Last year I wrote a piece for the Telegraph in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook post about life after her husband’s sudden death. Sandberg emailed me personally afterwards.
“I thought what you wrote was the most uplifting thing I have seen,” she wrote. “Thank you so, so much.”
After I’d picked my chin up off the floor, I decided to reply. We exchanged a couple of further messages, and during our brief exchange, she wasn’t one of the most famous and successful women on the planet – she was just a regular young widow who had lost the love of her life in tragic circumstances like me.
Which is perhaps why I feel compelled to respond to the latest revelation in Sandberg’s grief journey – the fact that, ten months on, she is reportedly dating again. Wonderful news, right?
The self-appointed Armchair Arbitrators of Good Grieving (or AArrGG! as they are henceforth known) don’t approve. “Too soon!” was the declaration of one. “The love of her life? I don’t think so!” sniffed another. The dot-eyed denouncements reached a startling new low, with some AArrGGs going all Miss Marple and suggesting she’d bumped her husband off.
Ten months may not sound like long, especially if you’re a judgemental bully with no experience of devastating loss. When you’ve lost the love of your life, the days, months and years ahead without the prospect of your soulmate yawn forth like a terrifying chasm. Getting through ten minutes can be difficult enough, never mind ten months.
New relationships after widowhood are charged and complex things. Those who enter into them should not have to adhere to any timeline for grieving, especially ones laid out by anonymous keyboard commentators who have nothing better to do.
One of Sandberg’s friends said:
“Everyone is happy for her, because she deserves to be happy.”
Close the casebook, Miss Marple. That’s all there is to it.