“Your vulnerability is your strength”

“Your vulnerability is your strength”

By Judith Coche, PhD, ABPP • April 2017 

As a graduate student at Bryn Mawr College, I had to write a short essay on a puzzling sentence, “Your vulnerability is your strength.” Then it’s meaning intrigued me. It was a riddle. And in the last quarter of a century I have lived to solve this riddle and to teach it to hundreds of clients at The Coche Center, LLC my practice in clinical psychology. 

I grew up as my  stellar Dad’s sidekick, so men have naturally been among my best buddies. October 16, 1966 was my first Cinderella day.  I married Dr. Erich Coche, my European life love. We planned happily ever after. We began an optimal life with our young daughter.  We both taught, wrote about and practiced Clinical Psychology in Philadelphia and at the beach.  We bagn to build a string of offices for clients, and published a joint academic book, Couples Group Psychotherapy, in 1991.  We trained colleagues world wide. Who could ask for anything more?  But Fate had other plans. On January 9, 1991, Erich died suddenly of a melanoma, leaving me without the love of my life, the father of my daughter, my business partner, my co-author and my best friend. It felt like a cannonball had ripped through my stomach leaving a huge hole in the middle of my being. It had. The unthinkable had occurred and I had no choice. My vulnerability HAD to become my strength.  

I felt desperately unequipped for single parenthood, solo practice, financial solidity.  Dating for the first time in a quarter of a century seemed unimaginable. But I needed to push through the panic that threatened to swallow me whole.  I counted my resources: I engaged Barbara Darline, my Colby roommate, to help me plan since she was a grief counselor by trade. All 45 of my good-hearted and smart cousins brought tons of corned beef and hugs.  Close friends surrounded us in our heartbreak and were there for us 24x7. No longer able to be the only independent child I was born to be, I had to rely on them. And I did..

Dr Kenneth Porter, a tall, handsome, single psychiatrist and I took a long walk in San Antonio. He wanted to learn to couple and I knew how. He had dated extensively in his half century of life  and he could teach me how.  In 5 sentences, he unlocked the puzzle.  “Judy, you are smart and you have a very successful marriage in back of you.  You are an expert in couples therapy. And you look great. Men want women who know how to couples. Relax and enjoy dating. “ In the next 3 years, both Ken and I went on to marry successfully. End of round One.

On july 22, 1993, I met the man who became the second love of my life.  Mensa intellect, the face and stature of a national USA Presidential candidate, and running an 8-minute mile, John took my breath away with his many abilities.  He decided to marry me on the night we met. We blended our three daughters. My own daughter, who had wanted a sister all her life, suddenly had two beautiful and loving older sisters. Here was the start of round two, complete with global travel as part of John’s work as a CEO in academic publishing. I felt complete for the first time in four years,not because I had a man, but because I had allowed my vulnerability to show me how to take huge risks and win big.

 I remarried on January 1, 1994 with our three daughters as bridesmaids.  John is an unusuall mix of John Wayne’ stature and straight-arrow style, and Paul Bunyon’s expansive, “just folks” manner.  My terror was, of course, that John too might die early. His Dad had died of a second heart attack fairly young.  As it turned out, The nightmare in back of me created a foreshadow for the nightmare ahead of me.

My mind was blown by the support I received following the flood. As soon as he heard, my brother drove more than one hundred miles to help me clean and salvage what we could. My family and friends dropped whatever they were doing. There were no questions asked. When something this bad happens, people will amaze you. 

What ultimately saved the company was a Facebook post. I had designed some hats before the flood. They had our logo on them—a snowflake in a water drop in the colors of the Colorado flag. When samples of the hats arrived a few days after the disaster, I was struck by how much the design reflected Colorado’s strength after the flood. I posted about them on Facebook, and the post went viral. We ended up preselling enough hats to save the entire company. It turned the disaster into a triumph.

I can now say that the flood was the best thing that ever happened to the company

It was a clean break in our production process. It forced me to rethink how we did everything. I hit the reset button and focused more on design and my brand and less on in-house production.

Losing everything also gave me a new perspective on what’s important in life. It got me thinking more about family, less about material things. Since then, my wife and I had a daughter and are now expecting twins. The flood made me aware that you can replace physical things, but you can’t replace memories. Now I put more value on the irreplaceable things. 

Since the flood, I’ve tried to use my company to help others. We cleaned and repaired 1,500 pairs of gloves that were damaged that day, and we’re donating them to search and rescue teams and ski patrols. It’s important to pay it forward. I’ve found that the more good you do, the more good other people will do. 


Damon grew up in Vermont, finding a passion for skiing early. He moved to Colorado after college to work as a ski patroller and a river guide. Inspired by this lifestyle, he started Kind Designin 2008. He now lives in Boulder with his wife and his 21-month-old daughter, and has twins on the way.


Norris Clark