg and psychologist Adam Grant, soared to the top of the New York Times best-seller list upon its release in April and is #1 at Amazon among Self-Help>Love & Loss, Grief & Bereavement and Parenting & Relationships books.

In short, Option B is a blockbuster, and I think it deserves to be. Sandberg has much to offer all of us who have suffered loss. Coming to grips with the fact that Option A is not available is harder than it might sound to those who haven’t been down this road. I wouldn’t classify it as denial of death and loss. I knew Lev was dead. Instead, it is accepting the fact that we cannot have what we want. We can figure out what our personal Option B is and make the best of it, or we can sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, dwelling on what if… and if only…, creating an imaginary future with Option A.

Sandberg’s loss was six years after mine, so I had largely worked my way from grief to joy by the time she began speaking publicly of her loss. Nevertheless, her 2016 speech to Berkeley graduates, “What I Learned In Death,” captured my attention and inspired me, as I blogged about here. In her speech, she emphasized the importance of gratitude. Her practice of writing down three moments of joy at the end of every day seems far more constructive than my simple “thank you, God, for…” prayers at noon every day after Lev’s death. At times when it felt like all joy had left my life forever, a written record would have reminded me that, in fact, I did regularly experience moments of joy each day. Imagine…at the end of the year, 1,095 written reminders of all that was still good in my life.

Option B provides valuable instruction on how to develop greater resilience both in ourselves and in our children. Sandberg and Grant write:

We plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events. After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that three P’s can stunt recovery: (1) personalization—the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness—the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence—the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. The three P’s play like the flip side of the pop song “Everything Is Awesome”—“everything is awful.” The loop in your head repeats, “It’s my fault this is awful. My whole life is awful. And it’s always going to be awful.”

Hundreds of studies have shown that children and adults recover more quickly when they realize that hardships aren’t entirely their fault, don’t affect every aspect of their lives, and won’t follow them everywhere forever. Recognizing that negative events aren’t personal, pervasive, or permanent makes people less likely to get depressed and better able to cope. [16]

The journey from grief to joy is about letting go of blame; about recognizing that there are moments of joy even in the midst of grief, that grief isn’t all-encompassing all the time; and about having the faith that the fog will lift and time will heal.

Sandberg on Joy
  • “Survivor guilt is a thief of joy—yet another secondary loss from death.” [96]
  • “A life chasing pleasure without meaning is an aimless existence. Yet a meaningful life without joy is a depressing one.” [97]
  • “We want others to be happy. Allowing ourselves to be happy—accepting that it is okay to push through the guilt and seek joy—is a triumph over permanence.” [99]
  • “Paying attention to moments of joy takes effort because we are wired to focus on the negatives more than the positives.” [101]
  • “Peace is joy at rest, and joy is peace on its feet.” [102]
  • “Joy is a discipline.” [102]

Sandberg, Sheryl and Adam Grant. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. New York: Knopf. 2017.