Sheryl Sandberg On What So Many People Get Wrong About Expressing Sympathy

You can't "remind" someone of their pain, she points out.

Reading about grief and actually experiencing it are two very different things, as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has learned over the last few years. After the sudden death of her beloved husband, Dave Goldberg, in 2015, Sandberg understandably struggled with her immense grief. Now, she’s sharing the truths and lessons she learned from her bereavement in her new book, Option B, and in a “SuperSoul Sunday” interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Speaking with Oprah, Sandberg admits that, before experiencing this personal tragedy, she would express her sympathy to others in a very common way: by saying very little, as to not remind an individual of their pain.

“If someone in my life were going through something hard, usually the first time I saw them, I would say, ‘I’m so sorry,’” she says. “And then I would never bring it up again because I didn’t want to remind them.”  

Though well-intentioned, Sandberg now says she realizes the flaw in this logic.

“You can’t remind me I lost Dave,” she says. “You also can’t remind someone that she has cancer, or that his father just went to jail, or that she lost a job. It’s not possible. Big hardships, these challenges ― they’re always with us.”

In the above clip, Sandberg also addresses the trouble with asking, “How are you?” to someone grieving a loss. The rest of her conversation with Oprah airs this weekend on “SuperSoul Sunday” at 11 a.m. ET on OWN.



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