Sheryl Sandberg Reflects on Finding Love Again After Loss of Husband in Sweet Tribute to Fiancé
"When I shook your hand for the first time, I had no clue that you would be the one to change my life," Sheryl Sandberg wrote to fiancé Tom Bernthal
Published Thursday by Good Housekeeping, the letter began by acknowledging "one of the most transformative and fastest-flying years" of Sandberg's life — namely, the time since she and Bernthal got engaged one year ago.
"When Dave died, I could barely imagine dating again, much less getting married," wrote the Facebook COO, 51. "I distinctly remember tucking the kids into bed and sitting by myself at the kitchen table where Dave and I once played countless games of Scrabble together. I'd picture myself at that table, alone, for the rest of my life."
"It was a sad and frankly scary thought, but I knew it could end up being my fate," Sandberg continued. "And if it were, I'd count my many blessings and savor all the joy life sent my way — but I'd always be at least a little bit brokenhearted about continuing this journey alone."
However, her late husband's brother, Rob, "had a different idea" for the tech mogul. As Sandberg recalled, "He just knew I had to meet you, his 'good friend Tom.' When I shook your hand for the first time, I had no clue that you would be the one to change my life."
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
Sandberg went on to detail the duo's "first real date," during which she had an epiphany about their connection, writing, "I'd soon come to discover in much bigger ways your remarkable generosity and warmth as a partner and parent."
"Apart from how funny, calming and insightful you are, I love how involved you are in our kids' lives," she added. "You're excited to pick your son and daughters up from school. You're great at making parenting compromises (my son and daughter have you to thank for the less-strict bedtimes!). You're ready to play Settlers of Catan for hours with the kids because, to you, it's all about bringing everybody closer together."
The mother of two admitted in her letter that she was "so tired before" Bernthal came along: "Tired of my chest pulling every time my little girl or boy would say 'Dad and me.' Tired of making big parenting decisions alone. Tired of wondering if I'd ever find lifelong love again."
"But together, we have found a new path forward, one filled with so much gratitude and optimism," Sandberg said. "In that spirit, thank you for helping me refocus my energy on what's important and more fully appreciate all of life's gifts — every sweet text, every birthday party celebration and, yep, all 8,000 of those Settlers of Catan games."
RELATED VIDEO: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Opens up About Loss, Grief and Recovery in Her New Book, Option B
The Option B author admitted that "Option A was taken off the table" when she lost her husband and Bernthal went through a divorce, noting that "Every Father's Day will be a little bittersweet in our house."
"But now, also filled with the happiness you've brought to my kids' lives," Sandberg said. "And there will likely always be grief in my heart for Dave. But you know that, and you understand and respect it, which makes me love you even more."
"Thanks to" Bernthal, she added, "I have come to discover that Option B can also be filled with profound happiness."
"There is so much joy to squeeze out of this new game plan," Sandberg told him. "Thank you for helping me choose to see it."