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The Schmooze

Sheryl Sandberg Is Helping Grieving Families Handle The Holidays

The Jewish festival of lights falls during the winter for a reason — in dark times we have to depend on communal sources of light to warm us. Sheryl Sandberg says your presence really is the best present you can give mourners during the holidays.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has made a second career of shining a light on one of the blackest parts of life, the death of a spouse. After the “Lean In” author’s husband Dave Goldberg died suddenly at 47, Sandberg exposed her grieving process in a Facebook post that illuminated the experience of her loss, resonating with millions. Sandberg went on to write a second book with Adam Grant called “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” and a matching website aimed at giving grievers tools to build resilience.

This holiday season, Sandberg has launched #OptionBThereInitiative, a subset of the Option B website which offers tips and mechanisms by which grievers can reach out for support and friends and family can offer it. Reminding those wishing to show support that the most important step is to “just be there,” the website offers practical suggestions, like ways to navigate hosting a grieving family for dinner and tips by psychologists on how to start conversations with children whose families have changed due to death. The site advises mourners to reach out for meaning through religion and create structure and reasonable expectations for their holiday celebrations. One service on the site offers to send free, daily encouragements via text message. An Option B Facebook group connects people in difficult circumstances with each other, sorted into closed group categories like “living with health challenges” and “surviving abuse and sexual assault”.

According to Sandberg, grief and hardship leave so many people in solitude because their friends and family simply don’t know what to say to them. Sandberg says that we need to resist the impulse to not speak up unless we have something perfect to say. “When you show up with a meal, when you show up with a hug, when you show up with the funny story, or just the willingness to sit there and cry with the person, that’s incredibly powerful,” she told People. “Just do something.”

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