We’re not taught how to grieve

AS children, we’re taught so many things as we learn to navigate life: how to read and write, how to be kind and polite, how to treat people with respect and even how to strive towards success.

But we’re not taught how to cope when tragedy strikes.

It makes Sheryl Sandberg’s recent sharing all the more poignant.


Sheryl, for those who aren’t familiar, is one of the head honchos of Facebook, who gained notoriety for encouraging women to “lean in” to their careers. Last month her husband, Dave Goldberg, died in a tragic accident after falling off a treadmill.

It’s been a little over 30 days since he passed and Sheryl has posted an incredibly heartfelt, gut-wrenching note on her Facebook page, in which she talks about the devastating loss of her cherished husband.

“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’,” she writes.

“I would have never understood that prayer before losing Dave. Now I do.”

Before reading her post, I was feeling frustrating with my partner. We’d had a small disagreement over a silly, insignificant issue – something so inconsequential, it was right up there with ‘forgetting to take the bin out’.

Reading her note, then, was a real kick in the guts. It was a powerful reminder to be grateful.

Reading the thoughtful comments on Sheryl’s post also got me thinking. Grieving is one of those horrid situations we only learn to cope with ‘on the job’. It’s impossible to prepare for, really, and as a society (in our western society, at least), we are so terrified of facing loss and death that we pretend it doesn’t exist – until it happens, and it becomes unavoidable.

And then, life goes on. For Sheryl, that thought must be unimaginable right now. But somehow, life will go on. It has to, otherwise the world would simply stop turning with the weight of grief on its shoulders.

We don’t talk about grief, but we should. A friend once shared this with me, and I thought it might be helpful to reproduce it here, in the spirit of sharing and shining a light on dark places.

“We can be so afraid of emotional pain and grief that we push it away and do our best not to really feel it. But I was taught how to let emotional pain in, how to let it wash over me and just sit with it for a while,” she said.

“So now, when I hear something that causes me pain, I let it in. I take down my mental barriers down and resist the urge to rush past it. And I tell myself: This will pass. I will feel differently in 10 minutes, and in an hour, and tomorrow.

“The pain will come again and it will go again, and I will survive feeling it.”
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