Option B

by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

Make Option B part of your "Option A" plan for processing your grief and the hurts of others. Better, read it now before that season arrives.

"Grief is a demanding companion," write Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, but Option B can help you engage and build a better relationship with that companion. How so? Their book will help you learn to process the grief-producing events of your life in ways that plant seeds of resilience personally and for children impacted by loss. 

Sandberg and Grant wrote Option B in the aftermath of the death of Dave Goldberg, Sheryl Sandberg's husband of eleven years. Sheryl was “in the void.” She felt there was no way she and her two children would find joy again. At one point, shortly after Dave’s death, Sheryl said to a friend, “I want Dave.” Her friend replied, “Option A is not available,” but I will help you make the most of Option B.

As with her book Lean In, Sandberg is refreshingly honest. Despite the pain, she still manages to write with a lively pen including generous sprinkles of humor. True to the subtitle, Option B provides keen insights for facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy. I am glad I read it. I heartily recommend it. Sandberg and Grant show us that while tragedy does not have to be personal, pervasive, or permanent, resilience can be. We can build it and carry it with us throughout our lives. 175

My only pushback has to do with the evolutionary worldview. Here a couple of excerpts:

"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." (22) "We are all headed for where Dave is. Without a doubt. Looking at the row upon row of headstones, it is so clear that we all end up in the ground. So each day has to count." 76 

The authors' approach is primarily a "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" approach to adversity, resilience, and joy. In my mind, the biblical narrative provides a better story for explaining why we grieve, how we overcome/God helps us overcome, and for hope beyond the grave. 

While I enjoyed Option B, more importantly I learned and grew from reading it. Here are five of my takeaways:

1. The Three P's don't have to stunt your recovery from grief. - Personalization (It's my fault), Pervasiveness (This is going to affect every aspect of my life), and Permanence (I'm going to be feeling the aftershocks forever) "play like the flip side of the pop song 'Everything Is Awesome.'" They don't have to.

2. Ask the question, "How are you today? - See podcast episode #92, "The Mum Effect," at www.onmywalk.com for the power of this question.

3. We can bounce forward. - Sandberg relayed the words, "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how." (82) That's good stuff.

4. We can take back joy. - Agree wholeheartedly. Appreciated the discussion on "survivor guilt" and the quotes from Annie Dillard and Tim Urban respectively: "How we spend our days is how we spend our lives," and "Happiness is the joy you find on hundreds of forgettable Wednesdays." (100)

5. Humor is an essential tool to love and laugh again. - Sandberg writes, "Time has marched on and in some ways, I have too. In other ways, I haven't. . . . Grief has to unfold." (174) But she gives us a great guide for helping any person walk trough that difficult unfolding process and shows us it really is possible to be okay, it really is possible to live!