One of My Grief Writing Inspirations

untitledI cannot say enough how inspiring Sheryl Sandberg is personally and professionally as a woman teaching other women to Lean In. In May 2015 Dave Goldberg, then CEO of tech company SurveyMonkey, husband of top Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and father of their two children, passed away unexpectedly while on vacation in Mexico. The way that she has been very open about her grief and teaching empathy in the midst of her own pain has amazed me. Sheryl has shown me that it’s ok to address the elephant. That although the standard time for mourning is over that we have to continue to learn how to live life differently.

Following the end of the 30-day religious mourning period in Judaism known as sheloshim, Sheryl Sandberg posted a note on Facebook, reflecting on her grief and her learnings.

Here are a few of the thoughts she shared publically on her Facebook page which has since gone viral:

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“Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not.” Sandberg says she finally understood that telling people facing challenges that “everything will be okay” is not actually helpful. Sometimes, acknowledging what is happening — the pain — is what people truly need.

“Let’s all move out of the way. Someone’s parent or partner or child might depend on it.” Sandberg was referring to the cars on the road while the ambulance drove her husband to the hospital, but the call for less selfishness can be universally applied.

“I have learned that resilience can be learned.” A friend of Sandberg’s told her about the three elements to resilience: personalization (it’s not your fault), permanence (these feelings won’t last forever), and pervasiveness (this doesn’t have to affect every area of your life).

“One of my favorite cartoons of all time has an elephant in a room answering the phone, saying, ‘It’s the elephant.’ Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room.” Sandberg realized that people close to her, especially at work, were terrified of saying anything that could hurt her, and the only solution was for everyone to openly ask questions and share their feelings. Addressing that elephant in the room is the only way to move forward.

“Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.” These wise words came from a friend of Sandberg’s, about acceptance — and making the best of the situation. Goldberg might not be there for their children anymore, but she can commit to making the best from the alternative.

Never EVER ask a woman this question!

PSA of what you should never ask of a woman!

Don’t ever ask!I just want everyone to hear in case no one else had given you the education there are a few questions which you should never ever ask a woman!My least favorite included:

  • “How many months are you?”
  • “You haven’t had that baby yet?”
  • “Are you having twins?”
  • “Are you pregnant?”

I’m here’s to give a PSA to anyone who will listen. Don’t ever ask any question of a woman related to this? Chances are you aren’t funny or original. It is as if a woman should only be remarked on for her ability to bear children and it seems like oftentimes our other accomplishments and accolades never get this same attention. 

The worst of these comes when you ask it and the woman isn’t pregnant! It is insulting for the woman who now feels fat and the asker feel embarrassed! 

For me it’s an even worse reminder that I no longer have Logan with me all the time. That I wish I could go back and still have Logan with me everywhere. It’s a reminder that I have no newborn at home and therefore no excuse of not going to the gym. Reminder of how I have made decisions neglecting my body in favor of my grief. 

I’m sure that this PSA won’t reach everyone and I’ll be asked it again. I’m trying to think of a better response than “I’M NOT PREGNANT!!!!” Until then I’m just going to hope some other mama’s will pass the word on to keep your questions to yourself!

No Ruler to Measure Grief

So many people who have contacted me since I started writing with their own stories. These are stories of old wounds, vulnerability and reopened scars and the memories that haunt us at night. They usually start with a disclaimer “it doesn’t compare to what has happened to you” or “I wasn’t as far as you were.”

These disclaimers make me think that at some point our society decided that we need to rank measures of loss. That for some reason some hurt was worth more than another hurt. We try to minimize our hurt and be a martyr. I’ve learned that to rank a loss is just cruel. The worst thing that could happen did and that’s all that matters. The weight of your loss is not transferrable and not measurable. If it’s heavy for you it should be acknowledged and that’s really all that matters.

I want to thank the many people who have opened up and shared stories of their scars. They are all special and unique and part of what bind us together. We all have struggles and are all trying to persevere.

There is enough suffering to go around and it can be overwhelming. We don’t need to put comparisons or disclaimers on our emotions.

Some of best advice in those darkest first months was to try to talk to myself like I was talking to my best friend. She let me acknowledge I was in the trenches and to remind myself to be kind while I was trying to fight a war with myself.

If your waiting for a permission slip to feel complicated things all at once here it goes. Remember your allowed to be happy about good things while your sad about good things. Your allowed to be proud of every mountain you have climbed. You are not obligated to justify your feelings. Especially feelings of grief. You are not obligated to minimize your loss.

We are all here to bear witness to one another. To lend a hand when we see someone slipping. I hope that you know this is not a competition of who has it worse. No one really wants to win that competition.

Remember to be to yourself. To talk to yourself as if you were your own best friend and not the guilt tripping enemy you maybe listening to in your head. I’ve found that grief is a complication of emotions of sadness mixed with happy mixed with another sadness about feeling happy. Remember your not crazy, it’s just grief. And anyone who thinks grief is a smooth transition of checkmarks is probably living in some crazy sub-universe!

Why I Write 

If we haven’t already met, hi I’m Sara! I’m writing this blog for my son Logan. His time in this world was a brief 14 1/2 hours, but so much love was shared during his short time here. I write to families who have experienced grief, and to those who support them on their journeys.

I write about what has brought me joy and what I wish others would understand about the complexities in my mind as I navigate new normal. Ideally, I’m writing in this public manner because I was tired of whining in my journal about wishing more people would understand my thoughts after. I want people to not walk on egg shells around me. I want people to know what has helped and what still hurts. Some of my writings are for me to get the day off my chest. While others come after I think now I have the perfect thing I wish I would’ve said at the time. There are many times where it’s easier to write it down and send it into cyberspace than to try to think of the right words in the moment.

I hope that you feel free to share any of my writings if they are helpful to you. I want to thank each of you for taking the time to read any of my posts and getting to know me and my family.

Sara

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