When You’re a Military Family, Life Is Always ‘Option B’
(Photo: Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg)

By Amy Bushatz, and

The moment I heard about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book “Option B,” I knew it was meant for military families — even if Sandberg didn’t actually write it for that reason. After all, the subtitle has everyone’s favorite military family life buzz word in it: “resiliency.”

In the military community the word “resiliency” and its sister “resilience” have over time turned into crap descriptors overused by white guys giving boring Power Point presentations that are supposed to inspire you to work through the hard stuff of military life, but instead just make you want to nap. Sorry, but that’s the hard truth.

Yet despite that, hearing the term in the context of, well, not the military, made me want to know more about this new book. What could one of the nation’s most well known female CEOs who famously and suddenly lost her husband a few years ago, tell us, the masters of resiliency (sometimes literally according to the military), about the subject?

Answer: everything.

To put it simply, I found “Option B” to be a gut-wrenching, truth packed, riveting guidebook on not just how to navigate my own (comparatively minor) losses and grief, but to walk alongside those dealing with big military loss.

The title “Option B” is rooted in a simple concept: Life rarely goes as planned, and your preferred option, option “A,” isn’t going to be available. Therefore, you are left with no choice but to accept option “B.” So why not make the best of it?

Exactly nothing in military life is ever option “A.” Think about it. How many vacations, moves, deployments, separations, reintegrations, homecomings or even doctors appointments have gone according to your plan? Example after example in my own life leaps to mind, including the two separate times years apart that we went to our family photo shoot without my husband because he was stuck on duty. It’s stuff like those photo shoots that leaches your soul dry over time.

Sandberg examines dealing with loss and (again back to the subtitle) “finding joy” through the lens of both her own grief journey since her husband Dave died unexpectedly in 2015, and through the stories and expertise of others. Her chapters focus heavily on addressing the “elephant in the room” of loss and helping both yourself and others not just live with it, but work around it and with it.  She talks about the best ways to help someone else who is dealing with loss, moving your children through loss and pushing yourself through loss.

There’s one important thing to remember while reading this book and it is simple yet key: Not all loss is death. While you may feel that the sense of loss and grief you experience after a difficult move or during deployment is minor compared to death, it is still real to you, and dealing with it can utilize many of the same tools as Big Loss.

Still, this book is also entirely applicable to that Big Loss of military death. I count among my friends many Gold Star moms and wives, and I am constantly second-guessing whether or not I am supporting them well. What do you say? How do you show-up? Should you be afraid that you’re going to remind them about their loss? Should you bring it up? Should you let them? What do you even do?

This book made me feel empowered with answers and the knowledge that, truly, there is no right thing to do. The key is to just do something. It also armed me with tools for my own life that I can use to move through the struggles of every day — military and otherwise.

This is a must read.

p.s. Read it with Kleenex.