Sheryl Sandberg's 'Silver Lining' of 2020 Is Becoming a 'Family' with Fiancé and Their 5 Kids

Sheryl Sandberg's Option B shared research this week that found that 90 percent of people have provided meaningful support to someone else in 2020

Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg and Tom Bernthal. Photo: Amy & Stuart Photography

The holiday season isn’t all tinsel and Christmas carols — for many, especially those dealing with loss, it can be a lonely, difficult stretch.

“I don’t think people realize that after there’s tragedy…someone saying, ‘Happy holidays!’ is actually pretty painful,” Sheryl Sandberg tells PEOPLE. “I think people are afraid of acknowledging when something’s hard.”

The Facebook COO, 51, would know — the death of her husband Dave in 2015 helped open her eyes to the importance of acknowledging the pain and hardship others have been dealt, a lesson that’s particularly relevant in 2020.

“If it’s six years later and you say to me, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ I’m not like, ‘Oh, I forgot Dave died. How dare you remind me?’” she says. “Anyone who’s suffered loss this holiday is going to have a different holiday, because of someone missing. A lot of people haven’t seen their parents in a year, haven’t seen their brothers in a year. People are really lonely.”

With that in mind, #OptionBThere for the Holidays, the annual initiative put forth by Sandberg’s Option B, is more important than ever in helping people discover ways they can show up for others during challenging times.

New research released this week by Option B found that while eight in 10 people experienced some sort of major challenge this year, a whopping 90 percent of people said they have provided meaningful support to someone else.

Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg and Tom Bernthal. Tom Bernthal

Sixty-two percent of respondents said they gave more support in 2020 than they have in years’ past, while a majority (seven in 10 people) said they feel as though they’re more resilient and better equipped to face new challenges because of 2020’s hardships.

For Sandberg herself, she says she’s used 2020 as time to “come together” as a family with fiancé Tom Bernthal, her two kids and his three children.

Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg and Tom Bernthal. Tom Bernthal

“They moved in overnight when the school shut down,” says Sandberg. “We had a death in the family early on. Tom’s cousin died of COVID, and that was devastating."

Though the couple is putting their wedding plans on pause amid the pandemic, "The silver linings are we became a family during this time.”

As a family, they celebrated the first night of Hanukkah on Thursday by embracing Sandberg's longstanding holiday tradition of giving: each of their children received gift certificates to donate to a charity of their choice.

Although it can feel difficult to “give yourself permission” to find silver linings during such hard times, the tech executive says it’s extremely important to do so.

“Resilience is a muscle we build in ourselves,” Sandberg says. “We build it in each other. We build it by finding things to be grateful for.”

RELATED VIDEO: Sheryl Sandberg Is Engaged to Tom Bernthal After Being Set Up by Her Late Husband's Brother

To help show up for others, Option B has issued a series of heartwarming cards that people can send to their loved ones that celebrate things like small victories and human connection in the time of COVID.

option B
Option B holiday cards. Emily McDowell Studio for Option B There

The initiative also encourages people to switch up their holiday greetings to something more sincere and meaningful than “happy holidays,” doing something instead of asking if you can “do anything,” taking care of other people’s loved ones, making plans for next year and making sure that you’re taking time to process your own feelings as well.

“Almost everyone knows someone who’s died, some in our own families,” Sandberg says. “It’s such a great time for people to really think about how to show up for each other.”

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