Sheryl Sandberg: ‘Everyone looked at me like I was a ghost’

As Facebook’s chief operating officer, she is one of the most powerful women in the world. How did she cope with the sudden death of her husband?

• Scroll down for an exclusive extract from Sandberg’s new book

Sheryl Sandberg’s last words to her husband, like all last words, assumed a haunting poignancy. “I’m falling asleep,” she told him, oblivious to the imminence of tragedy, and curled up on a cushion for a nap.

It was Friday 1 May 2015. She and Dave Goldberg, 47, had left their two children at home with her parents in northern California and flown down to Mexico for a weekend break to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. They were Silicon Valley royalty’s power couple; he the CEO of a tech company worth more than $1bn, she the chief operating officer of Facebook and author of global bestseller Lean In, a feminist call to arms for working women to emulate the self-belief and ambition of men. Sandberg had featured on Forbes’ list of the most powerful women on the planet, served as chief of staff to the Treasury secretary in Bill Clinton’s government, been widely tipped as a future member of a Hillary Clinton cabinet and earned a personal fortune well in excess of $1bn. At 45 she was mother to a 10-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter; weekends away were rare and precious. No wonder she was tired. She fell asleep that afternoon a happily married wife, and woke up an hour later a widow.

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