Dale Sinesi: How Personal Tragedy Caused Her to Live With Purpose
“Pleasing others at the expense of not pleasing yourself is giving up your freedom. I gave up my freedom to be me. And that was the cost.”
This is Dale Sinesi speaking, a mother of four, savvy businesswoman and non-profit champion. We sat together over coffee and talked about sensitivity, and I learned how Dale arrived at her belief in the importance of staying sensitive.
Dale told me the story of how she gave up her vulnerability and her freedom, and how she found it again- along with deeply fulfilling work- after tragedy.
When Dale was in her 20s and 30s, She was on a career fast-track. As HR Director at a flourishing car dealership, she loved the company, and “loved working with the people, but there was something missing, and that was authenticity.”
In retrospect, she acknowledges that her overarching goal was to power her way to success, and that kept her from being her real self. The track playing in her head went something like: “this is what we have to do and I’m going to power through so I get congratulated and a “good job” and a promotion and a raise,” things she describes now as “[stuff] that doesn’t really matter.”
That seemed just fine, until tragedy stuck. Dale, who had two children at the time, lost her newborn baby at birth to a cord-compression. Dale was thirty-five.
“I felt it so deep in my heart,” she says. “I feel like it happened to me on purpose. Maybe there’s a grander scheme in life. Sometimes I really believe that. But what happened was- you love so deeply and life is just so short- so where are your priorities falling and what’s really important?”
Her immediate answer was to get herself in the presence of others feeling that pain, volunteering in the NICU of nearby hospitals. “I found myself able to sit with those who had a child… at 1.5 lbs born at twenty four and a half weeks. I was able to be with that baby reading books with the mother. Sitting with people in pain because you feel their pain. You feel their heart. We all have the same heart! And we need to connect heart to heart.”
This was a turning point for Dale, one that changed her motivation in life and in work. “I would walk away [with] these gals who lost babies saying to me: ‘you’re one of the only people I can talk to who understands,’ when actually…I walked away with the gift. That was a huge part of the healing process, to be able to give back to someone and do something with what seems like such a senseless death. I could not sit. I had to do something with it.”
Her sudden desire to lead from her heart turned out to be permanent. Today Dale is President of the Board of Jeff’s Place, a Child Bereavement Center. Lending her heart and her ear the same way she did for those mothers, she now helps children grieve and heal after life-changing loss.
“To this day it catapults me… It’s kinda crazy. It propels me. It’s the best job I’ve ever had and it means the most to me. I truly feel like it is an amazing path of feeling and humility. It’s a path of gratitude for what you have.”
What does she make of her younger years, before she “got sensitive?” Dale reflects: “If I had the courage to release myself in my 20s and 30s and just let go of what I thought was the pattern to success…when in fact it was just letting go and letting myself be, that creativity and fun would have made life so much more enjoyable.”
At the end of our interview, when I asked what she wants for young women, she said it’s the same thing she wants for herself. Dale pulled out her phone and asked if she could share what she wrote as a personal reflection and reminder:
I wish I could tell my younger self,
You are worthy,
You can do whatever you put your mind to,
Go for it,
Don’t be afraid,
Forget about what others think,
And follow your heart.
“I want to do this and I’m doing this now. So I tell your readers, don’t wait. Do it now.”