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Sheryl Sandberg's Facebook post, a month after her husband Dave died, has gone viral with people lauding her bravery as she shared her emotions in public.
Before her post becomes the manual on how to survive and cope with the death of a loved one (perhaps it already has), let us remember grief is personal. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. While you share her post today, please take a few minutes to reflect on what it really means. When you read the lines, please think about the women in your family and friends who may or may not have done things differently. And here's why.
Sheryl's comments show that she has finally reached a stage of acceptance and is ready to deal with reality.
"I was talking to one of these friends about a father-child activity that Dave is not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, "But I want Dave. I want option A." He put his arm around me and said, "Option A is not available. So let's just kick the shit out of option B."
Every woman, and man, may not reach this stage in a month, two months or even two years. And who is to say that is not fine?
She is blessed to have the love and support of friends and family during this rough phase in her life.
"I have learned to ask for help and I have learned how much help I need. Until now, I have been the older sister, the COO, the doer and the planner. I did not plan this, and when it happened, I was not capable of doing much of anything. Those closest to me took over. They planned. They arranged. They told me where to sit and reminded me to eat. They are still doing so much to support me and my children."
Not everyone may be as lucky. Please do not judge them if they are not able to reach her stage of coping with grief in 30 days.
Just as Sheryl didn't have a clue about what it meant to grieve before this tragedy, many who are equally clueless may not be able to empathise.
And to those who wonder what to say to someone who has lost a dear one, here's what she felt worked for her:
Those who have said, "You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good" comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple "How are you?" almost always asked with the best of intentions is better replaced with "How are you today?" When I am asked "How are you?" I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear "How are you today?" I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.
This is insightful if it makes us think about the inane things we typically say to a bereaved family. But, it does not mean that every young widow wants, seeks or desires that you express your sympathy and support through these words.
Let us remember that her post, in her own words, is meant to be an account of what helped her cope at this time. Just like countless other online blogs on how to deal with the loss of a loved one.
"While the experience of grief is profoundly personal, the bravery of those who have shared their own experiences has helped pull me through. Some who opened their hearts were my closest friends. Others were total strangers who have shared wisdom and advice publicly. So I am sharing what I have learned in the hope that it helps someone else. In the hope that there can be some meaning from this tragedy."
Her single Facebook post has already reached millions more than any of those bloggers can ever hope to. While I empathise with her and want to hug her like women all over the world, I sincerely hope men and women will not cite her as a role model on how to deal with grief as they did with her professional achievements. That would be unfair and I am sure that is not what Sheryl hoped to do when she posted this:
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