Commencement speeches usually strike a celebratory tone, but Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg went against the grain Saturday while addressing UC Berkeley grads and spoke publicly for the first time about the tragic death of her husband.
"His death was sudden and unexpected," Sandberg said. "For many months afterward, and at many times since, I was swallowed up in the deep fog of grief — what I think of as the void — an emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, and constricts your ability to think or even to breathe."
Sandberg’s husband, Survey Monkey CEO Dave Goldberg, died of a cardiac arrhythmia while the couple was vacationing in Mexico in May of 2015.
During the speech, the “Lean In” author told students about how the sudden loss affected her, and how she came out of that grief with a stronger sense of self.
"I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss," she said. "But I also learned that when life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again."
She said she hopes students will take her words to heart and acknowledged that they too will face immense challenges.
"When the challenges come, I hope you remember that anchored deep within you is the ability to learn and grow. You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it."
She continued: "It is the hard days — the times that challenge you to your very core — that will determine who you are," she said. "You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive.”