Episode 24: Life After Losing A Spouse
Episode 24: Life After Losing A Spouse
Toni Uzzalino opens about her recovery after the traumatic loss of her husband while raising two young children. Toni has taken her immense pain and grief and has transformed it into a life spent helping others.
To learn more about Toni and her work, please visit https://www.toniuzzalinolpc.com
Alyssa Scolari [00:23]:
Hey everybody. Happy Tuesday. Welcome to episode 24 of the Light After Trauma podcast. I am your host, Alyssa Scolari, and this is the first episode that we are recording in 2021. It’ll be the second episode to launch. So, today is Wednesday, January 6th when we’re recording, but it’s going to be launching on Tuesday, January… What the heck is next Tuesday? The 12th? I think it’s the 12th. Anyway, regardless, I have with me here today, a good friend. We’re going to be talking about some hard stuff; talking about grief today with my dear friend, Tony Uzzalino. That’s the Italian way of saying it. Am I right?
Tony Uzzalino [01:10]:
Alyssa Scolari [01:13]:
Isn’t that Americanized?
Tony Uzzalino [01:14]:
Yeah. It’s actually a misspelling. There’s very few people with that spelled that way.
Alyssa Scolari [01:22]:
Really? How’s it usually spelled?
Tony Uzzalino [01:26]:
Yes. And most people that I’ve met with the last name, it was my husband’s, and they were related to him.
Alyssa Scolari [01:30]:
Well, okay. I love your last name because it just screams Italian, and I’m obsessed. And obviously, as I said that to all the listeners out there, I did the Italian hand motion. So, you’ve got two Italians coming at you today, and hopefully, we love to talk with our hands, so we’re going to try not to smack things around. I know I’m definitely guilty of smacking the table in a fit of passion when we were talking about this stuff. So, welcome, Tony. How are you? Thank you so much for coming on the show today.
Tony Uzzalino [02:06]:
Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here.
Alyssa Scolari [02:09]:
I am so stoked to have you. So, can you tell the listeners a little bit about what you do?
Tony Uzzalino [02:18]:
Sure. Do you want me to go into history, or just what I do right now?
Alyssa Scolari [02:23]:
Well, let’s start off on, I guess, to be more specific, because, one of the things that is so interesting about your story, is you are in the field of mental health, you are an LPC, so you’re a therapist, but you did not start out that way. So, take us back to what your career was versus what it is now, because, you did a total 180.
Tony Uzzalino [02:47]:
Absolutely. I was an accountant working in financial services, and then a trauma had affected my family, which caused my whole life to be in an uproar. Took me a couple of years to settle down until I found a therapist to help one of my family members. It was an art therapist. One day, I was looking at something, she was explaining something to me, and I said, “I can do this.” And she said, “You should. You’d be great at it.” So, I decided to go back to school at 35. And I had to get my prerequisites for grad school, but I wound up going to Caldwell and getting a master’s degree in counseling psychology, with a specialization in art therapy.
Alyssa Scolari [03:40]:
Specialization… I actually didn’t even know that. So, you have a specialization in art therapy.
Tony Uzzalino [03:45]:
Yes, but my degree is in counseling psychology, a new degree to the school, actually, it’s the only one in New Jersey that is accredited, and I was there while they were getting accredited. So, it was a little challenging to get my LPC. Actually, I got denied on my LAC. They said I needed a counseling course. The whole degree was in counseling. But I just went with it, and I said, “Let me just accumulate my hours.” And when I did that, I started… A friend of mine, kind of… “I got my LPC.” And I tried it, and I had to question one thing, but it was such a little thing. And all of a sudden, they said, “Congratulations.” So, I wound up getting it a little bit later than I thought, but that was okay.
Alyssa Scolari [04:32]:
Yeah. It can be such a pain in the butt to go from the LAC, which to the listeners out there, the LAC is like your provisional license where you have to be under supervision and you can’t practice on your own, and you have to get some… right now, it’s like 4,500 hours under a supervisor that has to be approved by the board. It’s a nightmare. Not that it’s deterring anybody from going into the field, because, it’s a blessing to be in this field, but yeah, it’s such a pain in the ass, quite frankly. Now, going back to… You said that there was this trauma in your life that shifted, ultimately, catapulted you into a new career. What had happened?
Tony Uzzalino [05:18]:
It was June, I guess it started more February. I was married with two little kids, three and seven. My husband’s father had died pretty suddenly. They were very, very close. We, actually, all were very close. And that was the first event. It shook us up, and the next couple of months were a blur, and then my husband went to sleep one night and he didn’t wake up. He was 36.
Alyssa Scolari [05:49]:
Tony Uzzalino [05:51]:
Yeah. And I woke up to see that he hadn’t. And that was the start of the events that led to me going back to school.
Alyssa Scolari [06:04]:
Oh my gosh. And you were how old at this time? So you had to be in your 30s?
Tony Uzzalino [06:11]:
Yes. I was 31.
Alyssa Scolari [06:13]:
At 31 years old, you had been married for how many years?
Tony Uzzalino [06:17]:
Nine and a half. It was June 25th of 1999. And my birthday was in July.
Alyssa Scolari [06:32]:
And he did not wake up.
Tony Uzzalino [06:35]:
Alyssa Scolari [06:36]:
And before that, so his father had passed.
Tony Uzzalino [06:41]:
Alyssa Scolari [06:42]:
And it sounds like… Was that a series of events that ultimately led to your husband’s passing?
Tony Uzzalino [06:51]:
We believe so. And of course, thinking back, hindsight, it’s quite amazing, he struggled with his health, which was similar to his dad. And he seemed to always be sick with one thing or another; from an injury when he was younger, to infections that lasted months at a time. Being on workmen’s comp and then getting a job. So, it was always pretty much a challenge, but he also had high blood pressure, and he put on quite a bit of weight suddenly, with his dad’s passing. And I think that contributed greatly to the events that led up to his death.
Alyssa Scolari [07:36]:
Do you attribute the sudden onset of waking to just the unprocessed feelings around his father’s passing?
Tony Uzzalino [07:47]:
Yeah. I think he had some unresolved stuff that he needed to deal with, and I believed in… I don’t even know how to put this into words. I believed that you are able to… I don’t know how to put this into words.
Alyssa Scolari [08:06]:
What are you trying to say?
Tony Uzzalino [08:07]:
I feel like because he had some guilt, some unresolved feelings, that it quanted him, so to speak. And I think that led and caused depression in the combination.
Alyssa Scolari [08:25]:
I’m a firm believer; there’s such a strong mind-body connection, and it goes back to… And I think you had read this book. I don’t know if you finished it, but Bessel van der Kolk’s, The Body Keeps the Score. So, is that similar to what you’re trying to say, where you feel like he took all the feelings and just stored them? Because if you don’t do anything with them, they sit in your body, and that leads to health complications, that leads to weight gain, it leads to a whole host of issues which can be fatal.
Tony Uzzalino [08:57]:
Yes. And I think it was so many years, after the fact, looking back, I think when I first met him, he was actually related to my cousin’s husband. So, I met his family before I met him because he was always away at school. But thinking back, he had a loss of a sibling when he was young. And I really think that some of it even goes back as far as that.
Alyssa Scolari [09:25]:
Absolutely. And back then, things were less discussed. Especially being a man, it was not okay to talk about feelings.
Tony Uzzalino [09:39]:
And an Italian man.
Alyssa Scolari [09:41]:
Absolutely. That’s like the nail in the coffin. An Italian man, feelings? mm-mm [negative]. We don’t talk about that. We provide for the family, and that’s it.
Tony Uzzalino [09:52]:
Alyssa Scolari [09:53]:
That’s so tough. And you, I don’t know if you said this while we were recording, but this is one thing I do know; is that you have children with him, so how old were your kids when your husband passed?
Tony Uzzalino [10:05]:
Three and a half, and seven and a half. One was with me that night, and one wasn’t, which was some of the trauma piece of it. It was very complex because of that.
Alyssa Scolari [10:20]:
Could you say a little bit more about that? You don’t have to if you don’t want to. Feel free to tell me no.
Tony Uzzalino [10:25]:
Well, one wasn’t there, and I think that there were some feelings about not being there to help, and the other one was there but very young, and internalized the responsibility of his dad to her. She blamed herself.
Alyssa Scolari [10:42]:
Yeah. As kids do.
Tony Uzzalino [10:44]:
It was until years and years and years later, did we realize that. But thankfully, through art therapy and processing things, took a little bit of a different route in life, but both are successful adults. Now, they are 25 and 29, and both are doing really good.
Alyssa Scolari [11:07]:
Wow. It makes so much sense what you say about how your kids internalized it and processed it in different ways. You had your one child who was there, and was more than likely thinking, “What could I have done, or what did I do that caused this to happen?” And then you have the child who wasn’t there, who jumps right to, “Well, it’s because I wasn’t there. If I was there, this wouldn’t have happened.” And that can be so hard, so difficult. So, you are 31 years old, you’ve got two small children, your husband passes away, you are now a grieving widow, how are you still standing? What were those years like for you?
Tony Uzzalino [11:55]:
Alyssa Scolari [11:57]:
Oh my god. I can’t even imagine.
Tony Uzzalino [11:58]:
Yeah. Some days, I look back, and it seems like yesterday. And then some days, it seems like a hundred years ago. There were total ups and downs. I did have an education and a job, and it’s even difficult to put into words. It definitely was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. That is for definite sure.
Alyssa Scolari [12:25]:
So, you ended up going back to work to be an accountant after your husband passed.
Tony Uzzalino [12:34]:
No. I really was an accountant.
Alyssa Scolari [12:37]:
Right. But you ended up going back to work as an accountant.
Tony Uzzalino [12:42]:
Yes. I worked for… like a money manager, I was in marketing, it was a small firm. And then, few years later, I was laid off because they were taking over, and they were moving back into the city, and by now, I just definitely could not do; be in the city with the kids here, especially with going… I was always on the go, and I just couldn’t do it. So, I wound up taking some time off, and then September 11th happened. So, the unemployment extended and helped during the difficult time.
Alyssa Scolari [13:17]:
Wow. And as I mentioned, that’s a whole other trauma in itself, especially because you are close to New York. So, that’s a whole another trauma. Looking back at that time, during those years, how did you manage, or are there even words to describe how you manage to put one foot in front of the other, as somebody who’s grieving the loss of her husbands, and trying to also be there for your kids?
Tony Uzzalino [13:53]:
I can’t put it quite into words, but there are some friends I lost because of the death, believe it or not. Some that I thought really would be there for me, and they weren’t, and that’s okay. And then I remember sitting at the repass lunch, and one woman was saying how she lost all of her friends when she lost her husband because now, she was the single one, kind of maybe going after their husbands. And I remember telling my sitter, “Watch the kids,” and she started laughing hysterical, because she’s like, “Wait a second. Are you saying that you think…” And she gave their names, and then I’m like, “Yeah. You’re right. That’s so silly.” But my husband had really good friends, and they’ve helped me throughout the years. And we’re not too close now, but I know if I needed something, they’d be there.
Alyssa Scolari [14:47]:
Yeah. They’d be there in a heartbeat. It’s horrific, and yet, not surprising to me that there are, of course, people out there who, because you’re the single one, “We’re going to exclude her because she’s going to come and steal our husbands or be a homewrecker.” Oh my god.
Tony Uzzalino [15:12]:
It’s totally idiotic.
Alyssa Scolari [15:14]:
It’s hysterical in the most disturbing way possible. What is wrong with people?
Tony Uzzalino [15:23]:
But it’s amazing how my life changed so much. We were thinking about moving anyway. He had an extremely stressful job, my husband, because he worked with his father. So, when I went to work to keep my mind busy, he went to work and everybody would come up to him and say, “I’m sorry about your dad.” So, he relieved it over and over. And I was able, because on my birthday, which was in July, I got a call from the office, and they called already to say happy birthday, and then they called me and we had gotten into this program that we were trying to get in for a few years. And I realized when I went there, that was the first time I didn’t have the thought that I was a widow. And it was only two, three weeks later. And that’s when I realized I needed to go back to work and get back to a sense of normal, whatever the normal will be.
Alyssa Scolari [16:14]:
And you said that was only two to three weeks after you had lost your husband.
Tony Uzzalino [16:19]:
Alyssa Scolari [16:19]:
Tony Uzzalino [16:22]:
Yeah. So, my boss was really cool. He’s like, “You do what you got to do, whatever you need to do.” And that was very helpful. And I don’t really remember too much about when I went back to work, I know the years were extremely difficult. I was constantly on the go, from one thing or another.
Alyssa Scolari [16:45]:
Trying to keep busy.
Tony Uzzalino [16:48]:
Yeah. Well, did a full-time job, house, and kids, their schedules, you didn’t have that other partner to pick up some of the slack, and he did. He had picked them up from the sitters and from school and things like that. So, I lost that, but I met a bunch of moms at my son’s school, and they said, “Listen, I know you husband used to do this, we’re going to do this for you.” And they picked up the same schedule, almost for a while, and it was great.
Alyssa Scolari [17:23]:
How nice is that?
Tony Uzzalino [17:23]:
They were great. It’s like I said, there’s people that touched me, that I was surprised, and then other people that were disappointing, that they didn’t.
Alyssa Scolari [17:31]:
People always say that when it comes to grief and loss. I had a friend… This is not similar in any way, shape, or form, but I have a childhood friend who just recently lost her father, and she said the same thing. I went to the viewing, it was new year’s day, and she had said to me like, “Alyssa, you would be so surprised at the people who are there for you, that you don’t expect to be, and then the people who you expect to be there for you, and just aren’t.” And part of me wonders if… because death and loss and grief is such a difficult subject to talk about, do you think it’s because it hits too close to home for some people, and they are like, “I don’t know what to say, so I’m just going to stay away.” Not that that’s an excuse because I think that’s a bunch of bullshit, and it infuriates me, but I wonder if that’s part of the reason.
Tony Uzzalino [18:39]:
Possibly. I know my husband was really close with people that he worked with because he always had a brotherly connection with some of them. And I remember, one, in particular, was on vacation when Peter died. And he drove up and he left his wife, who had vision problems. He left her there with the kids, and he said, “I got to run back.” I’m like, “Thank you for coming. Really appreciate it because I don’t know how I’m ever going to get over this.” And that was like, “Whoa.” And then another friend that he also worked with, I was shocked. We went on vacations together, and disappeared, and won’t return my call, and then one day I got his wife, and he got on the phone and he says, “When I talk to you when I see you, I see Pete, and I can’t do it.”
Alyssa Scolari [19:29]:
Tony Uzzalino [19:30]:
Yeah. Thanks. But I also respect people to be whoever they need to be. There’s nothing I can do. I was like, “Okay.” And the support that I’ve gotten in the communities, we were looking to move anyway, I just switched where we were looking. I decided to move where his brother and sister both live in, a town that had good schools, and I wound up moving to Redwood, which was a great move. I wanted the kids to be near their cousins. So, he wound up being in school with them, different grades, but it was a good opportunity, but the support that I received in the community, the football coaches, the wrestling coaches, they became like my family. And I’ve gone to dinner with two couples, they would round table so I didn’t feel funny.
Alyssa Scolari [20:31]:
Tony Uzzalino [20:32]:
You know what I mean? And things like that. So, I had that, but what was really hard was when he graduated high school. It ended. So, it was difficult. And I guess I didn’t think that far in advance.
Alyssa Scolari [20:46]:
No, of course not. But right. He graduates high school, and it’s like, “Oh where’s that sense of community that I felt like I was so much a part of?”
Tony Uzzalino [20:56]:
Yeah. Because my daughter was on a different track, so the community was with his sporting events and activities, more so than my daughter’s. So, it was very different, but we made it through. We wound up moving again to lessen the… Because my son was going to be away, we moved to a town that had townhouses. So, we moved, kind of a way to downsize. And that was a great move also. So, life became a little bit simpler.
Alyssa Scolari [21:30]:
And I think what you’re talking about also speaks to the fact that grief is so cyclical. It’s not, at all, a… So, three weeks after your husband passed, you’re like it hits you for the first time like, “Oh I am so much more than just a widow. It’s time for me to go back to work.” But then, here we are all these years later, your son graduates high school, and that sense of community is taken out from under your feet, and it’s like, “Boom. There’s that sense of loss that I feel.” So, it’s not something that goes away. It’s not something to get over. Would you agree with that?
Tony Uzzalino [22:22]:
Absolutely. I think it becomes part of you and you just move forward in a different way. I remember reading something when he died. It’s like, “Life is changed. It’s not ended.” It becomes a different… It’s almost like it reworks itself and it looks different. And at times, much more challenging, and at times, okay. I remember walking with a friend of mine from town, and she was talking about her husband never being around, he’s always working, and then she says, “Oh my God. You must hate me.” And I went, “Why?” Because I was thinking. And she’s like, “You must hate me. You never have this problem, and here I am bitching that he is working too much when he is home at night, and you’re alone.” And I said, “No. I just didn’t know what to say.” Because I didn’t ever go through that. My husband was working or home, and that was it. So, I also don’t want people to not be able to talk to me about things that are bothering them. A relationship is two ways. I don’t want people to like… I have to censor the things they discuss with me.
Alyssa Scolari [23:42]:
And that’s what makes you such a good therapist. Was there a point in your life where you didn’t feel that way? Where you were like, “Nope. Don’t talk to me about your husband, don’t talk to me about what’s going on in your life. My world is falling apart,” or did you never really feel that way?
Tony Uzzalino [24:06]:
Right after he died, a couple months later, I had put the kids into a treatment program at [inaudible 00:24:14] therapy program. And in the beginning, people said, “Oh you have to go grief groups.” So, I would go, and I remember my friend dragged me there, and I went there, and there’s people at my table that were grieving their losses of their 90-year-old mothers. And I just was like, “Hello. Nothing in common here.” And although I was young and younger than most people I met, the mothers who also lost husbands, were very, very helpful to me, because those people, they were able to help me. Some were losses that were a little bit longer in time, so they went through it, and were able to help me, and we helped each other. We actually became support systems for each other, whether it being picking the kids up from school, or they filled a little bit of a void that was there.
And I really needed that for a long time, and then I think I eased into, “I don’t want to be defined as a widow.” I had to just recreate my life. And my life looks so different. I know when I talk about my story, and I tell people I’m a therapist, I said that, “You can do this,” I felt like… You know when the pictures come together and you step back and you see this big picture, it was like my life. And I just said, “This is what God wants me to do.” I’m destined to do this. And it was challenging because it was hard on my family to be in school. Then I wasn’t working some of the time, and then I was working, but our family, still, was struggling. So, when I went to grad school, I learned so much about my childhood, my family, why I do certain things, why I am who I am, and that was pretty helpful because even now, I don’t think I could’ve been where I am today without that.
Alyssa Scolari [26:15]:
Yes. Because you have to understand to be able to help yourself and help others.
Tony Uzzalino [26:23]:
Yeah. And I tell people all the time when I talk about therapy, and I say, “I think everybody needs therapy.”
Alyssa Scolari [26:29]:
Tony Uzzalino [26:30]:
Life is challenging. And to have somebody who is only… One time, I said life is hard, and they’re like, “It’s not hard, it’s what you make of it.” And I’m like, “It’s challenging.”
Alyssa Scolari [26:41]:
Bullshit. Life is hard.
Tony Uzzalino [26:42]:
Look at the world we live in. Right now, it’s incredible. And I really think everybody should talk about that often because, I go weekly; the best hour of my life.
Alyssa Scolari [26:55]:
It’s the best. It’s absolutely the best. I can’t wait to see my therapist tomorrow.
Tony Uzzalino [27:02]:
Yeah. My therapist was sick yesterday, so she had to reschedule. So, I’m waiting to hear from her, but she is the best. And it’s like, sometimes, she’ll say something, she goes, “Wait. What happens if your client would say that to you?”
Alyssa Scolari [27:18]:
I hate that question.
Tony Uzzalino [27:19]:
Yeah. And I’m like… but it makes sense. It’s like she will help me see the side of the… sitting in the chair and being the other person. So, my life wasn’t quite what I thought it would be then because it was the kids. I thought I would work with kids when I graduated, but my first job was in a rehab. Working at a mommy-and-me rehab in Patterson. And I loved it. Just because you have an addiction, just because you have a mental health problem, doesn’t mean you can not be a good parent. And I feel extremely strong about that, and even throughout all these years, I still come back to that same thing.
And I have a private practice now, to start and to go on my own with it, but one thing that helped me through grad school was doing supervised parenting in Bergen County, and that is, especially since the pandemic hit, keeping me very, very busy. It’s like I go back to the same thing. It’s like these parents need someone there for them at this time because everybody is working to not need someone there, but I feel like it’s a way to help parents, like some help I received, from all my grief, from friends and professional, and all that.
Alyssa Scolari [28:41]:
Yeah. I was just thinking, as you’re telling what you do and where your career is at now, because you’re in a process of building up your own private practice and you do the supervised parenting time, and look at you, how you have taken… You are what this podcast is all about; which is, look at how you have taken the pain. And pain isn’t even a good word because there are no words to describe the hurt that you’ve endured. No words for it. And look at how you have taken that, and you are now using it to help others. Like supervised parenting time, look at that. You have become what you needed back then. I hope you are so proud of yourself.
Tony Uzzalino [29:37]:
Alyssa Scolari [29:39]:
You’re like, “I try.” Work in progress. Okay. Well, I’m going to be proud because it’s just amazing. And one of the things… and this has stuck with me because… Just so the listeners out there know, Tony and I had talked a little bit about this before recording, when we were just prepping for this; you had offered a piece of advice to people out there who have lost a spouse.
Tony Uzzalino [30:15]:
Alyssa Scolari [30:17]:
And it hit me right in the gut. And I was wondering if you’d be able to share.
Tony Uzzalino [30:26]:
The best thing, I don’t know if someone told me it, I wish I remembered, or I just realized it; when you lose a spouse… Most people sleep on the same side of the bed all the time. The majority of people. But to wake up and then look to see an empty space every time you open up your eyes to wake up in the morning… so, you switch sides because if you’re sleeping on their side, it’s a different view than you ordinarily would have. So, it’s not your first thought. It’s probably second thought, but it’s not your first thought, and that was really helpful to me. And I suggest that to everyone that I know. That’s my advice.
Another thing which was really hard was the holidays. That first holiday or second holiday, because I had to go through with kids that are kids, and they needed Santa Clause, but I couldn’t do the tree thing. And thank God I have my friend that I work with, I love. She brought trees for each of my kids, with decorations, and they each decorated their own tree because we still had to go on for them. And that’s something people have also used when I had said that, that they’ve used with… because the kids still need that, but I can’t do it. I couldn’t do it, so she did it for me. I’m definitely [inaudible 00:31:54].
Alyssa Scolari [31:54]:
Yeah. You allowed someone to come in and keep the magic alive for your kids, at a time when you’re in so much pain, you just don’t have the space for it, so you were able to take care of yourself and honor yourself, while also taking care of your kids.
Tony Uzzalino [32:10]:
Yeah. And then I remember also, I had a little bit more time in my hands, so I was teaching CCD, and one of my… she’s actually my realtor, she took me, made me go out Christmas shopping for my kids. I really struggled that first Christmas. And so she was going, “What about this?” My little Jewish friend who is picking Christmas presents for my kids, but I was able to do it. And then I remember going into a religious store because I needed something for the CCD class, and I saw something on the wall, and it was a poem on the face of Jesus.
And it talked about; very similar to footprints in the sand, that, “When you needed me, I carried you.” This was more like the person got into heaven and said, “Listen; when I needed I pray to you, and you didn’t come to me, you didn’t feed me when I was hungry.” And then he said, “But I gave you people. Why didn’t you recognize that it was from me.” And that was a turning point of my depression. And I was like, “You know what? It’s going to be okay.” And there was a couple of other instances similar to that, but I get it. It’s not always what you think it’s going to be, but it’s what you need. And everybody has a purpose in this lifetime. And I feel like helping people is my purpose.
Alyssa Scolari [33:48]:
Yeah. And you are so good at it. One of the good things that has come out of this pandemic is; I was able to meet Tony through a… what do you call it? Like a peer supervision group, basically.
Tony Uzzalino [34:08]:
That’s exactly what I call it. I go, “My supervision is Sunday morning from 9 to 10, and I’m not doing anything during that time. No matter where I am, I’m on vacation, I’m sitting…” It’s because it’s really helpful to me because, in my community, we don’t really have that. I have some friends that are therapists that I can reach out to, but everybody’s so busy that this is a set time, and everybody has their own thing to bring to the table. And I’ve always focused on the trauma piece of it, and then that’s your thing. So, I feel like it’s a way… So, we’re always in contact with each other.
Alyssa Scolari [34:50]:
Even if we just hop on, on Sunday mornings and talk about the weather, I am always learning from all of you. It’s been such a blessing.
Tony Uzzalino [35:00]:
Absolutely. I tell everybody that. I said, “That’s one of the good things.” Because I would have never met you guys. We’re all over the state.
Alyssa Scolari [35:09]:
Never. You and I live hours from each other, I’m pretty sure. So, we would have never met if it hadn’t been for COVID. So, now, your practice, are you currently accepting new clients?
Tony Uzzalino [35:22]:
Absolutely. I mean, of course, we’re still virtual, and I think that’ll be for a while.
Alyssa Scolari [35:29]:
Yeah. It’s going to be for a good while, I would say.
Tony Uzzalino [35:34]:
Especially that I see kids, with play… I follow and help… if anybody in the country is in the office, and just is a challenge to keep everything clean, so I’m like, it’s going to be virtual for a while.
Alyssa Scolari [35:50]:
Yeah. And you work with children and adults?
Tony Uzzalino [35:54]:
Yes. I work with children, adults, families, parents. I do a lot of parent coaching and assistance, because it is hard, especially with children with mental health issues, or sometimes, it’s the parents that have the mental health issues, and the kids are experienced as a result of that. And I can definitely relate to that.
Alyssa Scolari [36:20]:
And is there a specific area that you prefer to work in? Are you particularly passionate about children with the separation anxiety or grief, trauma?
Tony Uzzalino [36:36]:
Because I was working in a rehab, I got licensed in addiction. So, besides the mental health and addiction and art therapy, I study and I’m very passionate about play therapy, and going for my certification. But I also think that families, no matter what the challenges are, some of them, if you take, the feelings are the same, and treating them is very similar. So, the trauma is always the underline passion because I feel like that’s what led me.
Alyssa Scolari [37:12]:
Typically at the root. Your trauma is what led you to the spot to be able to help so many others.
Tony Uzzalino [37:21]:
Yeah. And when I was doing in-home work with a lot of the agencies, and I like the very young kids. So many people don’t work with them, but I enjoy the four-year-olds or five-year-olds.
Alyssa Scolari [37:36]:
That’s amazing. And if people want to contact you, can they just go right to your website?
Tony Uzzalino [37:42]:
Absolutely. It’s toniuzzalinolpc.com. There’s a lot of information out there about parenting and parenting supervision and addiction.
Alyssa Scolari [37:55]:
And I will link that in the show notes and on the private Facebook group for everybody. And then I think the last question I want to ask you is a book recommendation. Is there any kind of book? And if you’re like, “I have no idea,” it’s totally fine.
Tony Uzzalino [38:17]:
It might be out there, but the one book that I read that really helped me, was James Van Praagh. His book, which was He’s a Psychic.
Alyssa Scolari [38:29]:
It sounds a little bit familiar to me.
Tony Uzzalino [38:29]:
I know it sounds a little bit out there. And I can’t think of which particular book, but there were stories of different people he’d met over different years, and different reading he did. So, there has to be a life after this. I mean, come on, this can’t be it. I truly believe there is. It’s controversial, what it is, because no one really knows. But I have to believe that it’s a better world than this. So, I remember reading a story about a girl who’s very close to her grandmother, and her grandmother died, and in the reading, she talked about a footstool that was moved a certain way. And it had me thinking that; they’re here, they are around, they are here when you need them, and I truly believe that. When I started dating serious, which was my daughter’s idea, I met someone, and the first date we went on was strange because he was talking about his kids and the grief of ending his marriage when they were little and the struggles he had, and I just was like, “Wow. You get some of the things I’ve been through.”
Alyssa Scolari [39:40]:
Right. He gets it to a certain extent.
Tony Uzzalino [39:42]:
Yeah. And I believed it was fate, almost, how I met him because his family knew my husband’s family because they grew up in the same town. So, it was like he worked for one of my husband’s cousins. So, I felt destined. And then he struggled during… We’ve been dating for years now, and he lost his son, and I felt like I was able to help him and help the family during his illness and then his death. And I felt I was able to, from my experience, help him and his family through it.
Alyssa Scolari [40:34]:
It’s so fascinating to me how that works. When you hear stories like that, it is very hard to deny the fact that there is something much bigger than us, and there is something after this life.
Tony Uzzalino [40:49]:
Right. And you got to be aware of what it is.
Alyssa Scolari [40:49]:
Yeah. A hundred percent.
Tony Uzzalino [40:50]:
And just another thing, you were talking about recommendations if you have any thoughts. I remember, it’s September 11th, and I was at a church meeting, and the priest came down, and he’s like, “We’re going to keep all these women that lost their husbands, be good to them, and extra this.” And then someone else is like, “Well, I’m going to give them gift baskets for Christmas; hand cream and lotions.” I said, “Listen, these people don’t want lotions, they want someone to help them [inaudible 00:41:26], they want someone to help them run errands, not lotion.” [inaudible 00:41:32].
Alyssa Scolari [41:33]:
Your hand lotion, not doing shit for me. I need hands on-
Tony Uzzalino [41:38]:
Honestly, it doesn’t do shit for me on a regular day. It’s just not my thing. It’s not everybody’s thing. And that’s what I thought, and I remembered my friend who made me go. She literally made me go; picked me up and said, “Get in the car now. We’re going.”
Alyssa Scolari [42:00]:
I’m so thankful you had such a good support group because I think that that also is what helps you to just be where you’re at right now, in terms of a place where you’re able to now give back. Thank you for coming on here and being so vulnerable.
Tony Uzzalino [42:16]:
Thank you for having me.
Alyssa Scolari [42:16]:
I know it’s really difficult to talk about, but I think that a lot of people will resonate with a lot of this stuff that you are saying. So, thank you. I truly appreciate it.
Tony Uzzalino [42:29]:
Yeah. And if anybody has any questions, feel free to contact me, you can do it through the website, I’d be happy to help anyone. I remember, a few years after my husband passed, the funeral director had a couple of mothers that lost their husbands suddenly, like accidents, had little kids, and they said, “I want to talk to somebody who has been through this, not somebody who’s older and somebody who can…” So, I’ve connected and helped out by… feel like I was giving back. So I talked to the mothers, and I’m like “Listen, you may not think that you’re ever going to get through this, but you have to.” People go, “I would never be able to do this.” You would because you would have to do it for your children and your family because there’s enough loss. Now, you just got to go ahead, and here it is, I think it’s going to be 22 years in June.
Alyssa Scolari [43:28]:
And look at you now. You’re a rockstar.
Tony Uzzalino [43:35]:
Alyssa Scolari [43:38]:
Thanks for listening, everyone. For more information about today’s episode, and to sign up for the Light After Trauma newsletter, head over to my website at alyssascolari.com. The really great thing about being a part of this newsletter is that, not only do you get weekly updates on new podcast episodes and blog posts, but you also get access to the private Facebook community, as well as access to all sorts of insider tips, resources, and infographs that supplement what we talk about on the show. You also can connect with me and other trauma warriors. I’m super active on the Facebook community, and I look forward to talking with you.