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Sheryl Sandberg leans into her next book, ‘Option B,’ about grieving and healing

The death of her beloved husband spurred the deeply personal project, co-authored with Adam Grant.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has almost completed a new book, which will focus on healing from adversity and coping with those difficult circumstances.

Tentatively titled "Option B," a reference to a piece of advice she was given by a close friend after the untimely death of her husband David Goldberg, it has been co-written with well-known Wharton professor and author Adam Grant. The book includes research gathered by Grant, woven in with personal stories of all kinds of loss, including Sandberg’s own.

Sandberg and Grant — whose own book "Originals" about nonconformists has been a top seller — now plan to shop the tome to publishers, although typically books are sold under contract before they are written.

It is also notable that "Option B" will not be a follow-up to the bestselling book about women in the workplace, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," which Sandberg co-authored with Nell Scovell and was published by Knopf. Scovell has edited the new book.

After "Lean In" was published in 2013, it vaulted the high-profile Silicon Valley tech exec to even greater fame and engendered a national and international debate on the topic of women’s leadership. Sources said the book has sold about 2.75 million copies and spurred a nonprofit organization and online community, called Lean In Circles, which is why some (me too!) had expected a sequel of some sort. (As with the last, Sandberg plans to give all her proceeds from the new book to the Lean In org.)

Instead, Sandberg will use her platform to tackle grief and the healing process and how to find meaning after tragedy, from death to economic hardship to job loss. These are hard times in life that many shy away from discussing, preferring to suffer alone, according to experts.

"Sheryl is taking a topic too often considered taboo and bringing it to the forefront of public discourse — giving a voice to the millions of people who suffer silently each year," said Jim Santucci, executive director of Kara, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit focused on grief support and crisis intervention that helped Sandberg, in a statement. "Something we hear all the time in our support groups is ‘people don’t know what to say to me.' Starting an open conversation about grief will help all of us be better equipped to support the people in their lives."

Sandberg has certainly not been quiet about expressing her own grief and discussing its impact on her and her family in deeply emotional ways on Facebook and also in a very moving speech she recently gave at Berkeley. In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently wrote a piece casting Sandberg’s openness in discussing her struggles as unusual.

I’d call it healthy and quite typical for the energetic and solution-seeking Sandberg, as well as a breath of cogent air in the sometimes always-sunny, I’m-all-right tone of Silicon Valley. (And, I can attest, the very wonderful Goldberg would have approved too.)

Only days after Goldberg died suddenly of a heart condition on a trip to Mexico, she posted on Facebook an honest and bracing account of her new reality.

"Even in these last few days of completely unexpected hell — the darkest and saddest moments of my life — I know how lucky I have been," she wrote. "If the day I walked down that aisle with Dave someone had told me that this would happen — that he would be taken from us all in just 11 years — I would still have walked down that aisle."

Sandberg also penned a piece after Sheloshim, a secondary 30-day period in Judaism after the intense seven-day mourning time known as shiva.

In it, she referenced an encounter with close family friend Phil Deutch. "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.’"

Hence the book title that also became a series of posters around Facebook, which is well known for sprinkling its corporate campus with such sayings including "Move Fast and Break Things."

She also wrote about her grief counseling at Kara on Thanksgiving: "On this day of thanks, I hope that everyone out there can find something worthy of gratitude. Loss and recovery are an inevitable part of being human, and I realize more and more that these experiences which take so much from us also give us the ability to be grateful on a deeper level."

And on Mother’s Day she even wrote about things she had gotten wrong in "Lean In": "In ‘Lean In,’ I emphasized how critical a loving and supportive partner can be for women both professionally and personally — and how important Dave was to my career and to our children’s development. I still believe this. Some people felt that I did not spend enough time writing about the difficulties women face when they have an unsupportive partner or no partner at all. They were right."

But her most potent discussion of grief and resilience was at a Berkeley graduation speech earlier this summer, where Sandberg teared up discussing her journey and which you can watch below.

It’s probably not a surprise that Sandberg has taken up this potent issue to try to find a path to recovery and glean meaning and wisdom from the very worst things that can happen to a person.

She’d know, for sure.

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