Adjusting to the new normal, Sheryl Sandberg shared a heartfelt post today:
I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me.
Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. 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.
Survival mode. One day at a time. Most surviving spouses refer to this as the “numb phase”. Some can’t remember entire weeks or months during this time. Or, paramount to sadness can often be the very real feeling of suffocating, so powerful overwhelmed with the day to day challenges of living.
I have learned how ephemeral everything can feel—and maybe everything is. That whatever rug you are standing on can be pulled right out from under you with absolutely no warning. In the last thirty days, I have heard from too many women who lost a spouse and then had multiple rugs pulled out from under them. Some lack support networks and struggle alone as they face emotional distress and financial insecurity. It seems so wrong to me that we abandon these women and their families when they are in greatest need.
Most families are dual income, the death of a spouse means the surviving parent inherits double the financial responsibilities, the household maintenance, the carpool, the parental duties – all the while navigating their own grief.
I have learned to ask for help—and I have learned how much help I need.
We hope you, and anyone parenting a child or teen whose mother or father has died, will enroll in the Tradition Program. It isn’t therapy but it IS therapeutic based on clinically identified needs for healthy bereavement. Read more about the Tradition Program HERE.
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.”
Thank you, Sheryl, for sharing this. You are changing the social norms around grief. Honoring the past. Celebrating the present. Building the future. That’s what happens when you #GiveGriefWords #NoShame
On behalf of all the children and teens whose mother or father has died, thank you, Family Lives On Foundation.
PAY IT FORWARD – DONATE! Family Lives On Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization entirely funded through charitable donations. Our services are provided at no cost to the families. If you would like to help support the grieving children and families we serve, please donate here.