One month after her husband died suddenly, Sheryl Sandburg wrote a beautiful and poignant epistle about her grief and shared it on Facebook. As the chief operating officer of Facebook, her words landed in a large pond and the ripples spread far and wide.
She wrote, “I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well. But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.”
Millions of people read those words and shared her pain, but Ms Sandburg has now revealed that she almost didn’t press “publish” on the post. Because to grieve so loud is not something we do.
There once was a time when grief in cultures of British origin was a quiet, private affair. When a woman became a widow or lost a child, she was expected to grieve – but preferably without too much fuss, and not for too long.
But when a person is in pain, writing can help. In the past this might have meant penning a letter or keeping a diary. In today’s world of social media and connectivity, our words can travel far. Most crucially, our words are not simply thrown into the void – they reach real people, and those friends and strangers can instantly react, either by sharing their own story, or offering support.
Today, six months after the death of her Dave Goldberg from a head trauma, Ms Sandburg says that sharing her feelings with strangers helped her to begin to heal. In an interview on The Today Show, she said of her husband’s death, “It’s…a pretty isolating thing to live through. No one quite knows what to say. Everyone looks at you like a deer in the headlights.”
After she wrote post, however, she says “people started talking to me more openly, even strangers.”
“I think loss and trying to rebuild and resilience are such a huge part of the human condition. By sharing on Facebook, I felt part of that global community.”
“My children and I have worked so hard to rebuild our lives and find happiness and joy and gratitude again [and] I think the support of strangers and our friends made a huge difference,” Sandberg said in the interview.
Ms Sandburg said she has always loved the mission of Facebook, but now understands it on a different level – the impact, she says is, “you feel not alone”.
Has Facebook or social media helped you grieve? Do you think sharing your grief online is the right way to heal, or is it different for everyone?
This woman says her extraordinarily public grief after her husband died made it easier to start the healing process. Has this helped you? Do you think it could?