Sheryl Sandberg opens up about the devastating loss of her husband on Desert Island Discs

The recent Sheryl Sandberg Desert Island Discs segment had listeners in tears as the Facebook COO opened up about the devastating loss of her husband, Dave…

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was at the top of her game in 2015. Two years after her best-selling book hit the shelves, ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’ had sold over two million copies worldwide, and she’d become globally famous not only for her role in one of America’s largest companies, but as an individual, a woman, with a powerful voice and something to say.

But then, suddenly, Sheryl’s world came crashing down around her and life as she knew it would never be the same again. Whilst on holiday in Mexico in May 2015 with her husband, Dave Goldberg, he died suddenly from a cardiac arrhythmia.

Since then, Sandberg has been coping with the grief of losing her husband of 11 years, and helping her children cope with the loss of their father.

“Flying home to tell my 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son that their father had died was the worst experience of my life” Sanberg recalled in an article for the New York Times.

“My biggest fear was that my children’s happiness would be destroyed by our devastating loss. I needed to know what, if anything, I could do to get them through this.”

Now, two and a half years since Sanberg lost her husband so unexpectedly, she has published her second book: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience.

The author and business woman appeared on BBC Radio Chanell 4’s programme Desert Island Discs to discuss her most recent publication, and in doing so, opened up about her struggles in dealing with the sudden loss of her husband.

“I never knew anyone could cry so much” she said in heartbreaking honesty.

Sandberg, clearly emotional in the interview, spoke openly too about how she has strived to help her young children hold on to their memories of their dad.

“I tried to make it okay for them to grieve,” she said. “We still talk about Dave, we talk about Dave all the time.”
”I try never to sugar coat it, I always say to this day: “I miss him too. It’s horrible that this happened to us but it’s not our fault, it’s not your fault, and Daddy would want you to be happy”… It’s about taking back joy, because my kids deserve joy.”

Sandberg’s honesty moved many listeners of the show to tears.

“Sheryl Sandberg’s desert island discs is absolutely heart wrenching – such a brave woman for speaking about her grief” wrote one listener on Twitter. “Sheryl Sandberg’s Desert Island Discs is utterly, delicately, devastatingly glorious. What an emotional half an hour” wrote another.

Speaking about her grief and her struggle to come to terms with her devastating loss is something that Sandberg acknowledges has been cathartic in the grieving process for her.

 “It didn’t bring Dave back and it didn’t take away the grief,” she says, “but it took away the feeling that I was alone, because people started talking to me again.”

For anyone trying to support a friend or relative going through an incredibly difficult time, Sheryl Sandberg recommends that when someone has suffered a catastrophic loss, you shouldn’t ask them “How are you?” but “How are you today?” Talking to Kirsty on the show, she described how it’s important to support friends facing illness or loss by “focusing on what’s real and acknowledging the pain”, and reassuring them that you’ll be with them for the duration of their battle and beyond: “We can show up.”