Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandberg

Here are my comments on the book:

How do you deal with losing a loved one? Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, who had lost her husband in 2015 states that it’s all about building resilience, and finding joy. In her book, she teamed up with Wharton Professor Adam Grant to address ways in which one can build resilience through such adversity.

I personally didn’t think that this book was all that great as it got a bit repetitive with Sheryl repeating how devastated she became when her husband Dave died in 2015. This book, however, did a great job at shifting my perspective and thoughts with regards to valuing my life and my relationships. In the book, Sheryl included numerous stories of other people who’ve also experienced a sudden loss of a loved one. This got me thinking about how short life really is and how much we should cherish our lives and those around us. If you or someone you know has lost a loved one and you’re looking for a book where you can relate to or grieve with, this book may be for you. Just a disclaimer that I haven’t lost anyone close to me yet so I can’t say with exact certainty that this book would be good for someone who’s grieving over the loss of a loved one.


My rating:
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Check out the book here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK


Here are some of the points to the book:

1. In the event of a loss, there are 3Ps that affect how we recover from it: personalization, permeance, and pervasiveness. 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. Not falling into the trap of the three P’s helped teachers in urban and rural schools: they were more effective in the classroom and their students did better academically. It helped college varsity swimmers who underperformed in a race: their heart rates spiked less and they went on to improve their times. And it helped insurance salespeople in difficult jobs: when they didn’t take rejections personally and remembered that they could approach new prospects tomorrow, they sold more than twice as much and stayed in the job twice as long as their colleagues.


2. We’ve evolved to be able to handle grief, you’re not alone. A psychiatrist friend explained to me that humans are evolutionarily wired for both connection and grief: we naturally have the tools to recover from loss and trauma. That helped me believe that I could get through this. If we had evolved to handle suffering, the deep grief would not kill me. I thought about how humans had faced love and loss for centuries, and I felt connected to something much larger than myself—connected to a universal human experience. I reached out to one of my favorite professors, Reverend Scotty McLennan, who had kindly counseled me in my twenties when my first husband and I divorced. Now Scotty explained that in his forty years of helping people through loss, he has seen that ‘turning to God gives people a sense of being enveloped in loving arms that are eternal and ultimately strong. People need to know that they are not alone.'”


3. Have some self-compassionSelf-compassion comes from recognizing that our imperfections are part of being human. Those who can tap into it recover from hardship faster. In a study of people whose marriages fell apart, resilience was not related to their self-esteem, optimism, or depression before divorce, or to how long their relationships or separations had lasted. What helped people cope with distress and move on was self-compassion. For soldiers returning from war in Afghanistan and Iraq, those who were kind to themselves showed significant declines in symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Self-compassion is associated with greater happiness and satisfaction, fewer emotional difficulties, and less anxiety. Both women and men can benefit from self-compassion, but since women tend to be harder on themselves, they often benefit more. As mean shirking responsibility for our past. It’s about making sure that we don’t beat ourselves up so badly that we damage our future. It helps us realize that doing a bad thing does not necessarily make us a bad person. Instead of thinking ‘if only I weren’t,’ we can think ‘if only I hadn’t.’ This is why confession in the Catholic religion begins with ‘Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,’ not ‘Forgive me, Father, for I am a sinner.’


4. Have some hope/faith that things will get better. Adam [Grant] understood my skepticism and admitted that he didn’t even mention this possibility for the first few months because he knew I would dismiss it. But now he thought I was ready. He told me that more than half the people who experience a traumatic event report at least one positive change, compared to the less than 15 percent who develop PTSD. Then he did something super annoying: he quoted me to me. ‘You often argue that people can’t be what they can’t see,’ Adam said. ‘That girls aren’t studying computer science because they don’t see women in computer science. That women don’t reach for leadership roles because they don’t see enough women in leadership roles. This is the same thing. If you don’t see that growth is possible, you’re not going to find it.’ I agreed I would try to see it. And I had to admit that post-traumatic growth sounded a lot better than a life filled with sadness and anger.


5. Don’t be defined by the loss of a loved one but rather seek out joy from the little things in life. One of the comments on my thirty-day Facebook post that affected me most deeply was from a woman named Virginia Schimpf Nacy. Virginia was happily married when her husband died suddenly in his sleep at age fifty-three. Six and a half years later, the night before her daughter’s wedding, Virginia’s son died of a heroin overdose. She insisted on going forward with the wedding and planned her son’s funeral the next day. Soon, Virginia was working with her local school district on a drug prevention program, joining forces with parents and counselors to create a grief support group, and advocating for legislative changes to fight addiction. She also looked for ways to counter her sadness. She started watching old Carol Burnett shows and went on a cross-country road trip with her chocolate Labrador to visit her daughter and son-in-law. ‘Both deaths are woven into the fabric of my life, but they’re not what define me,’ she said. ‘Joy is very important to me. And I can’t count on joy to come from my daughter or anyone else. It has to come from me. It is time to kick the shit out of Option C.’ When we look for joy, we often focus on the big moments. Graduating from school. Having a child. Getting a job. Being reunited with family. But happiness is the frequency of positive experiences, not the intensity. In a twelve-year study of bereaved spouses in Australia, 26 percent managed to find joy after loss as often as they had before. What set them apart was that they reengaged in everyday activities and interactions. ‘How we spend our days,’ author Annie Dillard writes, is ‘how we spend our lives.’ Rather than waiting until we’re happy to enjoy the small things, we should go and do the small things that make us happy. After a depressing divorce, a friend of mine made a list of things she enjoyed—listening to musicals, seeing her nieces and nephews, looking at art books, eating flan—and made a vow to do one thing on the list after work each day. As blogger Tim Urban describes it, happiness is the joy you find on hundreds of forgettable Wednesdays.


By Ryan Timothy Lee


Thank you for reading! Please share this post with someone who you think will benefit from it. Also, join my Facebook group here, to receive exclusive content and updates on posts. If you have any book requests or recommendations, I’d love to hear them out so please let me know through an e-mail at bookstakeaway@gmail.com.


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