Sheryl Sandberg's journey to finding love again with fiancé Tom Bernthal came with plenty of support from her family

By Rachel DeSantis and Charlotte Triggs
February 03, 2020 02:43 PM
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Sheryl Sandberg has had strong support from her family while finding love again after her husband’s tragic death.

The Facebook COO — who got engaged to boyfriend Tom Bernthal on Saturday, PEOPLE exclusively reported — was devastated following the May 2015 death of Dave Goldberg, her husband of 11 years with whom she had two children.

But it was a reminder from her mother-in-law in the difficult months afterward that opened her eyes to the possibility of opening her heart to someone new.

“As Sheryl wrote in [her 2017 book] Option B, my mother, who just buried her son a couple months before, came to Sheryl and said, ‘You’re going to get remarried, and I’m going to dance at your wedding,’” Rob Goldberg, Dave’s brother, tells PEOPLE. “Sheryl was incredibly touched by that.”

Goldberg — who was the matchmaker behind Sandberg’s romance with his close friend Bernthal, 46 — says he finds the notion that a woman should avoid moving on following the death of a partner to be antiquated — something Sandberg herself discussed in a 2017 interview with The Guardian.

Larissa Cleveland

“Men date sooner, men date more, and women get judged more,” she said. “And, you know, obviously that’s super unfair. I think I’m helping people to remember that dating, for those who want to do it, is part of moving forward, and it is option B. If I could I would only date Dave. I made that choice… I just had it taken away from me.”

Dave Goldberg and Sheryl Sandberg
Courtesy Sheryl Sandberg

In fact, it was a shared sense of grief — Sandberg’s over the loss of her husband, and Bernthal’s over his divorce — that helped bond the pair.

“Divorce is a death of a family. It’s not the same, but it is hard. So both of them have gone through loss, and just because you have gone through loss doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to happiness and joy again,” Goldberg says.

RELATED VIDEO: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Opens up About Loss, Grief and Recovery in Her New Book, Option B

Sandberg, 50, recalled the sweet moment with her mother-in-law, Paula, in Option B, writing that it came as the two cleaned out Dave’s closet in the months after his death.

“Paula held up the frayed gray sweater Dave wore most often and I broke down completely. I turned to her and said, ‘I can’t believe you are going through this again. How are you okay? How can you possibly be okay?’” Sandberg wrote. “She said, ‘I didn’t die. [Dave’s father] Mel did and Dave did, but I am alive. And I am going to live.’ She put her arm around me and said, ‘And you are going to live too.’ Then she completely stunned me by adding, ‘And you are not only going to live, but you are going to get remarried one day — and I am going to be there to celebrate with you.’”

Sheryl Sandberg and Tom Bernthal

She wrote that it was the first time she’d even considered the possibility that finding love again was an option.

Sandberg and Bernthal have been dating since the spring, and were engaged following a mountain hike and picnic lunch at Vermejo Park Ranch on Saturday, a source close to the couple told PEOPLE.

Sharing her joy via Instagram on Monday, Sandberg posted a photo of the duo with the caption, “Engaged!!! @tom_bernthal, you are my everything. I could not love you more.”

Bernthal, the founder and CEO of Kelton Global, proposed with a ring featuring five tiny hidden diamonds underneath the setting to represent each of their five children.

“They just clicked right away and have been completely committed to each other since they met,” an insider familiar with the couple told PEOPLE. “The Sandberg/Goldberg and Bernthal families have become very close and are thrilled that both of them have found happiness. Both Tom and Sheryl share a strong commitment to all the same things, especially family and philanthropy.”