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Grief, Resilience, and Option B

September 01, 2017 | Charlotte Donlon

Since I married my husband almost twenty years ago, one of my greatest fears has been losing him to some kind of tragic early death. After I became a mama, this fear expanded to include losing one or both of my children. Witnessing others walk through what I imagine to be one of the worst things I could experience fills me with enormous grief. I’m not sure if I divide the sorrow of those who have lost loved ones or if I multiply it. Maybe a little bit of both happens when we attempt to care for and be present to others in the midst of tragedy.

 

Reading Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant was difficult at times, but it’s not them–it’s me. While I applaud Sandberg’s honesty and vulnerability, I had to consume the book in small sips because it was all too easy to imagine myself in Sandberg’s position–a grieving woman who had lost her husband, best friend, and confidant. Even though the book was a hard read, it was a still a beautiful read. It gave me a glimpse into her life and others’ lives and maybe even the lives of some of my friends who have walked similar paths and lived the reality of what is at this point only worst case scenarios for me.

 

Sandberg and Grant do a great job of interspersing research and findings on psychology and resilience around and in-between Sandberg’s personal story and the other stories she includes. These informative sections provide breaks from the emotional weightiness and give readers helpful information on relevant topics.

 

One interesting lesson I learned from Option B is the value of our family stories. Sandberg and Grant write:

When children grow up with a strong understanding of their family’s history–where their grandparents grew up, what their parents’ childhoods were like–they have better coping skills and a stronger sense of belonging. Talking openly about positive and even difficult memories can help develop resilience. It’s especially powerful to share stories about how the family sticks together through good times and bad, which allows kids to feel that they are connected to something larger than themselves.

 

This passage and many others emphasize things we can do to help our kids (and ourselves) develop resilience before and after tragedy strikes. I highly recommend Option B. To learn more about the book and hear from its authors, check out this On Being podcast featuring Sandberg and Grant.

 

Charlotte lives in Homewood with her husband and their two children. She’s earning an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University, and she does freelance writing and copywriting. You can find her online at www.charlottedonlon.com and on Twitter at @charlottedonlon. You can sign up for her newsletter about books and writing here

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