Thank You, Sheryl Sandberg, For These Lessons About Life After Loss

sheryl sandberg husband commencement speech

"You will breathe again," the Facebook CEO says during a commencement speech.

Powerful. Resilient. Influential. Intelligent. Passionate. Profound. I could go on and on. These are just a few of the descriptions that accurately capture the essence of Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement speech at UC Berkeley. These could easily also be used to describe the formidable force that is Sheryl Sandberg herself. 

"I am not here to tell you all the things I’ve learned in life. Today I will try to tell you what I learned in death."

This statement is how she begins her speech and is well justified in the fact that this speech marks the first time she has publicly spoken about her husband, Dave’s death since it happened just over a year ago. 

She teaches some AMAZING lessons in life to live by — especially when experiencing tough hardships, such as grief and loss.

"I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss. But I also 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."

She's blunt in her speech, but speaks some incredibly BEAUTIFUL truths about love, life, and loss.

"The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It is the hard days — the times that challenge you to your very core — that will determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive."

I was surprised and delighted when I recognized a lesson I like to live by in my own life.

"We often project our current feelings out indefinitely — and experience what I think of as the second derivative of those feelings. We feel anxious — and then we feel anxious that we’re anxious. We feel sad — and then we feel sad that we’re sad. Instead, we should accept our feelings — but recognize that they will not last forever." 

When bad things happen in our lives, it’s so hard to not realize that it won't last forever. This can happen not only when experiencing a loss, but with any obstacle or big change in our lives. It can be hard to accept and we can feel stuck in a rut — but what Sheryl says is important and SO true. These feelings will not last forever. In this moment of her speech, I caught myself wondering what it would be like to be in that audience.

Her speech is so well-rounded. She urges us to not only be resilient in the face of tragedy, but to also embrace the good things that life can bring.

"I hope that you live your life — each precious day of it — with joy and meaning. I hope that you walk without pain — and that you are grateful for each step."

Toward the end of her speech she leaves us with some BADASS quotes.

"When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything. I promise you do. As the saying goes, we are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are stronger than we ever imagined.

And she doesn't leave out the importance of love and relationships.

We find our humanity—our will to live and our ability to love—in our connections to one another. Be there for your family and friends. And I mean in person. Not just in a message with a heart emoji."

This speech was one of the most motivational ones I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. I will definitely be taking so many of these things and applying them to my own life. Although I was not physically in that audience, I could feel the pure heartbreak, gratitude, and joy that was put into that speech. Bravo, Sheryl Sandberg. I hope one day I can experience such an empowering speech in person.

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