Heather Zoccali

Founder at Brutally Beautiful LLC

Diversity/Women Issues

Fort Collins, CO, USA

Biography

I live a brutally beautiful life. What that means to me is that while I have experienced profound hardships, as many of you have, I’ve found that by opening my heart to the pain and letting love fill the cracks in my heart, I have grown stronger & have found such joy and happiness despite the brutal moments this life has given me.
The state of CO has recognized Heather for her pioneering work for family caregivers, CSU as a Hometown Hero, and nominated as a visionary caregiver and top caregiver program by caregiving.com and The Tandy Spirit Award and named the 2022 Success Women's Conference Top Influencer Award. Heather's true magic comes from her ability to bring authenticity, humor, and passion, and vulnerability, discussing sharing deeply personal stories of caregiving and the brutally beautiful moments in life. Heather's the kind of speaker where the listener will move through a range of emotions from tears to laughter and back again.

Heather is the author of the Soul Hug Daily Journal Series and Soul Care Cards. She continues using her personal story and voice to raise awareness for family caregivers and people with disabilities.

Passion

Storytelling. I believe stories matter. They connect us. They build bridges. They empower us. Creating space for stories to be heard and witnessed so people connect on the one thing that unites us all; our humanity.

Featured Video

I am willing to travel

More than 100 miles

When it comes to payments

I always get paid for speaking

Topics

womens leadership women women empowerment patient and caregiver engagement working caregivers caregiving family caregiving health equity family caregiver health care family caregiver disability disability awareness and strategies disability awareness welness wellness at work mental health mental toughness for women trauma overcoming trauma human resources forgiveness forgiveness therapy selfawareness self awareness mindfulness mindfulness in the workplace playfulness playful workplace playful intelligence shifting the narrative nature keynote speaker keynote storytelling sexual abuse survivor suicide prevention mental health and suicide prevention suicide survivor alzheimer and other dementias multiple sclerosis dance for social change dance mind body and spirit mindset professional growth development personal growth power of habits self care happiness happiness at work power of vulnerability power of words the power of diversity sandwich generation eldercare neurodiversity caregiver burnout caregiver support in the workplace women owned business older adults working parents spinal cord injury writer taking time off for family employee health

Best Story

In the jungle of Costa Rica, where the humidity hung heavy in the air, the orchestra of bird songs filled the air, and flags danced slowly in the air on the campus of United Nations UPEACE campus, connections were formed.
Participants wandered into the wooden raised platform that offered the jungle as the backdrop and found their seats. Friendly chatter between people was softly interloped with jungle sounds. I introduced myself and what the workshop would entail. Enthusiasm and nervous energy filled the room. As I led the group through a grounding activity to set intentions and space for people to be truly present, the atmosphere changed ...
I began telling my own story; we explored trauma through movement interlaced with storytelling. As I shared personal stories of caregiving, living with a disability, and my lived experience, trust was born.
The smiles and laughter had shifted to silent tears and connection, and the occasional, "I thought I was the only one who felt this way" met with nodding of heads or nonverbal signals that they, too, understood and felt a connection in not being alone.
As we shifted our places in the room, coupled with the mood, we connected physically with interactive activities and play, which filled the air with laughter and joy. The workshop ebbed and flowed between intimacy, vulnerability, and honesty, too, as laughter, joy, and freedom. True connection was made in a short amount of time I was able to share my story and lessons learned and provide tools on how to navigate boundaries, self-care, how to begin the journey of forgiveness and re-write your narrative and turn pain into power. The participants shared stories they had never shared before and voiced emotions they had kept hidden for years; they built trust, listened, and created a space for healing to begin and joy to be experienced.

Origin Story

I live a brutally beautiful life. What that means to me is that while I have experienced profound hardships, as many of you have, I’ve found that by opening my heart to the pain and letting love fill the cracks in my heart, I have grown stronger & have found such joy and happiness despite the brutal moments this life has given me.

One of my first memories of this came from when I was 8/9. I am sitting on the dewy grass in the hills of Appalachia, looking for four-leaf clovers. I am lost in my world when I am instantly thrust into reality as I faintly hear “heads up,” and I turn to see a soccer ball coming straight for me then my father's hand as he saves me from the direct hit of the soccer ball. I look up at my father, my hero at that young age, and he smiles at me and then throws the ball back to the players. Little did I know that this would be the last time I saw my father whole and happy.

I went back to my clover hunt for a few, but it had lost its intrigue, so I went to go sit by my dad. As I was walking up, I instantly noticed something was not right with my father. Half of his face was drooping, with his milk running down the edge of his left lip down to his chin, where the milk carton had fallen on his pants and then onto the ground. Like the fall of the carton, his left side had fallen. I looked into my father's eye and for the first time, saw fear. My father was a strong man who seemingly could do anything: master trainer of horses and built houses; I once saw him grab a rattlesnake and throw it halfway across the barn, so, seeing and feeling fear in my father was a new experience for me.

This was the first of many brutal moments I would face in life; my mother/brother live with severe mental health issues,a survivor of sexual abuse, I live with EDS, my eldest son was paralyzed at 16, father passed by suicide to name a few.

Example talks

Caregiver Tax: Supporting Caregivers in the Workplace.

Designed to share with employers, professionals, and human resource professionals who work with family caregivers. We explore how to prepare, understand, and support family caregivers in the workplace so employers and employees can be proactive, not reactive when an emergency arises.
I work in the care space or care economy. I am a caregiver. I also need occasional care myself. Caregiving touches every aspect of my life.

While we have come far as a society since my caregiving journey started over 30 years ago, we still have a long way to go. A common theme emerges when addressing caregivers in the workplace: a general lack of awareness of what caregiving truly entails and the cost to mental and physical health and financial well-being.

In the disability community, there is a term “disability tax.”

"This term in the disability community describes the additional effort, energy, finances, and time it takes people living with disabilities to regularly match what peers and colleagues do on a daily basis.

Things like showering, getting dressed, preparing meals, and getting where we need to go can often cost us so much "disability tax" that by the time we get to our jobs, we have already spent beyond our budget and that can make keeping a job unsustainable.”

Now imagine the person behind the scenes helping the person they care for accomplish the above things and add care for additional family members, work, and last, if at all-care for self: Caregiver Tax".

By employing this idea, we can increase awareness and support for caregivers by educating the company's employers, human resources, and staff to become an ally to caregiver employees.

Soul Healing Season: Creating Space for Rest & Rejuvenation During The Holidays

Holidays can be challenging and stressful due to different enforced holiday traditions and the expectation to "OK" certain behaviors and people in our orbit that we usually would not allow. We explore and learn tools to enable the use of voice and choice to protect self, energy, and relationships and allow the natural resting process needed to rejuvenate.

Mimic Nature; How to Re-Connect with Self and Nature

Mother Nature is our best caregiver and teacher if we choose to learn from her teachings. Humans have looked at nature for answers to life's problems since the beginning. Nature guides us on how to heal ourselves, grieve, co-exist, and so much more. We explore how to work in harmony with nature to access the tools we all have within us to begin or strengthen our healing journey.

Supporting Women Living and Working with Disabilities

I share my lived experience living and working with Ehlers Danols Syndrome. Explore tools to help empower those living with a disability, chronic/terminal/mental illness, and more coupled with tools on how to advocate and ask for support.

Honoring What's Possible; The Caregiver Journey

Re-framing the caregiver journey. Exploring the fluid stages of caregiving, creating or strengthening a self-care plan, implementing boundaries, and allowing/accepting help and support.
Tools and awareness of what the Resutrn On Self is and how to increase and become in charge of your time and energy.

Cultivating Female Friendships

Research shows that close female friendships are more important for women than they are for men.
Time spent with girlfriends releases serotonin and oxytocin- the bonding hormones and female friends can help to reduce loneliness and isolation and fight depression and stress.
We grow, learn about ourselves, and give and receive love through these friendships; they are often more intimate than our romantic ones, so it is heart-shattering when one ends. We explore how to nurture these friendships and grief for the ones lost.

Managing Stress in the Workplace

Workload and well-being are directly related. Bringing awareness to how stress is processed in our body and mind. Learning simple and effective ways to set boundaries and regulate your nervous system help people take control and begin to heal and be proactive vs. reactive in the workplace and in life. We explore some essential areas that are related to workplace and life stressors as well as tools you can use in the office and at home to help prevent or recover from burnout.

Power of Forgiveness

Power of Forgiveness talk begins with my lived experience with forgiveness. Power of forgiveness of the person who sexually abused me, the man who paralyzed my son in a vehicle/pedestrian accident and left the scene, and more.
Power of Forgiveness talk guides participants to explore the strength and beauty that culminate from life’s brutal moments. Exploring vulnerability as a powerful healing modality to acknowledge emotions, especially our painful ones, connect to self, and practice awareness of self-compassion, which leads to forgiveness of self and others and transformation through rejuvenation.

We delve into the misconceptions/myths about forgiveness.

By gaining a better understanding of forgiveness, participants acquire tools to begin to discover core wounds and start the journey of releasing them. Research-backed healing modalities will allow participants to create an initial space to explore forgiveness of self and others.

Furthermore, participants will explore and practice vulnerability in learning to use their voice and choice in a safe and non-judgmental space to initiate growth; The discussion will focus on how one cannot change what has happened to them but how they have the choice to respond to it.