Handy skill for life

Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

There’s confusion around what empathy is exactly and how it’s different from sympathy. Of course there’s confusion; the dictionary lists empathy and sympathy as synonyms — they’re absolutely NOT.

Sympathy = feeling pity or commiserating with others over a tragedy or bad situation.

Empathy = putting yourself in someone else’s position; imagining what they might be feeling and/or thinking.

Here’s a wonderful illustration of this concept illustrated by thersa.org, audio taken from a talk by Brené Brown.

From TheRSA.org’s YouTube page

Conversations around empathy are typically connected to professions related to mental health, medicine, education, or the arts. …


And other gut punches

Photo by Jingda Chen on Unsplash

No one warned me midnight on December 31st, 2018 would feel like gut punch. When you’ve lost a loved one, you expect holidays to be difficult. You think about the big ones like Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, etc. Why didn’t I ever hear anyone talk about New Year’s?

My grief process has been a mix of expected and unexpected reactions (to experiences and sometimes to nothing at all). Of course I expect to cry when I hear a song that triggers a memory of my dad. I also expect to be upset the morning after I have a dream that includes…


September 2018 brought me my father’s death, a new job, and a trip to Europe.

Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

In my previous career, I was a psychologist. (I’m still a psychologist — licensed to practice in my state, but not currently practicing.) One might assume that, as a trained psychologist, I’m an expert at handling whatever life throws my way. Untrue. I have more coping skills at my immediate disposal, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert. I especially wouldn’t call myself an expert during September of 2018 — I don’t remember a lot about that month.

Let me explain.

On the night of September 2nd, I got a call from my mom. She started with the four words…

Heather Ryan

UX Researcher | Psychologist | Crafty Nerd

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