Welcome, I’m Diane Petrella.
It’s a crisp autumn night two weeks after my 11th birthday. I’m standing in the kitchen talking with my mother and father before I head to bed. My father needs something in the basement and opens the door to go down. He takes a step, and slips. I hear him tumble down the stairs.
Terror and panic erupt. My mother runs downstairs then dashes back up to call the police. I see my father’s lifeless body on the cold cement floor. I scream and run from room to room, trying to escape from myself. It seems forever until I hear the sirens. The police carry him off on a stretcher.
There’s blood everywhere. An hour later I learn what I already knew:
My father is dead.
After my father’s death, my mother did the best she could. But she was drowning in her own grief so couldn’t help me with mine. My feelings dove underground. I focused on schoolwork, books and trying to make my mother feel better.
Several months later I read a story about Jane Addams, a social worker from the late 1800s. Jane championed causes for women and children, was an outspoken activist for social justice and started the first settlement house in the United States for European immigrants like my parents.
I wanted to be Jane. She helped people feel better. I wanted to feel better. I wanted my mother to feel better.
I could relate.
So I single-mindedly set my path on becoming a social worker although I didn’t really know what that meant at the time.
But I knew my life purpose: To help people feel better.
I couldn’t make myself feel better, however. For nearly 15 years after that awful October night, I stayed pretty much numb to the effects of my father’s death.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that social work school forced me to face what I needed to face. In my first clinical internship I worked with abused and neglected inner-city children. I saw myself in each child. Our situations may have been different, but the fear and sadness were the same. And they triggered me big time.
A tsunami of emotion followed: I became depressed, immobilized with anxiety and gripped with what I later learned was delayed PTSD. I barely functioned but managed to drag myself through each day.
My supervisor knew something was wrong—this was social work school, remember—and with her support I found an angel therapist to help me. It took a long time—through many long months—but I finally climbed out of that hole and began my journey to heal.
Years later I heard a lecture by spiritual teacher and medical intuitive Caroline Myss who said, “Early suffering in children sometimes causes them to be open to the spirit world, the world of healing, help and angels.”
I know it’s cliché to say, “wisdom comes through suffering,” but when we don’t allow ourselves to be victims, it’s true. I came to understand that the sudden death of my father was the most spiritually important event in my life.
It’s no wonder I would later develop a center for traumatized children and adults. I knew what it was like to feel terrified, abandoned and alone.
But more important, I knew how to get to the other side.
And no matter what is happening in your life right now, I can help you get to the other side, too.
My Education And Credentials
My training started out fairly traditional: I graduated magna cum laude from Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Sociology and received my Master of Social Work degree from Simmons University Graduate School of Social Work in Boston.
Because my personal beliefs are more spiritual and holistic, I received additional training at the Mind/Body Medical Institute at the Deaconess Hospital in Boston, MA, in conjunction with the Department of Continuing Education of Harvard Medical School.
In addition to being a psychotherapist, I’m a life coach, certified through The Coaches Training Institute and a Level II Reiki practitioner.
Early in my career I developed the first child sexual abuse treatment program in Rhode Island and routinely testified in court as an expert witness on child and adult sexual assault and post-traumatic stress. During this time I learned the connection between early trauma and later health and mental health issues, including emotional eating. (Learn more here.)
I currently work with adults only. Along with trauma, I also help people with relationship/intimacy struggles, emotional eating, grief and bereavement, depression, anxiety and life transitions such as divorce and career change. Learn more about working with me here.
More About Me
Taking care of myself is a priority so I make sure to do things that keep me healthy and happy. I meditate daily to calm my mind, enjoy being in nature to nourish my soul and exercise regularly to strengthen my body.
When I was in my 20s, I set a goal of doing a special physical activity for every “big” birthday. I ran a marathon when I turned 30, 40, and 50. When I turned 60, I hiked up Mount Washington with my husband. (When we finished the fairly strenuous hike, Carl said, “That was great and everything, but next time can you just be like other women and go to a spa?”)
Well… nothing against spas (I love them!) but that’s not the point of how I celebrate my big birthdays. Doing a physical activity helps me feel strong and healthy. When I turned 65, I decided to spice up the coming decades and do a physical activity every five years. So Carl (he’s such a good sport) and I hiked the length of Rhode Island. (I know… it’s the smallest state, but still.) We hiked 81 miles over six days, averaging 14 miles each day. It was fabulous!
Here I am crossing the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon in celebration of my 50th birthday, hiking up Mount Washington in honor of my 60th, and hiking the North-South Trail, finishing at the beach in southern Rhode Island to celebrate turning 65!
I don’t believe in getting older. I believe in getting stronger.
I love to read spiritual teachings, knit, hike, and travel the world. After years of being single (my early loss meant years of struggle with relationships), I met Carl, without trying, standing in line at Starbucks on my way to work. Here we are at the Taj Mahal, ballooning over the Moroccan desert and hiking in Patagonia.
I’m sure my father is happy knowing I healed from the tragedy of losing him and finally met someone to share my life. Through the years it took to overcome that trauma, I gained so much strength and wisdom.
By going through the darkness, I discovered my light.
Hold faith in your heart that no matter what you’re struggling with, your light is shining brightly and all your answers are deep inside. Really. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that when you’re in pain. But underneath all the turmoil you may be experiencing right now is a wellspring of strength and inner peace…
Let Me Know If You’d Like My Guidance To Find It.
- Learn more about working with me here.
- Visit my Facebook page for healing tips and inspiration.
- If you want to feel better about yourself and your body, my blog articles will help.
I wish you all the best on your journey.