Monday, January 30, 2012

Celenia Delsol--an intimate look into the mind, heart and body

Every once in a while you’ll have the gift of an opportunity to be completely taken outside yourself and into the story of someone else’s life through the power of our increasingly busy age of communication.  Whether it’s a tweet, a Blog, You Tube or some other digital format, we now can touch each other’s lives in ways former generations could barely dream of.  Keep reading, as you are about to embark upon such a moment now.

As you read about our multi-faceted and extraordinary client, Celenia Delsol, she will take you out of your place and time.  I invite you to journey with us through a life fully lived, a life taken too soon, and the good that has come and continues to take root from both.

When I first met you in 2007, what impressed me the most about you was how completely accomplished you are! Already a lawyer, albeit disassociated from that profession for some time, you were someone in search of more from life --- you were changing your professional direction to become a psychotherapist. Please walk us through your professional background and the journey that brought you to this completely different vision of your career path.

Law was not my first career. My undergraduate degree was in Broadcasting & Film, and I worked for the ABC affiliate, as well as the public television station in Boston. I was the Associate Producer of a “Frontline” documentary about the history of U.S. involvement in Central America. This was during a period of great unrest in that region of the world. It was a 4-part series, and the part I worked on was about Nicaragua. I spent the summer of 1984 filming in Miami (where a lot of Nicaraguan expatriates lived), Nicaragua itself, and Costa Rica. It was probably the most exciting work I’ve ever done. But television was (and still is) a fickle industry, and I wanted greater job security. 

Celenia gets her first (of many) college degrees.

My mother was in her early 50s and had just enrolled in law school. Let’s just say there was a little bit of pressure to follow in her footsteps. But I was not cut out to be a lawyer. My heart was never in it. When I became pregnant with my son, Julian, and my husband got a job in California (where I would have had to take the bar exam AGAIN in order to practice law), I had two great excuses to set law aside. I don’t regret the time and energy I put into getting that degree though. The skills I acquired, the analytical way of thinking needed, all of this has served me very well. But it was a very left-brained pursuit, and – being a Pisces – I felt something critical to my nature was missing.

When my son Julian was a toddler, I studied therapeutic massage. I know. Quite a switch from the practice of law! But I grew up in a very touchy-feely family. Lots of hugging and cuddling. I learned to kiss and embrace people when meeting them; hand shaking always felt a little stiff to me. Research has shown that as humans, we literally cannot survive infancy without loving, nurturing touch. It’s that important. And as the mother of a young child, massage became a way for the two of us to bond in ways that I believe have been lost in our culture of techno-this and electro-that. I worked as a massage therapist, and then as an administrator for the professional massage association (nice combination of right-brain and left-brain activity) for 7 years.

When puberty kicked in for my son, he began to present with some behavioral and emotional challenges that were beyond my “training” as a parent (Ha! I WISH there was training!). It was then that I decided to go back to school to earn a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology. I wanted to understand what he was experiencing, and I wanted to be a better resource for him. I earned my degree in June 2009, and I’ve been working in the field of emotional and psychological wellness since.

So yes, my career path has been very “curvy,” but I have to say…I’m glad that’s been the case. The recurring thread that I see is that I’ve always been drawn to work that involved making a meaningful difference in people’s lives. If that’s not part of what I’m doing with the bulk of my hours awake, then no thanks.

Would you say that your childhood --- your parents, friends, or even your community --- influenced any of these decisions?  What was life like for you growing up?

I was born in New York City in the late 50s to parents who had emigrated from Puerto Rico (“West Side Story” anyone?). My parents were both still in elementary school when they moved to New York. Both my grandmothers worked in the garment industry in what today would be called “sweat shops.” And both my parents were the first in their families to get a college degree (my mother did not get hers until she was in her 40s, after my parents divorced).

                    Carmen and Gil, Celenia's parents, circa 1955.                  

Education, education, education…this was drummed into me, my brother and two sisters from the minute we could write our names. Without it, there was no chance to improve one’s lot in life. Education created choices, options, opportunities that we would not have access to otherwise. Education was power. And power was important for a sometimes disenfranchised segment of the population. I believe this is even more true today: you can’t remain competitive in the global marketplace without it. Unless you’re just naturally a genius. Which I am NOT! So it’s no wonder that at the age of 51, I was walking down the aisle to receive a diploma…yet again! And who knows if it will be my last one? Never say “never."

A few years after we began working for you, unimaginable tragedy came to your life: the loss of your only child, Julian, to suicide. As someone who also lost loved ones to suicide --- for me it was my multi-talented mother and my beloved cousin --- I can only say how remarkable you were during that time immediately after his death, and how much I admired your grace and generosity towards everyone else, making them feel as good as possible. In fact, can I simply say you were inspirational? On top of all that, you and Julian’s father (Philip Rettger) set up a very meaningful and now sustaining fund at Seven Hills School in Walnut Creek. Can you take a few moments to tell us how you were able to redirect your grief towards actively creating so much good? How did you decide what to do regarding setting up Julian’s Fund?

Nothing can possibly prepare a parent for the death of his or her own child. It is a violation of the proper order of things. Children are supposed to bury their parents; not the other way around. Even though Julian’s father and I knew that he was challenged by mental illness (bipolar disorder), and we were acutely aware that suicide was a possible outcome for our son, we did everything we possibly could to support his mental health. We lived in hope that he would successfully launch into adulthood (he was 20 when he died). But one day he woke up and it was too much. For whatever reason (he did not leave a note, so we’ll never know exactly what triggered him that day), he was not able to access the skills he’d acquired to manage his severe depression and/or his manic impulses. He lost the battle that day, and we lost him.

It was Julian’s dad’s idea to establish a memorial fund at the Seven Hills School, and he has worked tirelessly to raise money for this fund. Julian completed middle school at Seven Hills – a truly remarkable and nurturing learning environment - and it was probably the last time he was genuinely happy in school. We wanted to give something back that would address the socio-emotional development of young people as they enter and navigate puberty. This was a difficult transition point for Julian, and is for many of our youth. The fund supports programs for students, parents and the community at large, and provides on-site counseling for students.

Our fundraising goal is $500,000, and we’re actually close to 80%. If we achieve the goal by 2015, the school’s library will be renamed after Julian.

Julian reading...

... and reading...

 ...and reading.

My son was a voracious reader from a very young age.  In fact, at his memorial gathering, we brought all his books (boxes and boxes and boxes of them) and displayed them on tables, asking people to take one or a few to remember Julian by. A year and a half later, I am still hearing stories from his friends, his friends’ parents, his former teachers, and relatives, about how the book (or books) they chose to keep in Julian’s memory have affected them. Or they’ll share stories with me about the time they were at bookstore (or a library or in a literature class) with Julian, talking about some book or author, and how that interaction with Julian allowed them to appreciate something different about what they had read, or enabled them to relate what they had read to their own life experience in a way they wouldn’t have if not for Julian’s insights. Reading, and later writing, were his great passions. In a way, I guess we’ve already started “Julian’s Library.” It’s out there in the world enriching the lives of others. That feels awesome.

Some time had passed between visits and at our next meeting [in the spring of 2011] a glowing and extremely svelte Celenia showed up in our offices! While searching for answers, and continuing on your professional journey, you discovered something very exciting: Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). How did EFT come into your life and how were you able to embrace this approach to create a better path for yourself? Was it an instant change or a bit of a journey?

Although I managed to keep myself in one piece for the first six months after Julian died (mostly by keeping myself busy and distracted) when the 2010 holiday season hit, I went into a very, very, very dark place. My grief became paralyzing, and I lost my desire to live. I was so sure the moment of learning about my son’s death was my life’s lowest point. I was wrong. Six months later is when I hit rock bottom. I spent my days in bed, and when I was awake, I stuffed my grief with food. I gained over 50 lbs. and hated the sight of myself in the mirror.


 Celenia Delsol, December 2010.

The good news is that when you’re at “rock bottom,” the only way out is UP!

In early January 2011, I spent a day with a friend who talked to me about “energy psychology,” an emerging approach to mental wellness. Emotional Freedom Techniques (also known simply as “EFT”) was the format of energy psychology she introduced to me. I was impressed and intrigued by the shift that occurred within me in just an hour of work with her. So I went home, committed to using EFT on myself to begin chipping away at the emotional quagmire I found myself in, with respect to losing my son. There was sadness, there was anger (at him, at myself, at the psychotherapeutic community that had “failed” him, at society at large for stigmatizing those with mental health challenges, etc., etc., etc.), there was guilt (oh brother, was there guilt!)…I just kept peeling away at the emotional layers of crap (pardon my French) weighing me down. 

After about four days, I realized I hadn’t thought about killing myself that day, or the day before, or even the day before that. As a student of psychology, I sat up and said, “Wow! I need to learn more about this.” I didn’t stop being sad, or missing Julian. I didn’t forget or deny anything that had happened. All the feelings were still there. The difference was that the feelings were no longer paralyzing. The sharp, jagged edges of my grief had softened. Do I still get teary-eyed when I talk about Julian? Absolutely. But it’s no longer the kind of sobbing that makes me wonder whether I’m going to stop breathing. Do I still miss him every day? Absolutely. There are constant reminders everywhere I look, everywhere I go, but I no longer want to hide from the world. Do I still want to be with him? Absolutely. But I can wait. I’ve still got some living of my own to do. Oh, and side benefit: my attitude towards food changed. Thus, the svelter Celenia. 

 A svelter Celenia (30 lbs lighter) in December 2011.

In my experience, EFT was nothing short of miraculous. I went from being suicidal to having a mission. How many people get to experience that kind of a shift? The burning question for me became, “How many lives could be saved if this could be shared with others?”

In fact, you are so completely passionate about this positive technique, that you have reframed your practice around EFT.  Please take us through the commitment you have made to EFT and why.

I am in the process of becoming a certified EFT practitioner. I currently work as an EFT Counselor. I am not a licensed psychotherapist, but I do help people with emotional and psychological blocks, and in some cases, once those are removed, clients’ physical health improves as well. After all, mind-heart-body, they’re intimately connected, right?

Your website is a wealth of knowledge about EFT. I have already viewed your extremely helpful and free videos on YouTube, and am excited about the notion of how everyone can create positive change for themselves through this fascinating technique. You know me --- I’m SUCH a skeptic! But the science and research behind it fascinates me and I am extremely encouraged by what I’ve seen so far. Can you walk us through the science, the research and the actual history behind EFT and links to any videos that might be helpful to readers of this Blog?   Your website is a great jumping off point and you have a wonderful E-Zine that readers can sign up for. Please share those links with us as well.

I think the best way to serve your readers is to simply direct them to my website. There is SO much information there, and they can pick and choose what they would like to learn more about by selecting from several links. is the place to go.

How can readers contact you for help on incorporating EFT into their own lives?

The most direct way to reach me is by phone (925-408-3310) or by email: And by the way, I can also work with people via Skype or iChat (if you’ve got a Mac). So you don’t have to live in the Bay Area if you’re interested in experiencing the work that I do.

I know you continue to be very involved in community and fund raising activities of value and those that you believe can provide positive change.  What are you most focused on these days, Celenia, and which organizations are you supporting and fund raising for?

I devote my financial and time/energy resources to two organizations working on suicide prevention, support and education.

Right here in the Bay Area, we have the Contra Costa Crisis Center, ( which operates a 24/7 hotline (800-273-TALK). They also conduct free support groups for Survivors of Suicide (people who have lost loved ones to suicide). And they do lots of other amazing, important work. 

In my own practice, I’ve established a “Pay It Forward” program, which allows a new client (who is either struggling with depression and suicidal thinking OR who has lost someone to suicide) to come in for a session that has already been paid for by the last “Pay It Forward” client. At the end of their session, they pay whatever they feel they can or want to for the next “Pay It Forward” client’s session. As little as $1 and the sky is the limit. Whatever they pay, 50% goes to the Contra Costa Crisis Center. So that’s one way that I’m supporting their work.

The other organization I support is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ( Every year they have a major fundraising walk in a major city called the “Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk.” The last time it was held in San Francisco was in 2006, and their next San Francisco walk is this coming June 9-10. It is literally an overnight walk, from dusk till dawn, through the city. The metaphor of this event represents bringing suicide awareness out of the darkness and into the light of day. I am a big proponent of bringing the subject of suicide out of the closet. In stigmatizing the subject, we send the message that it’s not OK to experience or talk about suicidal feelings or to ask for help. And then precious lives are lost. This has got to stop. Every 15 minutes, someone in the United States dies by suicide. Every 15 minutes! I say, “Enough!”

If people want to register for the walk themselves (there’s a $1,000 fundraising minimum to participate in the walk) OR want to donate to “Team Julian,” go to If you’re donating to my team, click “donate,” enter my name, Celenia Delsol, into the search box, and you will be redirected to my donor page.

By the way, my 75-year old mom, (whom Lynn met) is doing the walk with me. Wish us luck!

Any last advice for our readers, Celenia, as we embark on our own unique New Year’s journeys?
My license plate says "Love your Life," and my business slogan is “Heal Your Heart & Love Your Life." Every day we wake up and have the following choice: to appreciate this day, and everything about it...or not. Which one is it going to be for you? Choose well!

Celenia's license plate says it all.

Celenia, there are not enough words to thank you for sharing your and Julian’s life story so openly with us all.  Readers, don’t hesitate to take Celenia up on her offer for contact, coaching and collaborating on any level.  She is just as remarkable in person as she is here digitally.   Her genuine love for you shines through in every breath she takes.  

Also, we encourage you to join us in supporting the amazing causes that she has embraced and help in the fundraising goal for what I’m sure will be known eventually as Julian’s Library.  With hugs to all….