4 Years Ago This Weekend

My father and I in 1985
My father and I in 1985

Sometimes what we see as unanswered prayers are really the answers to our prayers. It was four years ago this weekend that I went to visit my father’s gravesite in Northern California for the first time in my life. It was a crazy series of events that led me to be in contact with my aunt, my father’s half sister, whom I had never met or heard of in my entire life, via the Internet. It just so happened to be around the same time I was graduating from my doctorate program and I was already planning to move to Northern California to start my post-doctoral training.

My father passed away when I was 14 years old, while I was still living in Michigan and he was here in California. My parents separated many years ago. I was about 6 years old and from that point on my mother was really a single-parent with 3 daughters.

photo 4
My mother, my sisters, and I. Right after I was born


We struggled to make ends meet growing up.  We moved a lot. I changed schools a lot.  My mother worked hard. She had different jobs. She made a way. I blamed her growing up, because we struggled so much. Then I blamed my dad. Then I wished and prayed that if only he were here he would “save us.” I have shared a lot about my mother in my blog and how much I admire that she never gave up and always made a way for us in life. In spite of the struggle, she instilled a hard work ethic in me, a determination. She always kept it real with us and we always knew what we were up against in life. She never complained or blamed anyone. I don’t know if that is how things should have been but that is the way it was. We faced the struggle head on as best as we could. As I grewup the values of hard work, keeping it real, facing the challenges head on, making a way, being persistent and determined stayed with me. It is because of those values and traits, and her, that I have accomplished amazing things in my life and worked my way through many personal struggles.  The biggest accomplishment was being the first to not only graduate from college but to also go on to earn a doctorate degree. I could have never gotten through that without my mothers teaching and guidance in the school of life.

My mom, my sisters, and I at my mother's high school graduation. My mother went back to school at the age of 52 to get her high school diploma.
My mom, my sisters, and I at my mother’s high school graduation. My mother went back to school at the age of 52 to get her high school diploma.

As I grew up, matured, family members felt more comfortable disclosing things about my father that I had never known growing up. I came to learn a different story about him than the fantasy that I had created in my head growing up. He struggled with addiction, alcoholism, money problems, health issues and head trauma, and crime/legal problems. Come to find out that after he left our family and left Michigan many of these problems developed and would eventually contribute to the circumstances of his death. Apparently, there would be times in my life where he would want me to come visit or live with him in California, but my mom was not comfortable with it, so she kept it from me. I’m sure it was a hard decision at the time but looking back now I can only thank my mother and God that it worked out this way.

Now as I look back, I can see that it was the best thing for me to be with my mother than my father. My father was not in a healthy place. He had far more problems than my mother and we ever had during that time in our lives. Life, God, the Universe thought it best that we not be exposed to that even if it did cause heartache.

My life changed the moment I knew that my father died. Life would never be the same and all the fantasies that I created in my head of him coming to my soccer games, walking me down the aisle at my wedding, or being at graduation had disappeared and the reality of what is became apparent. I think the fantasy was what I needed as a child to survive, and at 14 years old I learned to face reality for what it is and not for what it should be or what is fair. I have kept this attitude my whole life since. Face the facts head on for what they are, not for what they are not.

Visiting my father's grave for the first time in my life. RIP, Viviano.
Visiting my father’s grave for the first time in my life. RIP, Viviano.


My husband, my joy, my love, my teammate, my bestfriend, my blessing, my teacher...my blessing
My husband, my joy, my love, my teammate, my teacher, my best friend, my blessing. Ken and I on our wedding day.

I truly believe that the death of my father taught me that there is a blessing in a seemingly “unanswered” prayer. If God, the Universe, makes it so that someone is not in your life, maybe, just maybe, it is for your greater good. While growing up sometimes was hard, painful, and challenging I was also surrounded with unconditional love, support, and warmth. I don’t know what it would have been like growing up with my father 100% present, different yes, but I’m guessing maybe worse. I don’t know. But I do know that sometimes not getting what we want is really the best things for our lives.

I am so blessed that Ken came with me 4 years ago to visit my father’s burial site. He supported me. I was scared, but I was mostly thankful, because I truly believe that whatever had to happen in my life previous to this moment, even the death of my father, had to happen in order to lead me to Ken and may other beautiful people in my life. I would not want it any other way. So I am truly grateful for all I have gone through, and not gone through, because it made me the person I am today…blessed beyond measure.

Honestly, I was unsure if I wanted to share this story with you all. I hardly ever write this personally on my blog. However, my goal and mission in life is to empower and uplift others through my experiences, to help them believe in their dreams and to never give up, no matter whom they are or what they have gone through. Sometimes, unfortunately, terrible things happen in life. People we love leave us, hurt us, or die, or we may lose our jobs or careers, or suffer terrible health problems. We do not understand why these things happen and we often think it is the worst thing that could ever happen to us. We feel as if our dreams have been destroyed, but we are often blinded by the emotion of the moment and, looking back, as our life and circumstances progress beyond these terrible circumstances, we learn it was possibly the best thing for us, and that if it were any other way you would not be the person you are today.

The day I became Dr.G. "Everything happens for  a reason."
The day I became Dr.G. “Everything happens for a reason.”


So whether you have gone through, or are going through something now, have faith that everything is working out for your greatest good. Never stop believing. Never allow your circumstance to determine your direction in life, and trust that Life, God, the Universe is really on your side. Everything you are going through is shaping you for something you need to be later, trust it’s for a greater purpose. Keep shining my friends and own your story. It is your strength and your opportunity.


Rest in peace father. Thank you for teaching me about the blessings in life even when you did not know you were.


Published by

Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is a clinical sport psychologist, triathlete, and certified mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California. She works with elite athletes and sports teams across the country. She is a competitive athlete and enjoys practicing yoga, spending time with her family, and traveling.

3 thoughts on “4 Years Ago This Weekend

  1. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story. All these years have passed and I wish I had know these persona details sooner. I too lost my father when I was 15 and so there are many things that I connected to your story. I miss you and wish you all the best!

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