Jennifer Leahy for Facebook
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May 14, 2016 03:10 PM

More than a year after her husband’s death, Sheryl Sandberg‘s grief has turned into gratitude.

While delivering the 2016 commencement address at University of California, Berkeley, the Facebook COO and Lean In author spoke candidly about the moments she found her husband, Dave Goldberg, dead and the sadness that has lived with her since.

“His death was sudden and unexpected. We were at a friend’s fiftieth birthday party in Mexico. I took a nap. Dave went to work out,” she recalled to the crowd of then graduates-to-be. “What followed was the unthinkable – walking into a gym to find him lying on the floor. Flying home to tell my children that their father was gone. Watching his casket being lowered into the ground.”

Goldberg, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur and CEO of SurveyMonkey, died on May 1, 2015, in Punta Mita, Mexico, at the age of 47.

Sandberg has spoken out about the grief of losing her husband several times on social media, but now, the author is detailing another side of the tragedy: lessons. Lessons she’s learned in strength, resilience and gratitude.”

“Dave’s death changed me in very profound ways. I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss. But I also learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface and breathe again,” she said.

“I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that today, as you take the next step in your life, you can learn the lessons that I only learned in death. Lessons about hope, strength, and the light within us that will not be extinguished.”

The mom of two recalled the days just before the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death.

“I broke down crying to a friend of mine. We were sitting – of all places – on a bathroom floor. I said, ‘Eleven days. One year ago, he had eleven days left. And we had no idea,’ ” Sandberg said. “We looked at each other through tears, and asked how we would live if we knew we had eleven days left.”

She said that her husband’s death helped her to greater appreciate the good things in her life – “My children and I were healthy. My friends and family were so loving and they carried us.”

And she encouraged the Berkeley graduates to do the same.

“It is the greatest irony of my life that losing my husband helped me find deeper gratitude – gratitude for the kindness of my friends, the love of my family, the laughter of my children,” she said.

“My hope for you is that you can find that gratitude – not just on the good days, like today, but on the hard ones, when you will really need it.”

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