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My Home Is Gone

I received a text early in the morning on Monday, October 9th.  It was from Jody, my college teammate.  It read, “My home is gone.”

I was confused.  Jody lives in Santa Rosa and I had just been in Santa Rosa two days prior for an amazing wedding.  Everything seemed perfectly fine when we were there and I had only briefly heard of a fire in Napa.  But having grown up in Northern California I assumed it was high atop one of Napa’s mountain ranges and out of harm’s way.   I never smelled smoke…so how in the world could this be happening?  How could Jody be telling me her home was gone?

Immediately, I picked up the phone and called Jody, admittedly a bit dazed and confused on my part.  She tells me everything.  She tells me about the 1 o’clock call in the middle of the night from her neighbor, how she was out of town visiting her mom’s cabin at the time and how all she has is literally the clothes on her back.

I do not try to tell her everything is going to work out. I do not tell her she’s lucky she’s safe and everyone in her family is safe.  I know all too well there are no words that can help at times like these so I just listen and soak in the trauma and heartache.  The fact of the matter is loss is loss no matter how we cut it.  Jody began to compare herself to me and she began to question her pain as if it didn’t measure up to mine.  “I lost my home…you lost your daughter,” she said “I shouldn’t be feeling so devastated.”

“Please don’t compare the two,” I said.  “Loss is loss and it hurts no matter its delivery and no matter its punch.”  She didn’t have much time to talk.  What about my dad?  His medication?  My Mom? What about my job?  What am I going to wear to work?  On and on the questions flowed and understandably, in the moment, there were no answers.

Post Trauma Bears Its Ugly Head

Ever since last year when Paul, my husband, went to the emergency room, I discovered I had a whole bunch of trauma lurking around inside me.   After talking to Jody I found myself feeling so sad and helpless.  Jody’s loss was stirring up the feelings of my own loss.  “Jenna,” I thought….oh how I understand the devastation of loss.  By Tuesday I felt catatonic.  That feeling you get when you just feel immobile.  I knew the signs, I had taken on too much emotionally charged energy  and I only have so many resources to draw upon.  So I did something that goes against my grain.  I took a break.  During that time, I read and napped. I have learned over these last three years that sometimes we have to take steps backwards in order to take leaps forward.  By evening I spoke with my sister about my emotional reaction and she helped me by coming up with the idea to start a GoFundMe for Jody.   She said, “Dena, this way you can help without feeling like you have to take care of all the details yourself.”

I continue to understand that walking in other people’s traumas and tragedies has a way of stirring up my own feelings of loss, sadness and helplessness but in the end I think it helps me better understand me and I know it’s a space I want to continue to make myself available to.

To help Jody, my teammate, please visit:  https://www.gofundme.com/nor-cal-fire-victim-my-teammate

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A Child’s Grief Journey

When Jenna passed away in 2014, my younger daughters were only 11 and 9 years old. I knew from the onset that I would need to seek out help for them. I was not only devastated over my own loss but also over my girls’ loss. Our three girls were very close to each other. I was so worried about their happiness. Julia, my 11 year old, was agreeable to seeing a grief counselor but Gigi expressed that she just wanted to share her grief with Paul and I. We honored her wishes. I feared their ability to bounce back from something so catastrophic.

It has been three years now. Gigi will be 13 in less than a month. In that time, I have learned a lot about how children grieve and, for that matter, cope with life’s circumstances. I have witnessed how our minds manage our emotions and in doing so manage our actions. Without the proper coping skills; however, I have also witnessed how life can feel out of our control.

The most important thing I have been able to guide my girls with is helping them develop their own personal awareness of their thoughts, feelings and emotions. In our culture, kids and adults often consider upsets, stress and hurt a sign of weakness and I wanted my girls to know I believed the opposite is true. It’s the strong that seek help.

In my experience, this doesn’t come easy to anyone but without exception, every person throughout history who has experienced happiness despite their life’s circumstances has the ability to recognize the thoughts, feelings and emotions that lie within them. Then they are able to choose what thoughts they will give their energy to and create the life they want despite the challenges, loss and heartaches they’ve experienced in their past. That is real power.

The greatest impact, I feel, I have made on my girls is showing them what’s possible and that if mom can find happiness despite Jenna’s passing, so can they. But this isn’t something I want to just share with my biological children, I want to show all children that the ability to learn coping skills will change their lives for the better and if I can do it, so can they. You and I know that we cannot always spare them from the pain that comes with living a life but we can give them the awareness of their own personal power and how to direct that power in a way that will give them an amazing life.

Because of our family’s journey with the pain and suffering of loss, I am honored that #hersmile is currently shaping a Resiliency & Coping skills curriculum for two of our local schools. Current self-assessment data of pre-teens indicates that from 35% to 100% of 4th to 6th graders already report having difficulty coping with stress, anger or sadness which science has shown leads to problems with learning. Since coping skills are brain habits, by teaching our children these skills they will be prepared for the many emotional changes and challenges that affect our brain’s ability to get over stress, anger and sadness. Since feelings start in our brain, the more we learn about how our coping brain works, the more capable and confident our children will be for the rest of their lives.

by Dena Derenale Betti

To read more: http://www.copingskills4kids.net/Home_Page.html

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Sightings

Often times, our loved ones who’ve died come to us in our dreams. Unlike most dreams however, these visits feel “real” – they don’t fade upon waking, and when recalled, feel more like a memory of a physical experience than the hazy events of nightly dreams.

“My sister and best friend all my life was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2011. I did anything and everything for Karen up until the bitter end. I cooked her meals, went to all her chemo and doctor appointments, prepped her meals on the weekends for the week ahead, etc. One day when we were talking about stuff she wanted me to do after she was gone, I asked her if she was going to come back and see me. She said, “I will if I can.” She passed at home while I laid in bed with her. She was 61.

Karen never came to see me for a couple of years. I was pretty bummed out. One night I had a dream that I was in some sort of train or bus station. I turned around and she walked up. She was with two older men and I knew immediately that they were chaperones, and though I didn’t see their faces, they were wearing long white gowns. Karen walked right up to me. She looked like she was about 30. Clean face, no make-up, long, brown hair. She just smiled a little smile…like Mona Lisa. We just stared at each other. No words. And I woke up. It was SO real. I wouldn’t allow myself to go back to sleep for fear of forgetting this moment. I stayed awake the rest of the night. It was awesome.

The next time we saw each other was a year or so later and again in a dream. I was at a soccer game (my girls played soccer for 18 years and Karen went to nearly every game). I was in a stadium that had concrete bleachers. I was sitting up towards the top. I noticed a woman sitting several rows down. Every time I looked at her – and I could only see her back – she was up another row until she was just two rows below me. Then she turned around and it was Karen. She was older, shorter hair, but with that same little smile. I called out to her by name and she just sat there. I said something like, “What are you doing here?”, but she didn’t answer. She just kept smiling at me. When I woke up I again had that feeling of it being SO real…and again, I stayed awake so that I wouldn’t forget!”

Shared by Nancy D., San Diego

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5 Steps to Self Love

by Kathryn Remati, MA

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha

Self-love is vital for health and happiness. Love is a powerful, positive energy that is necessary for a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit. We cannot recognize love in others unless we have it for ourselves. It allows us something genuine to share with the world, and when you believe you are worthy, your life will reflect it.

The concept of self-love should not be confused with narcissism and selfishness. Rather, look to the ancient wisdom of Buddha, as highlighted in his words below. Self-compassion is emphasized in Buddhist teachings and can lead us to the steps we need to take toward loving ourselves in a natural and healthy way.

Loving ourselves unconditionally in the same way we love our children and pets is what we are striving for. However, most of us put conditions on our value. We expect to be happy with ourselves only when we get the job we want, or only after getting the house, or losing the weight for example. Then and only then do we feel worthy.

Why wait for the outside circumstances to change? Inside is where our love waits for us. Here are a few ways to fill our cup of self-love until it overflows, so we may be open to give and receive love freely right now.

Step 1: Be Nice

“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care.”

An essential first step is to improve our self-talk and quiet the inner critic that judges and condemns our actions and feelings. We think we need to be tough on ourselves for motivation, but really the opposite is true.

A great way to begin the process of activating true self-care is to imagine how we speak to a friend who experiences failure or disappointment. We would encourage them and lift their spirits so they don’t take themselves so seriously. Making friends with ourselves begins when we mentally speak with kindness and a gentle, light-hearted tone. Next time you step on the scales or show up late to work, speak to yourself with kindness and no judgment. Use a term of endearment. Change that critical, mean inner voice to a warm, loving, expression of who you really are. This won’t happen overnight because we have been this way for years. We must try to love ourselves without exceptions and remember to be forgiving when the negative attributes like anger and envy appear. Love the negative parts and what we think of as faults too. Take advice from writer Elizabeth Gilbert who says, “Accept the glorious mess you are.”

Step 2: Be Authentic
“Don’t believe false doctrines. Don’t follow the way of the world.”

Choosing love it is the healthiest thing we could possibly do for ourselves. A love based theory for optimum health is the difference between living a life making decisions based on fear as opposed to your decisions coming from a place of love. Make decisions to do what feels right for you, and not out of fear of being rejected. We can be ourselves when we truly love ourselves. Choose love always, in all ways.

Step 3: Stop Comparing
“Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate that which they already have.”

We have to put an end to comparing ourselves to others. This is the craziest thing we do because we may tell ourselves we are awful when there is always someone worse or better in any situation. The human family is flawed and the sooner we realize we may never reach our own tough standards for perfection, the sooner we can truly love ourselves as we are, flaws and all. Everyone suffers in some way from regrets, hurts, fears, doubts and problems.

As long as we are living, we will have some kind of suffering to deal with. The answer is to deal with it in honest, healthy ways. Don’t repress it. Be mindful and surround any obstacles with love. Instead of separating from others and feeling less than someone else, see the connection. When we look for similarities, they soon become obvious and love is more likely to appear.

Step 4: Use Affirmations
“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”

Words have power. It is recommended to repeat positive phrases like a mantra and also to write them down. Leaving affirmations on notes around living and workspaces feeds the mind consciously and subconsciously, as it becomes a deep truth in time with repetition. Affirmation s like “I Approve of Myself” or “I Accept Myself Just as I Am” cannot be repeated or thought too many times in a day. A true test of growing self-love is to look into your own eyes in a mirror and say “I love you.” Keep trying until you see an amazing person full of love looking back at you.

Step 5: Meditate
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

Will another pair of shoes, a new car, or a new job give you lasting peace? Real happiness is a state of being that you carry with you at all times. We are already complete and enough just as we are. Be grateful for the simple things in life. We spend so much time, money, and energy on the exterior part of our lives. Think about the resources that go into the upkeep of our physical body alone. We need to value our inner riches.

Meditate to dissolve the walls of disdain and open your heart space. Go within by meditating daily to bypass the labels, judgments, and fears, and touch that source of true happiness, peace, serenity, and yes, true love for your true self!

BIO:
Kathryn Remati, MA created the popular Tranquil Me meditation App to help spread peace, one peaceful person at a time. She is a certified San Francisco based meditation teacher, health instructor for Kaiser Permanente, and writer. For more info about meditation classes and events go to: http://Tranquil-Me.com or follow her @TranquilMeApp.
(Photo: Graffiti Art by Banksy. Aliexpress.com)

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Learning a New Language

Mother’s Day was great. There were no flowers or gifts waiting for me when I woke up, no breakfast in bed. Not even a card.

And that’s just how I like it. It’s the one day, even more than my birthday, that I feel completely deserving of anything I ask for.
And what I love to receive the most from my husband and kids is action – for them to take a few items on my never-ending household “to-do” list and make them happen. Nothing makes me happier, or makes me feel more loved, than having them put in the effort to take care of something that is important to me. I know they don’t care if the garage is unorganized, but I do. They don’t see the weeds behind the barbecue, but I do. And when they take care of these things, something deep in me sighs and relaxes, and I feel taken care of too.

It took a while for me (and even longer for them) to understand that my wanting to “get things done” is not just me being a nag. When I finally understood what “doing things” does for me, I could ask them for what I need without judgement or blame by saying “I want to feel taken care of, and doing things for me without having to ask is what makes me feel that way.”

It’s my nature to anticipate needs and fill them. I’m great at taking care of others by doing for them – as are many women, and especially moms. Being of service is how I express my affection for others, and how I understand affection when others serve me in any way, big or small.

Acts of service are what author and marriage counselor Gary Chapman calls one of five emotional languages – the way that people speak and understand emotional love. Chapman says that “actions such as cooking a meal, setting a table, emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, changing the baby’s diaper, picking up a prescription, keeping the car in operating condition — they are all acts of service. They require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.”
If your love language is acts of service, then “actions speak louder than words.”

It’s important to know what your “love language” is in order to fill yourself back up – if you know what you need, you can ask for it. Giving and doing for others without tending to yourself is depleting. Feeling loved and cared for is just one way to “fill up your cup.”

The more you are able to receive, the more you have to give. And, recognizing the language of your loved ones lets you act in ways more fulfilling to them, and in turn enriches your life through deeper, more meaningful relationships. This deeper connection fills you up too.

The following adaption of The 5 Love Languages describes the other ways we express and feel love. Though he speaks to marital relationships in particular, Chapman’s work applies to all close relationship. Do you recognize your “Love Language”?

Words of affirmation
One way to express love emotionally is to use words that build up. Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love. They are best expressed in simple, straightforward statements of affirmation, such as:
“You look sharp in that suit.”
“I really like how you’re always on time to pick me up at work.”
“You can always make me laugh.”
Words of affirmation are one of the five basic love languages. Within that language, however, there are many dialects. All of the dialects have in common the use of words to affirm one’s spouse. Psychologist William James said that possibly the deepest human need is the need to feel appreciated. Words of affirmation will meet that need in many individuals.

Quality time
By “quality time,” I mean giving someone your undivided attention. I don’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together. When you spend time that way, Netflix or HBO has your attention — not your spouse. What I mean is sitting on the couch with the TV off, looking at each other and talking, devices put away, giving each other your undivided attention. It means taking a walk, just the two of you, or going out to eat and looking at each other and talking.
Time is a precious commodity. We all have multiple demands on our time, yet each of us has the exact same hours in a day. We can make the most of those hours by committing some of them to our spouse. If your mate’s primary love language is quality time she simply wants you, being with her, spending time.

Receiving gifts
Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving. All five love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest.
A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or, “She remembered me.” You must be thinking of someone to give him or her a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is that you thought of him or her. And it is not the thought implanted only in the mind that counts but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving it as the expression of love.
But what of the person who says, “I’m not a gift giver. I didn’t receive many gifts growing up. I never learned how to select gifts. It doesn’t come naturally for me.” Now that you have made that discovery, get on with the business of learning your second language. If your spouse’s primary love language is receiving gifts, you can become a proficient gift giver. In fact, it is one of the easiest love languages to learn.

Physical touch
We have long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Numerous research projects in the area of child development have made that conclusion: Babies who are held, stroked and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact.
For some individuals, physical touch is their primary love language. Without it, they feel unloved. With it, their emotional tank is filled, and they feel secure in the love of their spouse.
Implicit love touches require little time but much thought, especially if physical touch is not your primary love language and if you did not grow up in a “touching family.” Sitting close to each other as you watch your favorite television program requires no additional time but may communicate your love loudly. Touching your spouse as you walk through the room where he is sitting takes only a moment. Touching each other when you leave the house and again when you return may involve only a brief kiss or hug but will speak volumes to your spouse.

By Julia Novak, LSC, Intuitive Consultant. www.julianovak.net
Adaptation from The 5 Love Languages

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~Sightings~

On the 25th of every month, #hersmile will post a new story of a “sighting” of someone who has passed away. We would love to hear from you too! Please share in the comments below or email your story to info@hersmile.org.

What is a sighting?
Things happen after our loved ones die – crazy things, magical things, incredible things – that remind us that they are near. Everyone has a story. Or knows someone that does. A sign, a synchronicity, a sense of presence – each of them clearly comes from the ones you’ve lost. Perhaps reading these stories will bring peace to your own experience, they confirm you haven’t “lost your mind.” Though in some ways perhaps that is exactly what’s happened. Through loss your mind has let go of mundane things and narrowed its focus. Your awareness has shifted into a new place. A place that is there all the time but is overlooked. This is where love lives on.

“My aunt Terri and I talked on the phone every Saturday – she “shopped” with me from hundreds of miles away on my errands, giving me advice and opinions as I carried her with me in the phone. It was the morning of my 40th birthday – seven years after she died of cancer. I’d just dropped my daughter off at her grandmother’s because I was going to work. It was a pretty August morning and I was singing along with the car radio because I was having a great day. I stopped at a light and she was just there. I could see her face in the windshield. She had the most beautiful smile and this beautiful bright light around her, like she was glowing. She just looked beautiful. When I saw her, it was like being part of that glow with her as if she was giving me a hug. I could honestly feel connected to her. Unfortunately it only lasted for about 30 seconds and then she was just gone. I felt her disconnect. I stated crying, then I felt bad because I didn’t want her to think I was sad because she came – it was because it didn’t last long enough. There are really no words to describe how amazing it was to have her there, to feel like I was connected to her. I doubted myself and thought “did this just happen?” It was so real and powerful but I never talked about it to anyone, not even my husband, until last year. I haven’t seen her again. There are many times I feel she’s with me, and I know she looks out for my daughter Katie, because she told me she would be her guardian angel. I would love to see her again.

Shared by Jannea Wright, Texas

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Why Do I Want to Pay It Forward

Paying forward all the love and support that has been given to our family was an instinct I had very shortly after Jenna passed away. No thank you card or verbal gesture of gratitude seemed to be enough to express the enormity of love we held for each person who took the time to hold us up during our darkest days. I wanted to do more. I wanted to show everyone of you how you have touched my soul and in return how your love has made the world a better place.

Now fast forward three years later. We have an organization that is emerging within our community and yet the ‘pay it forward’ impact we want to create is just in its infancy. #hersmile started as an organization that gave funds to families that had lost a child or who had lost a parent with dependent children. Then we expanded and created an outreach program, which is aimed at staying with our families along their long and painful grief journey. Next, we approached our local school district in hopes of having the next layer of our mission come to fruition, which is to fund programs that empower and inspire our children to thrive despite adversity or tragic events in their life. That hope is now unfolding to be a reality and still we have so much more we want to do. We are also working on powerful partnerships within the community that will prove to make a greater, more powerful impact. Everything we do is with our goal to promote healing and resiliency during tragedy and difficult times in mind.

The last three years has taught me that ‘paying it forward’ isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Not because of our desire to stay the course. On the contrary, I am more determined than ever to serve our mission and vision but just because you want to put good into the world doesn’t always mean that your timeline and divine time will be insync. My greatest frustration comes from wanting to help more people and getting the word out about who we serve in the quickest amount of time. It’s the power of Jenna’s smile that I lean on to give me patience. It reminds me that every day I serve her, our family, our community and YOU!

Soon I’ll share more with you about our new apparel line. It’s all about the impact we have on one another and the ripple effect “paying it forward” has on the world! It’s rooted in the power of the smile and the impact paying forward love into the world can have on each one of us. I believe #hersmile is a beautiful example of just how powerful paying forward something can be.

All My Love ~ Dena Betti

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How to Find What’s Missing

It’s been a long winter for some, dampening dispositions along with our usually sunny California skies. Perhaps weathering life lately has been a challenge, and despite the clouds lifting all around, your mood isn’t. You’re not depressed exactly, but certainly not pumped. You’re busy in the daily routine, going through the motions. and not looking forward to anything. Perhaps you’re bored, wondering is this all there is? You sense that something is missing but you don’t know what it is.

The thing that’s missing is you– your sense of self, well-being, meaning, and purpose. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It means you’re not connected. This is living life on the surface, skimming along unaware and missing out on the deeper, richer parts of life. Here are a few tips to shake off the flatlined feeling of disconnection and plug into your life in a way that actually feels alive.

Connect with your Body
Most of us live in our heads, mulling over the do’s and don’ts of the day, planning work and family schedules weeks out, dreaming about vacation, stewing over the past. Did you know that well over 50% of our thoughts are the same ones we think every day? Rarely are we in the present moment, tuned into ourselves and our environment.

Living in your head keeps you out of your body and out of your emotions. Instead, slow down long enough to ask lovingly yourself “how’re you doing?” You might be surprised at what you hear. Do you have any idea why you’re angry, lonely, or feeling down in the dumps? Have you even put a name to how your feeling to it to begin with? With no connection to your body you’re a balloon on a string, floating through life at the whim of the wind, only adding to the belief that life is out of your control.

Throughout the day, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Check in with your body by asking these three simple questions: Am I tired? Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Respond by giving to yourself in a healthy way. If you need a nap, take it. A 15- minute power nap is far better than slamming down a mocha frappuccino to get you through the rest of the day.

Connect with your Soul
The beat of our hearts directs the rhythm of our bodies, but it’s our heart in the bigger sense orchestrating what has meaning and value to us. What do you love? What tugs at your heartstrings, makes your heart sing? This is the language of your soul – the unique spiritual aspect that makes you purely you.

When you feel like something is missing it’s your soul trying to get your attention. Have you given up your quirkiness to conform? Is your personality reflected in your home, your clothes, or the work you do? Do you cater to your whims, your fancies and your needs? Doing so connects you back up to your original self, and when you do, a life force energy comes with it that feeds your motivation, creativity and contentment.

The ways to connect with your soul are as diverse as humanity– but there are universal things that feed us all, like beauty, quiet, laughter, music, and color.

What’s good for your soul? It could be watching your dog romp in the grass, tracking a hawk sailing across the sky, or pedaling a mountain bike up a steep hill. Or maybe it’s fresh flowers on the table every week, taking in a live performance in the City, or screaming your lungs out at a Warrior game. Whatever it is, make it a priority to do it.

Connect with the World
We all know what it’s like to feel alone in a crowd. When you interact with people daily without genuine connection, life can be lonely and stale.

When did you last spend quality time with someone just talking, laughing, and doing something fun? When you felt heard and seen, and not responsible for taking care of someone’s expectations? Find those people to spend genuine, heartfelt moments with. They are the ones who reflect the best of you, and you them. Consider ways to connect with the people you live and work with in a more meaningful way. When you begin from a present awareness of your genuine self, your experience of others shifts dramatically.

You can seek soulful connection with people intellectually. Attend a lecture , conference or a compelling performance. Listen to an author speak, see a great movie. Connect your mind to like minds in a way that is dynamic, creative, and inquisitive – in a way that sparks possibility in you apart from everyday life.

Being in a group stimulates and satisfies the primal part of your brain wired to belong to a tribe – it means safety and security on a deep, unconscious level. Even the most introverted of us needs to belong among people, even for a while. Where do you feel like you belong? Look for opportunities in church, school or create a tribe of your own grounded in something you love.

The best way to slow down, center yourself, get in touch with your feelings and check out what has really been running your mind is to get in nature. We all know intuitively we feel better in nature, and science backs it up. We are happier in nature because we are nature too. Tapping back into the pulse of the Earth’s electromagnetic field, to the wind around us, the bustle of birds and bugs, the peace of deer grazing on a hill, a show of light and sound as water tumbles over rocks calms the nervous system, reduces stress, and clears the mind. Spending time outdoors repeatedly in positive ways can actually create new neural pathways in the brain– in other words – nature changes how you think and how you feel.

Connecting helps you find what’s missing – your bigger Self – through the language of your Soul, in nature, and interactions with others. Connecting creates the shift that lets you experience life as happening through you, not to you. As you connect with what’s missing, the power to choose more of the life you want becomes clear.

By Julia Novak, Spiritual Mentor and Psychic Consultant specializing in readings, intuition training, and energy healing and clearing. I wake people up to the power of their psychic connection to themselves, and the world to live a life of wisdom, heart and courage. Call me at (925) 286-8325 for a complimentary discussion about your needs and how I can best serve you.www.julianovak.net

The Power of the Smile t-shirt line is currently available via our FB store while our website is under construction. Consider buying our ‘Connect’ tee as a reminder of the power connection has in your life and all of our lives.

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Feel What You Have to Feel

The holiday vacation ends for our girls today so I’m taking the time to write to you because, quite frankly, I’ve missed it. I hope you had a wonderful holiday and that you rang in the New Year with the hope of a fruitful and healthy year to look forward to. Yet, I know for many the holidays can make for very difficult times. They are known to cast a somber light on fractured relationships and hurt feelings. They also seem to heighten our sensitivity and longing around those who aren’t able to be with us at a time when families traditionally come together. I wish I could tell you that my Christmas got a little easier this year and that there was a lightness inside of me. I wish I could tell you that the journey of grief has a final destination, an end point. I wish I could tell you that it was the best Christmas I’ve had since Jenna passed away but the reality is it wasn’t.

The fact of the matter was the holiday season was difficult and the month brought about many waves of sadness. Maybe it started when I walked up to the bleachers to watch Julia’s first varsity soccer game only to be hit with the harsh reality that Jenna wasn’t by her side. Maybe it’s because I wondered what Jenna would have wanted for Christmas and what would have been in her stocking. Maybe it’s that people don’t want to bring Jenna’s name up much anymore because of fear of making me sad and not wanting to ruin the moment or perhaps it’s that people think I’m better now, complete now. The fact of the matter is maybe it’s a little bit of everything that makes the wave of grief percolate and grow within me or maybe it’s just simply that she’s not here.

Whatever the reason or reasons may be, grief is for the birds. I’ve learned that it does no good to dwell for too long on why you feel the way you feel. All the maybes we come up with aren’t going to help us feel better and the truth is the more maybes we come up with, the longer the sadness and pain sticks around. My best advice for life is to feel every single emotion that comes your way. Truly feel it but remember overanalyzing is never a good thing when it comes to our emotions. Feel the way you feel and then move on to what your intentions in life are.

So as each day of the holiday season unfolded I felt what I needed to feel and kept my focus on my intention of having a joyful, peaceful life despite my circumstances. It was a bit of a roller coaster for sure but I’ve come to accept that I can be sad but still be happy. I can feel broken yet work every day to build something of meaning and contribution. We are not our emotions. We are so much more. So as your new year unfolds may you remember what we’ve shared here today. Feel what you have to feel and then go create the life you want despite some of the cards you’ve been dealt. Together…I know we can do it. All my love ~Dena

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A Story of Collateral Beauty

It wasn’t until the other day when I caught a quick glimpse of the trailer Collateral Beauty on the television. It was speaking to the intense emotional impact death and loss can have in one’s life. But who did Howard (Will Smith’s character) lose? Now I was curious. A quick search on the internet answered that question for me. He lost his daughter. I wanted to know more.

I found out that Howard fell into a deep depression after the death of his daughter. He didn’t know how to move on from the darkness and despair that consumed him. So he sought answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. “Wow!” I thought, “I have done the same thing.”

I think it’s only natural to turn to the universe for answers when life throws you curveballs but since my daughter Jenna’s passing in 2014, I have learned that all the answers you need lie within you. In the wake of such a devastating loss, I felt like I was drowning in a waste pool of collateral damage. It’s a place where life happens to you and all you know to do is step to the side and watch your life fall apart. It’s dark and it’s painful. Yet in the backdrop of the darkness, there was a small flickering of light. I could see it. It was there and it was calling out to me. It was the flickering light of love. It was the love I have for Jenna, my family and all of humanity. The more I focused on the light, the more the light began to grow.

I could see that the beauty and richness of the light intensified with its backdrop of darkness. In a way that perhaps only the universe understands, the darkness makes the light more brilliant; more rich. It’s the darkness which allows you to see the light truly dance throughout the brilliance of all its colors. That light exist within all of us.

I can’t pretend to know why for many of us it takes being broken open to acknowledge the magic and power of this light within our lives. After Jenna’s passing I vowed to have the light illuminate my path. I concentrated on it and prayed it would show me the way. Through such a quest I have been touched by the collateral beauty of loss. It’s the beauty and richness love has in all of our lives. It’s the understanding that when you love someone you never feel like you have enough time with them and in death you understand the gift and impact they had in your life.

In the end, collateral beauty is a choice worth making. It doesn’t mean the pain ever goes away. It doesn’t mean that you will ever stop missing what could have been but what it does mean is every day the light of love that flickers within you can grow and dance within the backdrop of darkness. This is truly where the beauty lies.