"Today is the end of sheloshim for my beloved husband..."
June 3, 2015 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Sheryl Sandberg reflects on the sudden, tragic death of her husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, thirty days ago.

"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."

Other messages Sheryl has chosen to share: 1, 2, 3, 4. More remembrances from Goldberg's friends Kara Swisher and Adam Lashinsky.
posted by New Year (41 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of my biggest fears, if not THE biggest, is potentially losing my husband, so I feel for her.
posted by Kitteh at 12:08 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I remember reading about this about a month ago.

I remember thinking of Sandberg's wealth and connections...and then thinking that I bet she would trade her life for mine if it meant her husband would still be alive.

And I genuinely felt sorry. I know her life has a different standard than mine has, but she has felt pain that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

My condolences to the entire family.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:20 PM on June 3, 2015 [27 favorites]


This is absolutely my worst fear.

I know "Lean In" faced a lot of criticism but it really spoke to me because it was totally applicable to my personal/work situation, and I wound up following her on Facebook and paying attention whenever she was in the news. I felt far more sad for her than I would have expected. My heart goes out to her and her family.
posted by skycrashesdown at 12:31 PM on June 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


How did he die?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:57 PM on June 3, 2015


some of the attention this tragedy has gotten has been grotesque. i'm glad she's publicly rising above it. that was a beautiful and wrenching piece of writing. thank you for posting it here.
posted by nadawi at 12:58 PM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


He fell off of a treadmill and hit his head. It was basically just a freak accident.

I'm not really a Sheryl Sandberg kind of a feminist, but the whole thing is kind of a reminder that all the privilege in the world won't necessarily shield one from the freakish cruelties of life, and that's probably not a bad reminder.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:59 PM on June 3, 2015 [22 favorites]


speculating about his death is one of the things that was at the center of the extreme grossness foisted at sandberg so i hope we keep that part to a minimum in here.
posted by nadawi at 1:05 PM on June 3, 2015 [17 favorites]


I disagree with Sandberg on many things, but when Dave Goldberg died there seemed to be a lot of "hurf durf that's what you get for leaning in" assholery that kind of implied that his death was some kind of karmic retribution for her focusing on her career, somehow? Really vile stuff. No one deserves to lose a loved one.

I wish her peace and strength. I can't imagine the heartbreak, or the difficulty of grieving in the spotlight.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:18 PM on June 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


This is so much my worst fear that I can't seriously think about it without bawling. I can't imagine it happening, and I can't imagine being able to go on - all I can imagine is being a melted pool of snot and tears on the floor that eventually wastes away into nothing, because "nothing" is how I feel like my life would be without my husband.

I had the pleasure of hearing Kazuo Ishiguro speak some time ago, and when he was talking about themes in his books he said something something that just struck at my heart and latched on. To paraphrase, he talked about the idea that when we truly love someone there's a secret hope/belief our love is so powerful and true somehow we will cheat death. That our love must be powerful enough that we will never be separated from our loved ones because how could that happen? I can't articulate it as well as he did, of course, but he talked about dealing with that kind of separation as part of grief because prior to the moment it does occur loved ones are so positive that it cannot happen.

When I heard about Sandberg and her husband's death I flashed on that, and what she must be dealing with. I admit I'd normally be curious about how in a few years time she addresses being a single mother in the context of her previous writing, especially because I too am not that "kind of feminist" but I find that curiosity repellent - grotesque is a good word, nadawi. She's dealing with the most shocking kind of grief, and has to do it as a mother, too - she can't melt into a puddle of snot and tears on the floor no matter how much she may want to, and goddamn, I can't imagine that either, let alone doing it as a semi-public figure. I wish strength to her and her family at this impossible time, but I also stand in awe of her ability to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone write something as poignant and honest as that update.

As for the rest of us, I just think of A.A. Milne: “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”
posted by barchan at 1:19 PM on June 3, 2015 [36 favorites]


“We made the decision on this particular thing, that we are going to be home with our kids. I am at home with my kids from 6 to 8,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 2013. “But we’re working at night. You’ll get plenty of emails from me post-8 p.m. when my kids go to bed.” (emphasis mine)

This made me kind of happy to read. He was a father to his children. I've been waffling about moving along in my career; the next step for me is probably going to be management, and that'll potentially mean more hours away from my kids. And yet here's a guy who made it a priority. Okay, message received.
posted by disconnect at 1:28 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


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.”
Dave, to honor your memory and raise your children as they deserve to be raised, I promise to do all I can to kick the shit out of option B. And even though sheloshim has ended, I still mourn for option A. I will always mourn for option A. As Bono sang, “There is no end to grief . . . and there is no end to love.” I love you, Dave.
I... damn.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:35 PM on June 3, 2015 [29 favorites]


I feel so terrible for her.
posted by rtha at 1:42 PM on June 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


To paraphrase, he talked about the idea that when we truly love someone there's a secret hope/belief our love is so powerful and true somehow we will cheat death. That our love must be powerful enough that we will never be separated from our loved ones because how could that happen?

Yeah, that nails it. I suffer from anxiety and depression in my everyday life, so I expend a lot of energy not thinking about what would happen if my husband died.
posted by Kitteh at 1:52 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I did not read Sandberg's book and I honestly don't know much about her. I appreciate her perspectives though on losing a loved one.

I thought my husband would be dead by now. I am truly living in bonus rounds with him and while he is extremely well at this moment, I know that could change very, very quickly. I have been processing his death for 23 years. I feel sort of lucky. I feel like even if he dies suddenly in a motorcycle accident, I will have had so much more time with him than I thought. Don't get me wrong, I'll still be grief-stricken and angry and wish he was still here, but I've had a very long time to ruminate on being a widow.
posted by Sophie1 at 2:06 PM on June 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 2:18 PM on June 3, 2015


“We made the decision on this particular thing, that we are going to be home with our kids. I am at home with my kids from 6 to 8,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 2013. “But we’re working at night. You’ll get plenty of emails from me post-8 p.m. when my kids go to bed.” (emphasis mine)

This made me kind of happy to read.


Man, that struck me as really sad that the guy seemingly felt he had rush to assure people he's "working at night." Just emblematic of something really pernicious.
posted by jayder at 2:19 PM on June 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


You know, every time I read someone's reflections around the time of the death of a loved one, they always include a resolve to appreciate the moment with their remaining friends & family, and I am reminded of that truism "The purpose of death is to make life important."

When we really, truly, get it that nothing lasts, then we stop procrastinating and start living. We stop putting off the important stuff, like watching our kids' Little League games, in favor of the stuff that ultimately won't matter to us, like meeting an unreasonable work deadline. We say "I love you." We hug our mom before someone whose mom just died tells us to. We live now, rather than thinking that life begins at some later time, on vacation, maybe, or after retirement.

There is book after book written on this same topic. The Buddha taught about it. The TV series Six Feet Under illustrates it. And yet it is up to each of us individually to get that teaching in whatever way we can.

Let's all try to remember to live fully so that we have no regrets for anything left unsaid or undone at the end of our lives.
posted by janey47 at 2:19 PM on June 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


I wonder what Facebook's PTO policy for bereavement is, and if it will change after this.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:22 PM on June 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


What a beautifully written, breathtakingly painful piece of writing. Thanks for sharing it, New Year.

It's times like these that make me overwhelmingly grateful for being incapable of feeling such a profound sort of love and devotion -- its sudden departure inspires the kind of grief that makes you feel like the world has to stop turning on its axis, even for just a minute, to register your loss... and yet.
posted by divined by radio at 2:23 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


זיכרונו לברכה

May his memory be for a blessing.

Beautiful, heartfelt, and deeply moving. Thank you very much for sharing this, New Year.

.
posted by zarq at 2:44 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


[A couple comments removed, let's give aggregating cause-of-death theories a pass.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:44 PM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


This was very hard to read. Beautiful, important, but so damn hard.
posted by palomar at 2:52 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


This was hard for me to read. Today would have been my 26th wedding anniversary, except my wife died of cancer 6.5 years ago (I've mentioned this on MeFi a few times).

Everything Sheryl Sandburg wrote matched my experience: the most well-meaning friends inadvertently said the exact worst things at the exact worst times (although I always gave them slack, because at least they said something - most people didn't say anything at all); the simplest social functions were initially unbearable; the first birthday, or Christmas or anniversary ARE depressing as hell. You are indeed lost in a void - indeed part of a club you didn't want to join.

But then something slowly, imperceptibly happens. The old adage that "things get better with time" turns out to be true (although you don't believe it at the time). Eventually the gravitational pull that makes it impossible to get out of bed in the morning lessens, the kids need you for something - they always need you because they can't turn off their lives and now you're both mom and dad; all the quotidian stuff that your wife used to do you eventually figure out how to do yourself. You do indeed equilibrate to a new normal.

Every once in a while something pops up out of the blue and it just kills you inside, but mostly terror is replaced by pain which is replaced by wistfulness. I'm now longer angry that she's gone but grateful that she was ever here and I do think that the new normal can be as good as the old.

Lets kick the shit out of option B. Hell and Yes!

BTW: Nina, happy anniversary. You'll always be that 18-yo girl who said yes when, scared shitless, I asked you out.
posted by codex99 at 2:59 PM on June 3, 2015 [105 favorites]



Two of my cousins lost their husbands suddenly and early--one in her twenties with a 2 year old child, the other in her 30's with two tweens. Their grief was staggering. It was a physical presence for an unbearably long time. That presence of grief was particularly obvious compared to the sorrow of my aunts and uncles who lost spouses in their 60s.

It's amazing and it's almost cruel how our minds and bodies somehow keep us going.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:16 PM on June 3, 2015


This was beautiful, but this statement bothers me:
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.
Three weeks before my eleventh birthday, my older brother and his best friend were killed in a car accident. I have carried that grief for 33 years now. Thankfully the moments of abject despair became much less frequent over time, even if the sadness never dissipated.

The biggest lesson I have learned as a person with grief is that the sadness doesn't go away, but it also doesn't preclude joy. It's like background noise. Sometimes it gets your attention, but even when it doesn't have your attention it's still there. But that doesn't mean you can't feel pure joy. At least in my case it didn't. I hope her grief isn't that debilitating.
posted by fedward at 3:21 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


A childhood friend of mine who is now a rabbi recently told me that the most powerful one-line prayer he has ever read is: “Let me not die while I am still alive.”

Wow.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:38 PM on June 3, 2015 [19 favorites]


But that doesn't mean you can't feel pure joy. At least in my case it didn't. I hope her grief isn't that debilitating.

What she said resonated with me, thinking back on the early stages of grief after my mom died (I was 24, she was 47 and died very suddenly from a pulmonary embolism). It's not very comforting to hear time will heal all and you can feel joy again; it made me intensely sad to be reassured there would be a time the pain would be gone. That sounded horrible because it felt like forgetting her, dishonoring her place in my life and the huge hole her absence left. The grief was unspeakable but imagining it gone was also terrible. If that makes any sense.
posted by JenMarie at 3:39 PM on June 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


It does make sense. I think for me the difference is between unending and debilitating. I'm always going to have that sadness with me, and I'd never tell anybody otherwise. Things will always be different than they were. But they don't always have to be worse, even if they are different.

But this isn't me saying "grieving: you're doing it wrong," and I hope my thoughts aren't coming out that way. I just deeply dispute, philosophically, the idea that one could never feel true joy again after such a loss.
posted by fedward at 4:00 PM on June 3, 2015


But this isn't me saying "grieving: you're doing it wrong," and I hope my thoughts aren't coming out that way. I just deeply dispute, philosophically, the idea that one could never feel true joy again after such a loss.

Why is it necessary to nitpick for accuracy someone's statement of how their grief feels to them?
posted by jayder at 4:46 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


fedward: you've said a few things that I wanted to say but couldn't articulate. To me, however, it's not background noise but now more like background music - a new soundtrack to my life. Life, indeed, can be better. Different, to be sure, but better.

JenMarie: what you said makes, at least to me, perfect sense. But where are you now? Does it still feel this way?
posted by codex99 at 5:07 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


it made me intensely sad to be reassured there would be a time the pain would be gone. That sounded horrible because it felt like forgetting her, dishonoring her place in my life and the huge hole her absence left.

I felt like this too. My dad passed away six years ago, and I hate that I don't feel his absence more keenly, that I can go days without thinking of him. I love him and he deserves to be missed, and feeling "normal" seems like such a discredit to his memory and to his influence in my life. I've gone through some major changes in those six years, mostly for the better, and it feels strange to have so little overlap between Present Me and Me With Dad. In the early months it felt like I was on a train, being taken further and further away from the time I had with him, against my will, and I hated it. I still feel that way.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:33 PM on June 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


As for the rest of us, I just think of A.A. Milne: “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

Maybe it's because I'm not married, but wouldn't our loved ones want us to live as long as we can, as much as we can, as hard as we can?

I know if I passed away, that's what I would wish for all my family and friends.
posted by FJT at 5:35 PM on June 3, 2015


Why is it necessary to nitpick for accuracy someone's statement of how their grief feels to them?
It's not nitpicking to "hope her grief isn't that debilitating." I had the same reaction - she has kids, and I hope that, if nothing else, she can reach a point where her joy in them is pure again. That's sympathy and hope, not nitpicking, and it comes from surviving terrible grief and understanding the feeling that joy will never be untainted.
posted by gingerest at 6:21 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Marjorie Williams:

I learned that a woman with children has the privilege or duty of bypassing the existential. What you do, if you have little kids, is lead as normal a life as possible, only with more pancakes.
posted by bq at 6:47 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Two of the most powerful people in the world - Joe Biden and Sheryl Sandberg - and yet would anyone trade places with them?

(Of course she thinks she will never feel pure, untainted joy again. I've had that thought after bad breakups; she lost her beloved husband a mere 30 days ago, out of the blue and at a young age.)
posted by sallybrown at 6:57 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


(this comment thread is the reason I visit mefi every day.)
posted by not_the_water at 8:19 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's dark, but one of the things that comforts me when I'm facing the terrifying prospect of my wife dying before me is that statistically, it's more likely I go first. I'd rather die first.
posted by klangklangston at 8:21 PM on June 3, 2015


I just deeply dispute, philosophically, the idea that one could never feel true joy again after such a loss.

True joy - yes. Pure joy - maybe not. I think I understand what she means. Maybe in some ways a joy that has, somewhere at the back of it, the underlying sadness of losses past, and the now sure knowledge of losses yet to come, is a truer joy than the pure, unadulterated joy of what you might feel before a major loss.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:47 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been seeing this making the rounds and putting off reading it. I'm emotionally fragile for unrelated reasons right now, and while this damn near undid me, I'm glad I finally read it. It's moving, honest, and raw, and I wish her and her children peace, strength, and joy.
posted by Ragini at 10:55 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


JenMarie: what you said makes, at least to me, perfect sense. But where are you now? Does it still feel this way?
posted by codex99 at 5:07 PM on June 3 [1 favorite +] [!]


It's been 16 years since my mom passed, and yes it's true (for me anyway), time does help a lot and the pain isn't as constant or acute. It's still there, for sure, but the edges have dulled and I think I've just gotten used to it always being a part of me. The lessening of the pain that sounded so awful to me has happened and I accept it and don't feel bad about it because I know it doesn't mean I loved her any less or her presence in my life was any less important. Also I can still be unexpectedly brought to tears over some small memory or comment, I don't think that will go away.

But I've gotten married, had a child, had lots of life events with family and friends and definitely feel a lot of joy as well. Those things are tinged with sadness and I often think I wish my mom were here (especially with having my own child now), but not in a way that overwhelms the sense of happiness I have with certain things in my life.

I do make sure to talk about her often, with family and friends (not obsessively, but just incorporate her naturally into conversation), because the saddest thing to me is people who have lost loved ones but can't bear to speak about them. Grief counseling helped a lot, as did having really great family and friends.

So that's where I'm at. Losing a parent, of course, is a lot different than losing your life partner. My heart really goes out to her (and her kids).
posted by JenMarie at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2015


I just deeply dispute, philosophically, the idea that one could never feel true joy again after such a loss.

After a loss like this, every joyous occasion will bring with it the reminder that you are unable to share it with the one you loved & lost. I think what she means by no longer feeling “true joy” is that her future joy will always be tempered by that touch of sadness.
posted by pharm at 2:22 AM on June 5, 2015


« Older Do you really need those danceable cables?   |   How To Make Apocalyptic Eye Candy Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments