Sheryl Sandberg, Who Lost Her Beloved Husband Two Years Ago, Offers Tips for Coping with Grief

In a new interview with PEOPLE, Sheryl Sandberg opens up about her struggle to rebuild her life after the loss of her husband, Survey­Monkey CEO Dave Goldberg

Photo: Facebook

It’s been nearly two years since Sheryl Sandberg‘s husband died suddenly of a cardiac arrhythmia while the two were on vacation in Mexico with friends. The Facebook COO is still deeply shaken, but she’s back on her feet — and eager to help others through their grief with her new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

In a new interview for this week’s issue of PEOPLE, Sandberg opens up about how she’s coped — and what she’s learned — since losing her husband, Survey­Monkey CEO Dave Goldberg, at 47.

The Lean In author says sharing her experiences has been a big part of the healing process for her.

“I wrote Option B because I want other people to know it can get better, and I want to help people make it better,” Sandberg, 47, tells PEOPLE of the book she wrote with psychologist Adam Grant. “When I first lost Dave, I felt like I would never be okay again.”

“That feeling of not being able to breathe is not forever,” she adds. “I want people to know that.”

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Paola Kudacki

Here are five tips for coping with grief from Sandberg’s new book and interview with PEOPLE:

1. Don’t fall prey to the three P’s

In her book, Sandberg references the work of psychologist Martin Seligman, “who found that three P’s can stunt recovery:

  • 1. personalization — the belief that we are at fault
  • 2. pervasiveness — the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life
  • 3. performance — the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever.”

“I’d fallen into these three traps myself,” Sandberg writes, recalling how she “immediately blamed myself for Dave’s death” and struggled with her belief that “the debilitating anguish would always be there.”

Ultimately, she writes, “I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface and breathe again.”

Source: Sheryl Sandberg/Facebook

2. Kick the elephant out of the room

Sandberg writes that the loneliness she felt after the loss of her husband was compounded by some interactions with friends and coworkers, who, not knowing exactly how to support her, either said nothing or said things that made her feel more isolated.

That began to change when, 30 days after her husband’s death, she wrote a candid Facebook post about what she was going through. The post helped people feel more comfortable approaching her.

And when they asked “How are you?,” she writes, “I started responding more frankly. ‘I’m not fine, and it’s nice to be able to be honest with you about that.’ ”

“I finally figured out that since the elephant was following me around, I could take the first step in acknowledging its existence. At work, I told my closest colleagues that they could ask me questions — any questions — and they could talk about how they felt too.”

3. Get your feelings out through journaling

“Turning feelings into words can help us process and overcome adversity,” Sandberg writes, noting that more than 100 experiments have documented the therapeutic effects of journaling.

Sandberg says journaling played a key role in her own recovery: it helped her work through her feelings, make peace with the past, and rebuild her self-confidence.

RELATED VIDEO: Sheryl Sandberg Says ‘Lean In Circle’ Helped Her After Husband’s Death

4. Take back joy — and if you’ve lost a spouse, that means, don’t feel guilty about dating again

Sandberg devotes a chapter to “Taking Back Joy,” which for her means embracing things that remind her of Goldberg, but also giving herself permission to laugh and to find someone new with whom to share her life.

With encouragement from her in-laws, Sandberg began dating again and now has a boyfriend, Bobby Kotick, who runs the gaming company Activision Blizzard.

“One of the things that happens when you lose a spouse is people judge [you for dating again],” she tells PEOPLE, noting that women are judged much more harshly for this than men are. “And that judgement is so unfair.”

“I never wanted to date again — I’d found the person I wanted to spend my life with. But I don’t have that option and I’m really lucky because I was able to find someone who has brought me a lot of joy and a lot of laughter.”

5. ‘Lean in — to the suck’

Sandberg says her rabbi gave her this valuable piece of advice.

“If you’re facing loss or adversity, the first thing [you have to do is] lean in to the suck. This is gonna suck,” she tells PEOPLE of her rabbi’s counsel.

“It gave me the understanding that, this is going to be terrible, and I stopped fighting the terrible moments because I knew they would happen. And when I stopped fighting them — ‘Oh my God, I’m heartbroken, and I’m upset that I’m heartbroken’ — they actually passed more quickly.”

You have to “respect your feelings,” she says.

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