“In the early weeks after Dave died, I was shocked when I’d see friends who did not ask how I was doing,” writes Sheryl Sandberg in her new book, Option B. “I felt invisible, as if I were standing in front of them but they couldn’t see me.” Two years after the unexpected loss of her husband, the Facebook COO is on a mission to help others grapple with grief, by starting a conversation about what it’s really like. As she points out in the book, “When someone shows up with a cast, we immediately inquire, ‘What happened?’ If your life is shattered, we don’t.” Sandberg hopes that talking more honestly about grief will help the bereaved get the support they need to recover.
The 47-year-old mom of two isn’t alone in her decision to speak out about her personal experience with loss; other public figures have opened up about their grief as well, each time chipping away at the isolating silence surrounding loss. Below are 10 celebrities who have shed light on the enduring pain of losing a loved one, and the lessons they’ve learned from grieving.
"It hits you. It’s like a wave. You just get this profound feeling of instability. The Earth isn’t stable anymore and then it passes and it becomes more infrequent, but I still get it sometimes." —60 Minutes on CBS, February 2014, reflecting on the loss of his wife, Natasha Richardson, in 2009
"In all honesty, for pretty much everything else, I feel like I’m a believer in not fighting circumstances, accepting where you are and where you’ve been. In pretty much all senses but one, I would be able to go totally down that line of thinking were it not for Matilda not having her dad. You know, that’s just something that doesn’t… I mean, it just won’t ever be right." —Porter, November 2016, reflecting on the loss of her ex-boyfriend and her daughter's father, Health Ledger, in 2008
"There were days I felt like my body had been turned inside out. I felt like my heart was on the outside of my body and everyone who came near me was stabbing me. And the crazy thing is that since Dan died, the lessons have come like Mack trucks. There is no next time. There is no excuse to wait a day to do what you want to do and to change the way that you want to change." —Health, August 2015, reflecting on the loss of her friend and ex-boyfriend, Dan Fredinburg, in 2015
"It's frustrating as hell to me to have somebody who ain't lost nothing try to talk to me about it. I want to say, 'Don't even bother, because you know nothing.' But you never know how much you can get through until you're going through it." —Glamour, November 2015, reflecting on the loss of her mother, brother, and nephew in 2008
"I think it's important to get back and start reliving your life. Otherwise, you can go into a spiral." —Good Morning America, August 2012, reflecting on the loss of his son, Sage Stallone, in 2012
"I miss being a part of their lives and them being a part of mine. I wonder what the present would be like if they were here—what we might have done together. I miss all the great things that will never be." —Parade, June 2006, reflecting on the loss of his girlfriend, Jessica Syme, in 2001 and their stillborn daughter
Billy Bob Thornton
"I’ve never been the same since my brother died. There’s a melancholy in me that never goes away. I’m 50% happy and 50% sad at any given moment, and the only advice I can give people when you lose someone like that is you won’t ever get over it, and the more you know that and embrace it, the better off you’ll be." —Oprah's Master Class, 2014, reflecting on the loss of his brother, Jimmy Don Thornton, in 1988
“I still feel, 20 years later about my mother, I still have shock within me . . . People say shock can’t last that long, but it does. You never get over it. It’s such an unbelievably big moment in your life that it never leaves you, you just learn to deal with it.” —BBC documentary Mind Over Marathon, April 2017
"There will come a day—I promise you, and your parents as well—when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye." —TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar, May 2012, reflecting on the loss of his wife and infant daughter, Neilia and Naomi Biden, in 1972
"I think at a certain point you can choose to sort of fall from this, or you can choose to rise. And that’s what I’m just trying to do." —The Ellen Show, December 2013, reflecting on the loss of her boyfriend and co-star, Cory Monteith, earlier that year