Twenty Years Ago Today

By Joy Perugini | Real and Raw

Oct 12

I’ve got something to share … and it’s not as light and bright and happy as what I’d normally share … but I’m just gonna take a deep breath and go for it. If you’ll stick with me, I promise there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.

Twenty years ago today, I was changed forever.

Twenty years ago today, a light went out in my life.

Twenty years ago today everything I knew to be true and real went spiraling down into an ugly, dark, dank vortex.

Twenty years ago today I was the saddest sad I have ever experienced in my life.

Twenty years ago today, my father was killed in a horrific accident, and he was the strongest, most kind-hearted person that I have ever been blessed to have in my presence still to this day.

I was so young, and so impressionable. At just twenty years old, it was far too great of a loss to comprehend. Less than two months prior, I had moved away from home for the first time (I did my first two years of college close to home and then transferred schools down to North Carolina for my junior year). I was on my way home for Fall Break and decided to stop to visit some friends in New York on my way up to Connecticut.

I missed my dad by one day.

Worse yet, the last time I spoke to my father was on the phone … he picked up when I called and I said, “Hi Daddy, is Mom there?” and that was it.

I was at my friend’s home on Long Island, when my sister’s friend called the house looking for my friend (yes, we all still had land lines back then). I recognized her voice, and as you can imagine, I was extremely confused. She was trying to reach anyone, but me …

She got me.

My sister’s friend ended up having to be the one to tell me that my father was gone (I had essentially forced it out of her without meaning to). My family was trying to protect me from hearing the news when I was alone, hence the reason they had my sister’s friend contacting my friend in an effort to bypass me. Unfortunately, I was alone and had to sit with it on my own for about thirty minutes before my friends got to me.

My dad was gone. He got up and went to work that morning like any other day … and he would never come back home again. He was a hard working ol’ school Italian guy playing in the dirt with his toys … he was a builder, a creator, a business owner … a true entrepreneur to every extent of the word. My dad built the roads you drive on, the houses you live in, and the playgrounds and ball fields you play on. My dad was an artist in his own right, and although we chose to express our art in very different ways, I am too.

The accident was all over the media … the TV, radio, and front page of the papers the following morning (it was that bad). The story was so publicized, and my dad was such an amazingly loved man, that the line at his wake resembled a bad ride at Disney World (if memory serves, people waited around three hours to get in to visit with us).

I’m not sharing this story so that you can pity me for losing my father at such a young age … I’m not telling you this to get your sympathy … I’m telling you this because life?




Yes, it was SO unfair. Yes, I was SO young. Yes, my dad wouldn’t see me graduate college or walk me down the aisle. Yes, everything about the situation was just awful … until it wasn’t anymore.

I’m not going to say that loss doesn’t suck … oh trust me, I have had a LOT more loss than just the loss of my dad in my life (we’ll save all that for another day), so I’m old friends with loss. It TOTALLY sucks, but our perspective can honestly change anything.

There was a time period in my twenties where I was just so, so hurt and angry at the world. I was trying everything and anything not to be me. It started with changing my hair every six weeks or so … color, cut, highlights, straight, curly … you name it, I changed it. I just wanted to be anyone but the “me” that lost my dad, and then one of my best friends just a few years later. I even tried moving 5,000 miles away from everything I knew and loved to a beautiful island, but you know what? Every morning that I woke up in paradise … I. was. still. Joy.

Change has to start from within. It has to start in the deep, dark recesses of your being … your heart … your spirit. You have to get quiet and listen to the song of your soul, or you will keep missing the mark you’re meant to hit every. single. time.

So, how do we get quiet?

How do we listen within?

How do we get through and let go of the things in life that don’t serve us?

Whether it’s a feeling like loss, anger or insecurity, or a person or thing that we need to move on from, it all comes down to the same thing …

It begins with you.

It’s up to you.

But, it’s more easily said than done to just “choose to be happy” and for those living in a true state of depression, it’s an unrealistic expectation. We CAN choose our feelings, but when you are deeply depressed, you need to seek professional help (I am a HUGE advocate for therapy and believe everyone on the planet can benefit from speaking with a therapist at some point or another, whether they are struggling with depression or not).

A nice place to start the process of going within is through journaling … that’s where I always begin, time and time again. Every time I come back to my journal and root myself in my writing, the world around me shifts in the most profound way, because I shift. Letting go of what is weighing on my mind, allowing my heart to pour out safely onto the pages of my journal, never fails to lift the fog of my ego state and send light flooding back in to every inch of me … mind, body and spirit.

When it comes to getting quiet and getting connected, along with journaling, I find solace through meditation. The combination of the two practices works wonders for me. And, just so you know, meditation doesn’t have to be all “Om, shanti shanti shanti” either. Just do what works for you! You really HAVE to do what works for you, or else you won’t actually do it, now will you?! You could choose to use a guided meditation, if quieting your mind on your own doesn’t do it for you, or you can do a moving meditation like taking a walk in nature, or possibly doing some yoga. You could even just lie in the grass and watch the clouds float by, or take a nice, relaxing bath. Honestly, whatever you can do to slow your pace, lower your heart rate, breathe more deeply and connect with your deeper self, qualifies as “meditation” in my world.

Through finding the quiet, the softness within, we allow ourselves to truly begin the process of healing … a process which begins with finding our own faith, strength and perseverance … a process which truly never ends.

Regarding the tragic losses that others have shared with me throughout the years, I’ve likely spoken the phrase “it never gets ‘better’ but it does get ‘easier’” hundreds of times, and it’s true. I will never stop missing my dad. I will never not wish he was here with me right now, but I often stop to wonder …

Who would I be today, if he was still here?

Would I be the driven, motivated and slightly neurotic entrepreneur I am today?

Would I have ever experienced living on an island?

Would I be getting ready to move to another island?!

Would I have ever opened my own brick and mortar fitness studio?

Would I be the “Joy” I am today?

Or would I be a completely different version of myself, had I lived the last twenty years with my father in my life?

I’m guessing it’s the latter.

There’s one thing I know for sure, that might actually make you take a step back … I feel closer to my dad today, than I did when he was alive. Just let that one simmer for a bit ;)

Remember, that bottom line? You have a choice about how you approach and react to each and every situation that enters your life (even the unbearable ones). And might I highly recommend, that whenever humanly possible, you chose to see the light in those situations … that you take the higher road … that you do your very best to vibrate at “love or above” even when it seems impossible to do so. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t impossible at all. It’s simply a choice.

I am convinced that today my mother, sisters and I are closer and more deeply connected than we could have ever been, had my father not left us so early on. The loss of my father deepened our appreciation for one another. It deepened our appreciation for life. Because of that tragic event, today I can fully embrace how important it is to live each and every day to its fullest, how important it is to tell our loved ones that we love them, and how important it is to discover your own truth within and truly love yourself.

Please know that if you need help in raising your vibration and truly embracing life and all it has to offer you, I’m always here. And my new 28 day challenge, Love Your Body, Love Your Life, may provide just the lift you’re in need of. Just click here to take a look for yourself.


About the Author

Joy M. Perugini is an Shaman, Energy Healer, Intuitive and Entrepreneur. She finds her passion in helping others connect to their soul-led lives through energetic healing and clearing, chakra balancing, mindful movement (dance, yoga and functional fitness classes), guided meditations and intuitive readings. Her twenty-seven years of diverse experience in the health and wellness industry include establishments throughout the continental United States and Hawaii. Her Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science with a concentration in Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, provides a strong knowledge-base to her work. Joy started as a student athletic trainer at Eastern College in Pennsylvania and interned at a physical therapy center treating sports related injuries. During a two-year residency on Maui, Hawaii, Joy served as the Lead Fitness Trainer at the Grand Wailea Resort and Spa, rated the #1 Resort Spa in the World by Conde Nast Magazine. Joy’s tenure there increased her knowledge of the spa industry and importance of customer care. Joy was born and raised in West Hartford, CT and returned there as an in-home personal trainer, helping many clients achieve their wellness goals. She later managed a health and fitness center for a major international corporation based in Hartford, CT. Feeding her entrepreneurial spirit, Joy opened a boutique group exercise and personal training studio located in Plainville, CT, in June 2006. The studio offered customized training to individuals of all fitness levels and abilities, and housed a distinctively friendly atmosphere in an industry known to intimidate many. While still running the day to day activities at the studio, in 2014 Joy decided to expand her reach and spread her love of life, fitness, health and wellness far and wide by forming her web-based company, JoyFit Nation, LLC. Today, Joy spreads insight and inspiration by sharing her message online and in person via her signature programs, retreats, workshops and private sessions.

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