“Facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy.” Inspiring words from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Option B. Throughout her book, the Women for Women International Board member shares her approach to finding strength, resilience, and recovery after loss.
It is hard to find more inspiration for resilience that in the stories of women survivors of war. In Sheryl’s book among other things, we read the story of a woman named Wafaa, who fled her home country of Syria along with her brother and two youngest children. She decided to leave because of the losses she had suffered in Syria. Before she decided to leave her home, Waffa’s sixteen-year-old son was killed outside their apartment while playing soccer. Soon after, her husband was arrested – and has not been heard from since.
Despite the unfathomable loss Wafaa experienced, she was able to rediscover joy. She had the strength to move her family to safety and the resilience to recover after her loss. Waffa did this by joining a community center with other Syrians in Turkey and met women who had suffered similar tragedies. Slowly, she was able to build her resilience. Now, Wafaa says she finds little moments of joy in praying, caring for her children, and cooking.
“Cooking is like breathing in Syria. It gives me oxygen. I’m not a painter, but I love creating,” Wafaa said.
Throughout her book, Sheryl emphasizes how necessary it is to find joy after loss. Whether that is finding a new purpose in your life, caring more deeply for others, reclaiming what you enjoyed before tragedy struck, or rising above hate in order to heal and forgive, joy is necessary. A big part of building resilience is being surrounded by a support system like the one Wafaa found. At Women for Women international, we’ve seen how women come together through our program to create safe spaces for emotional support and friendships that helps them heal from the trauma of war.
For nearly 25 years, Women for Women International has been working to help empower some of the most marginalized women impacted by war and conflict. Through our program, women learn vocational skills to start small businesses, learn about their rights to stand up for themselves and other women around them, and begin to save money to support their families and improve their businesses. But what we do is more than that. Women for Women International tells women in the most impoverished communities impacted by war and conflict that they have the strength to persevere, that they are resilient and that they will recover. Whether it is through our sponsorship program or through classes that bring women from different ethnic and religious groups together, Women for Women International creates a space for women to connect with each other and break the isolation that often silences them. Sheryl’s new book reiterates our belief that strong women have the resilience to recover and rebuild nations.
We admire Sheryl’s courage in opening up about her loss and in offering guidance and support to those seeking to move forward after their own. Her story, like the stories of women we serve, is proof of the incredible strength and resilience of women. Life never goes as planned, so we must embrace our Option B.
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