Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Gratitude After Loss: Sheryl Sandberg's Commencement Speech

One of the treasures found along the path of creating the Gratitude Miracles journal is Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. Sheryl is everything you would think a high-powered executive woman should be: smart, energetic, organized, efficient and effective.

In addition to her corporate duties, she is author of a best-selling organization book, Lean In, and founder of the non-profit organization Lean In, developed to help women "accomplish amazing things" together. However, the focus of this post is not her life or accomplishments but the role death played in changing her life.

While on vacation in Mexico, Sheryl's husband had a heart attack and died. A little over a year later, she addressed UC Berkeley's graduating class in a commencement speech about resilience. It is a brilliant, sometimes humorous and tech-savvy speech which offers important lessons to the students who heard it and to all of us who read it (available here) or watch it (available here).

Sheryl tells the story of her husband's death, the grief that followed for her children and herself, and the lessons she learned from the trauma.
I learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again. I learned that in the face of the void—or in the face of any challenge—you can choose joy and meaning.
Citing the work of Martin Seligman, Founder and Director of the Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania, she explains his three P's which need to be avoided in order to bounce back from trauma. Briefly, these are:
Personalization ... the belief that we are personally at fault for whatever has happened.
Pervasiveness ... the belief that an event will affect every aspect of your life.
Permanence ... the belief that the trauma, sadness, failure, disappointment will last forever.
Sheryl expresses a feeling that surprised and confused me for a long time after my own husband's death when she says:
It is the greatest irony of my life that losing my husband helped me find deeper gratitude— gratitude for the kindness of my friends, the love of my family, the laughter of my children.
This is definitely a commencement speech worth reading or watching.

PLUS: If you would like to test your personal resiliency, go to: ResiliencyQuiz.

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