Sheryl Sandberg was on NPR last week promoting her new book about coping with the sudden death of her husband and building resilient kids in the aftermath. I haven't read her book, but given what I heard during the interview, her recommended approach seems shallow at best. Not that I'd criticize anyone for how they personally manage grief, but Sandberg excessively universalizes her own experience, presenting it as guidance for others.
She collaborated on the book with an organizational psychologist and peppered her comments with references to research findings. In doing so, she conveyed an air of naive confidence in the applicability of group research findings to individuals. She also relies on a linear thinking approach that is great for solving many real world problems, but not so great for solving problems of the mind, because the linear logical mind is just the surface of a larger under-mind that is far more associative and unconcious in nature.
After the loss of a spouse, a great deal of reconfiguring of self, identity and meaning will occur. Much of this reorganization takes place organically, often in the midst of bouts with madness. How a person goes through the experience will depend on many factors, including their personality, the nature and history of the relationship with the lost loved one, how the loss occurred, and the life circumstances of the bereaved going forward.
Speaking of grief, we've been watching The Leftovers. For those who are unfamiliar with this HBO series, The Leftovers follows the reactions of those left behind after a Rapture-like event that takes 2% of the world's population in an instant, without any rational explanation for why it happened and where the departed went, if they went anywhere at all.
Talk about an exploration of death and grief that reflects the activity of the non-linear mind. The Leftovers is saturated with visually-compelling symbolism, religious themes and madness presented in the manner of dreams. And like our dreams, The Leftovers is often confusing and indecipherable, but it works because it is so attentive to psychic reality.