I have been undeniably moved by Option B, a book by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. I heard an interview with Sheryl at the Global Leadership Summit and was intrigued. Option B is what you pursue when tragedy hits and Option A is no longer an option. I am only 2/3 of the way through this book and my kids are saying “wow- this book is really changing you, mom!” I want to share a few ideas that are really striking me- and I encourage you to read it if you want to grow in your awareness of grief or how to care for others who are grieving. For the regular people who just live life and don’t study grief, we may not know how common our responses our. Knowing we are “normal” can go a long way to recovery. Here are 5 favorite snip-its from the book so far:
- Be aware of what prevents healing. The authors were clear with an articulate synopsis of how these 3 P’s can stunt your grief recovery: personalization–the belief that we are at fault, pervasiveness– the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life, and permanence– the belief the aftershocks of the event will last forever. In other words, we get caught in a loop in our head. “It’s my fault this is awful. My whole life is awful. And it’s always going to be awful.” Sound familiar? We blame ourselves, we let it spread beyond the specific area of grief, and we think it will never get better. I can relate.
- Try not to be hurt when people don’t ask. / Be the person who is willing to ask. There will always be people that surprise you. They don’t speak of the elephant in the room (your struggle) perhaps because they don’t know what to say or they are not the kind of people who ask questions. I enjoy this quote from Tim Urban’s blog, “You’ll quit your job. You’ll fall in love. You’ll catch your new love cheating on you and murder them both… and it doesn’t matter, because none of it will be discussed with The Non-Question-Asking Friend who never, ever, ever asks you anything about your life.” Try to be the kind of person who is willing to speak up in awkwardness, listen well, and build a bridge of sincere compassion for another person. If a hurting person tries to dominate, you can always shift gears. But to not acknowledge… that is hurtful. And if you are the hurting person waiting for people to ask, please know it is a common problem and not personal to you.
- Resist telling people it will be ok. You don’t know if it will be ok– and hurting people don’t need our platitudes. Instead, Sandberg has changed her response to something like, “I know you don’t know yet what will happen- and neither do I. But you won’t go through this alone. I will be with you every step of the way.” And then be there for them! Check on them. Show up for them.
- Take the courageous step to reach out. When we hear someone is hurting or going through something, we want to help until we are paralyzed by all the “what-ifs”. What if we say the wrong thing or if he/she doesn’t want to talk, or they are embarrassed that I am bringing it up. But the sad thing is that time and time again we wait too long and then we think it is too late to do something. And so the opportunities to care for someone pass by us… and cause more hurt than any of our fears would have. Just do the thing you know you can do.
- Don’t offer to “do anything”- just do something. Sandberg made clear in her interview that often times people say to hurting people, “Let me know if you need anything!” Unfortunately, this puts it back on the hurting person to identify what they need (oh how often they have no idea!), have the courage to ask for what they need (did they mean it? oh that’s really sacrificial in time, or energy, or money…), and then wait for you to answer about what you can do. The unknowns of it all are painful. Instead of offering generalities, say what you can do or just do it. Show up with dinner or scoop up the kids for a playdate, offer the days you can drive them to their treatments, arrange a team of people to coordinate carpool. Just do it. Offering general help is no help at all. This one spoke to me greatly because I have been guilty of it. I am not very hospitable, not great with other people’s kids, have a limited schedule, etc. No wonder no one would take me up on it! But I can show up- I know I can- and so I will be putting that into place.
What can you apply to help when people are hurting? How is this helping you move forward in your own grief? Let us at Family Greenhouse know what you think so we can meet your needs even better. Because in life, we seldom get to live out Option A.