Since the publication of "Lean In," Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has urged readers to see possibility while acknowledging the limitations of reality. In her new book, "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy," co-authored with psychologist Adam Grant, she reassesses life in the aftermath of the sudden death of her husband, Silicon Valley luminary Dave Goldberg, in 2015.
"Life," Sandberg writes in the introduction, "is never perfect."
In the book, Sandberg and Grant explore the many permutations of trauma, misfortune and grief, and the ways in which different individuals react to events that she describes as those that rob us "of the sense that life is controllable, predictable and meaningful."
A significant chapter in "Option B" is devoted to exploring "post-traumatic growth" — situations in which individuals experience positive changes after trauma — and how Sandberg found renewed professional purpose in reflecting on her husband's life. She writes:
Many of these [trauma victims] experienced ongoing anxiety and depression. Still, along with these negative emotions there were some positive changes. Up to that point, psychologists had focused mostly on two possible outcomes of trauma. Some people struggled: They developed PTSD, faced debilitating depression and anxiety or had difficulty functioning. Others were resilient: They bounced back to their state before the trauma.
Now there was a third possibility: People who suffered could bounce forward.
Sandberg acknowledges that when Grant presented this possibility to her, four months after her husband's death, it sounded "too catch-phrasey" to be real.
But according to Grant, growth is actually a common reaction: "More than half the people who experience a traumatic event report at least one positive change, compared to the less than 15 percent who develop PTSD."
And Sandberg herself did, she says, bounce forward. Though much of "Option B" explores the challenges of helping her children grieve even as she herself was mourning, Sandberg also says that after her husband's death, she found solace in advancing the mission of Facebook as a tool for helping people connect.
She cites the example of friends who used the platform to share stories after a loved one's death they had found too overwhelming to tell at a memorial service.