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artist emily mcdowell reveals the deeply personal reasons she launched her empathy cards collection, what spurred her relationship with Sheryl Sandberg’s OptionB team, and the one memento that reminds her most of a very dear friend

Pinch me! I am super excited to share my latest Q&A with you – a conversation with the incomparable Emily McDowell. Don’t know her name? I can nearly guarantee you know her artwork – fun, whimsical, and often sassy and irreverent. Slate named her Empathy Cards, a line of greeting cards crafted to help family and friends connect around illness and loss, one of the top designs making the world a better place. And no, I’m not getting paid to say any of this!

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Rachel Thomas, President of LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org, Discusses Sheryl Sandberg, Helping Grieving Friends During the Holidays, and #OptionBThere

What an honor it is for me to feature this conversation with Rachel Thomas, President of LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org. Rachel works side by side with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on these two groundbreaking, sweeping initiatives. Ever since I heard about OptionB (the online community) and Option B (the book, co-written by Sandberg with bestselling author and psychologist Adam Grant), I’ve been awestruck by Sandberg’s indefatigable commitment to empower and lift individuals up. In particular, I’m deeply moved by her readiness to harness personal loss (her husband died suddenly while they were on vacation in 2015) into a global movement helping those who are grieving and suffering other forms of life-altering adversity. I’m proud to have written this piece for the launch of OptionB, as well as this post on my blog.

OptionB.org has just launched a new initiative, #OptionBThere. The program is the first of its kind. The goal of #OptionBThere is to help individuals be there for friends and family facing setbacks of any kind this holiday season. Rachel says the program has helped her personally.

“I’ve often worried about offering support in the wrong way,” she admits. “Getting this campaign off the ground has been a real eye opener for me. Even if my words are clumsy, I realize now I don’t have to be perfect. I feel freer to offer support because I don’t worry about getting it wrong. I just have to acknowledge what would otherwise be the elephant in the room.”

I’m so thrilled Rachel joined me for this Q & A on my grief & resilience blog. Oh, and did I mention we went to Georgetown University together?!

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How to Help A Friend Who’s Lost a Loved One

A few years ago, a writer I’ve long admired published a book I recommend every chance I get. How to be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick, an important and relatable work by Letty Cottin Pogrebin, explores this essential yet often overlooked landscape with tenderness and humor. It reads like a guidebook, providing a helpful roadmap whenever individuals are called upon to lend support to a friend in crisis.

I wrote Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive to enhance the capacity of readers to remember and celebrate the family and friends they never want to forget. But men and women across the globe have told me the book also makes a great gift – they give it to friends who are helping their friends navigate the pain of loss.

Like Pogrebin, I recognize most friends want to be useful when needed but frequently find it difficult to know what to say or how to act.

Here are two opportunities for helping a friend who’s lost someone he or she dearly loved. You can find 85 creative and inspiring ideas in Passed and Present.

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Option B: Transitioning from passive mourning to active remembering is key to building resilience after loss

Option B Journalism piece by Allison GilbertIf you’re lucky, like me, soon after your loved one dies, a swarm of friends will embrace you in all sorts of meaningful ways. They’ll pack the funeral home, attend the wake or shiva, and a few may even leave homemade meals wrapped in tin foil by your front door so you won’t have to cook for a while. Rituals surrounding loss tend to kick into gear automatically and I benefitted from being the passive recipient of support when each of my parents passed away. Yet my greatest fortune ultimately caused me the most pain…Continue Reading

Sheryl Sandberg on Losing Her Husband, Embracing Option B, and the Importance of Finding Support and Community

Sheryl Sandberg was married to Dave Goldberg for 11 years when she found him lying by an elliptical machine in a small pool of blood. They were on vacation in Mexico celebrating a friend’s 50th birthday when Goldberg went to the resort’s gym to workout. His heart failed. When Sandberg found him, his face was already faintly blue. …Continue Reading