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In August 2013, I sat at
a table at BlogHer in Chicago with 12 other women while Sheryl Sandberg talked about
her career and how women might better succeed professionally by "leaning in." To say that Sandberg's message was
polarizing is a gigantic understatement. Half the table left the talk early to stand in line and buy her
book. The other half lingered at the
table debating the efficacy of Sandberg's philosophy and whether her wealth,
privilege, pedigree and caffeine addiction rendered her out of touch or
However, since her
husband's unexpected death last month, no one, and I mean, no one is
trash-talking her now. I haven't seen or heard a single disparaging
remark about her since her husband, Dave Goldberg, died unexpectedly last
month. Co-workers who stood by the
water cooler making bad puns about leaning in now speak with sincere compassion
about the road Sandberg is unexpectedly walking as a widow with two young
Sandberg was generous
enough to share her process with all of us yesterday at the close of her first 30 days of mourning or sheloshim, as the period is known in Judaism. In one of the most gut-wrenching, articulate and tender pieces I've ever read on Facebook—or anywhere else—Sandberg told
the world what Dave meant to her and what it means to grieve him, while also
trying to mother her grieving children.
Women who do not agree on a single thing agree on this: Sandberg's struggle deserves our respect, compassion and empathy.
No less than 50 women in
my Facebook feed have forwarded Sandberg's post. Women who do not agree on a single thing
agree on this: Sandberg's struggle deserves our respect, compassion and
The media can trump up
fictitious "Mommy Wars" all day long, but the example of Sheryl Sandberg makes
clear one thing: Mothers know when to step down from the debate and embrace
empathy for one among us who is suffering. Sure, she's number 8 on Forbes'
100 Most Powerful Women List, but we all know that power, money and prestige
don't matter when you're in the throes of grief.
I tried to find an
example of one of the most powerful men in the world sharing his thoughts and
feelings in the wake of a personal tragedy as Sandberg did. I couldn't find a single one.
In grief, as in
business, Sandberg is ahead of her time, offering something more than stoic
requests for privacy during a difficult time. She's offered us an example of how to grieve and how
we might eventually return to work after an unthinkable personal sorrow. We have her words for comfort and
We are lucky to have
her. And judging by my Facebook feed, we
all know it.