You can read a lot of quotes about how much Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO, Lean In author) loved and respected her husband at this link. According to published reports, they were “traveling abroad” — although it doesn’t say where in any reports I can find — and he passed away “suddenly” on May 1. There are variations on “cause of death has not been immediately determined” and “not reported.”
Basic human condition indicates that when information is left out, people rush to fill it in — which is actually an Apple marketing tactic, FYI — so of course, the non-starter on “What happened?” has led to a lot of speculation. The most prominent is probably this blog post by Penelope Trunk on whether it was a suicide.
Now, before we continue, let’s establish two things:
- No one except the family and a few close confidantes actually knows what happened.
- This is a woman whose empire is partially based on the fact that she could rely on her husband to do some parenting/familial things as she leaned in, so this is a massively traumatic time for her and no one really needs to be speculating on what happened.
All that said, people rampantly speculate on everything. Again, human nature.
It does seem interesting that Sandberg’s brand, which is also in large part based on transparency, would allow a story like this to just sit out in the ether. There’s been endless speculation on it, including this from The Wrap, and this on the ethics of everything — Dave Goldberg was a CEO (SurveyMonkey) and we have a right to know whether it was a suicide, because if it was … that could mean there are some problems with the business.
I obviously have no idea. I’ve never met either of these people, and I probably never will meet Sheryl Sandberg. I do think it’s terribly sad that Lean In, as a premise, could only work because the husband was so supportive professionally and personally — and now, of course, he’s deceased. That’s really the big issue here. (Also interesting: in five years she could write another book on raising kids solo and managing grief, and that would sell millions of copies too. Awkward what people rush to read.)
Whatever happened, it’s terribly sad. And at some level, we don’t have a right to know. But I mean … when public people and a public couple experience a tragedy, can’t we get at least a moderately-complete narrative from somewhere?