Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant is an autobiography and a self-help book aimed at helping people move on from grief and terrible circumstances. I should not have read it.
The book has two intertwined narratives: one follows Sandberg’s sudden loss of her husband, her shock, grief and acceptance of what has happened, and the other broadly outlines research into the psychology behind these processes and how to deal with them.
The full title of the book is: “Option B - Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy”, and I mistakenly thought it was broadly about making the most of everyday situations. It’s not: it’s about how to make the most of the death of loved ones. Deaths of husbands, children, brothers, sisters, even an entire family, in a particular brutal case of a Syrian refugee. Mainly it’s about the early death of Sheryl Sandberg’s husband, how she dealt with her young kids and her own phases of grief.
The main take-away from the book for me was the following: when facing adverse events, avoid the three Ps: personalization (I could have stopped this), pervasiveness (my whole life is affected by this) and permanence (nothing will ever be the same again).
However, the majority of the book outlines Sandberg’s own story and is infused with a sort of religious, new-age narrative about sharing extensively about your own life will help you, especially in critical phases of one’s life. In her own experience this can be done easily via Facebook, where Sandberg works and uses to share her thoughts with the world, and by becoming or rekindling one’s religious engagement. Both have helped Sandberg “kick the ass out of option B”, the thing that you are recommended to do, when option A is no longer available.
It’s a very modern, new-agey approach to friends and religion: they are a means to help you. It worked for Sandberg, clearly an extremely affluent and enterprising women, who quickly surrounded herself with world-class psychologist, family, priests, everyone else who could help her move on. In this world, you might feel alone and forsaken, but here are all the reasons why feeling this way is bad for you. Each chapter ends like a sitcom, on an upbeat note. I found my empathy stretched at the end of the book, as it turns out to be more autobiographical than I had bargained for. Was this book written to help Sandberg or others?
When I experience death of loved ones in the future I might want to do bad things to myself: you know, play Paranoid Android on full blast, tell people to leave me alone, not be on Facebook or chat with priests, even if some underpowered psychology research tells me this makes me worse off. Maybe I don’t want to turn this into some opportunity to be seized upon. Then again, maybe I will pick up this book and cherry-pick the good stuff there’s undoubtedly in Sandberg and Grants book. Until then, “meh”.