Ethan Nichtern – The Road Home – Ep. 69 – Grief, Heartbreak, and the Pandemic w/ Heather Coleman

Ethan Nichtern and Heather Coleman have a discussion on the many forms of grief and what healing may look like.

Ethan Nichtern and Heather Coleman have a discussion on the many forms of grief and what healing may look like.

Heather Coleman, LCSW has been providing Buddhist-informed psychotherapy in New York City for the past 15 years in various settings, including outpatient care and private practice.  She has provided quality and compassionate care to New Yorkers struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma (and now Covid related trauma!), relationship & codependency issues, health concerns, parenting and life transitions.  Her main specialty is working with Adult Children of Alcoholics and those from dysfunctional family systems (with narcissistic parents or those with mental illness). 

Identity and Loss

Ethan and Heather begin with a discussion on impermanence and loss. Heather describes how loss inspired her journey to become both a therapist and a Buddhist. The profound feeling of loss is difficult to endure. Loss can shatter our selfhood and can shift our identity, but it is a universal experience that everyone will suffer from at some point. 

The Heaviness of Global Grief (11:41)

Beyond the personal heartbreak of loss, there is a broader pain when experiencing global grief. Ethan and Heather discuss the heaviness of our current times such as the conflict in Ukraine and the pandemic. When loss is experienced collectively, we can all feel the weight of that grief. 

“The difficult experience of having been mostly isolated through all of this is probably one of the biggest parts of the grief that people have been experiencing.”

Being Alone (17:40)

In Buddhism there is a concept that we are always alone and should be comfortable in that solitude. No one can ever be truly with us because only we are in our own minds. However, being isolated can be depressing. In working with grief, Heather says there is a lot of ‘sitting with’. It is important to be able to sit with your feelings, but it is also important to have a sense of togetherness. It helps to have people be with us while we sort through our heartbreak. 

For more on healing from grief check out: RamDev – Healing at the Edge – Ep. 74 – Grief as Healing
Still Walking the Earth (22:29)

During the Pandemic there seemed to be an uptick in break-ups. Ethan asks Heather if the grief of a break-up is fundamentally different than losing someone through death. There is a finality to death. In a breakup, our loved one is still walking the earth and we have to make the conscious choice to not be with them because the relationship causes us some sort of pain. Heather poses that: 

“When you lose somebody to death there could be an inventory that is taken, but it may be to a different or lesser degree to when you’re going through a divorce or a break up. Because that person is still there, you are forced to look at how you have been in that relationship because there was something that contributed.”

For more on grief during the pandemic listen to: Dr. Robert Svoboda – Living with Reality – Ep. 18 – Working Through Grief