In 2007, Kena Paranjape’s husband became suddenly and mysteriously critically ill. Over the course of the next seven years, Kena cared for her husband, until his passing in 2014. In the interview below, Kena shares about her grief, surviving the early months of new motherhood, finding her sense of purpose in the wake of a tragedy, and how the trauma she lived through has informed her work as the founder of lifestyle brand All You Are. Kena also shares about joy, something she’s happy to have rediscovered in recent years.
“My life completely blew up. I fully subscribed to this path — go to school, get a good job, launch your dream career, get married, buy a house, have kids, go on epic vacations, climb the corporate ladder… none of those things happened like I expected them to. In order to survive, I had to write a new map for myself that was completely out of the box. There was no blueprint for me to follow,” says Kena, who understands first hand how quickly life and the future can become unrecognizable to what you had imagined.
While All You Are may be best known for wrapping women in the most cozy and elegant robes, the brand’s mission runs much deeper. All You Are is a safe space for women to explore their dreams, to find strength and courage and, of course, to feel comfortable doing so. “All You Are is a symbol for the unlimited possibilities that reside within each of us. All You Are reminds you that through every challenging part of your journey, you only become more fully who you are meant to be. And the more we become, the more we contribute to the world around us.”
When life became completely overwhelming, how did you pull through?
When life became overwhelming I’d always start by slowing down. I’d go for a walk by myself, to give myself space. I learned early on that for me, reaching out to someone else in those moments right away isn’t the answer. I need to go within first. After I felt like I’d grounded myself, I’d talk to a close friend or my therapist. I was always careful about who I talked to as I understood that I needed to protect my energy and my mindset. People you love may have the best of intentions, but if they haven’t done their own work, their advice or support can often be more harmful.
I also developed a meditation practice, read biographies about people who faced major life challenges and I journaled like crazy. I still have those journals — I’m a little bit afraid to reread them (perhaps for my first book)! I also dove deep into personal growth and mindset books. It’s amazing how much relief and support I received from those books. I think the reason they were so powerful was because they focused mainly on how to change your perception of what you’re going through.
What did grief look like in those early months, and what does it look like today?
My husband was sick for a long time (almost eight years) before he died, so my grieving process began long before he took his last breaths. In the months after he died, I spent a lot of time just reeling from what had happened. After taking care of him for so long, I’d lost my own identity. I had this strange feeling that I had no idea who I was. I got a little tattoo of an arrow on my wrist in the months following his death and a good friend said to me, “I didn’t think you were the tattoo type!” and I responded, “I have no idea what “type” I am?!” After the shock wore off, I was left with a lot of fear. Who was I? Would I find love again? I didn’t realize it then, but in hindsight I can see that I felt a lot of unworthiness. Although it’s been almost eight years since he passed away, I’d say I’ve done my deepest healing in the last three or four. Now my grief is much gentler. Someone told me that your greatest gift is closest to your greatest pain. I can see that now and I’m starting to step into the gifts I received through that experience.
What’s your advice to the mom who’s struggling? Who isn’t sure how she’s going to make it to the end of the week?
I would tell her first to just hang on through the struggle because she is stronger than she thinks. A LOT stronger than she thinks. I would tell her to find ways, even little ways, to take care of herself because without taking care of herself she can’t take care of her kids. I would tell her to ask for help and to get creative and resourceful about what kind of help she needs. Sometimes the solutions aren’t obvious but that means we need to focus on problem solving. I would tell her never to settle into her situation and accept things as they are because they are only that way for now. Things CAN change. Things DO change, even if slowly over time.
The name ‘All You Are’, can you elaborate on why you chose that? What does it mean to you?
The name All You Are almost came through me. I didn’t workshop a long list of names or do any extensive market research. I just thought of it, ran it past a few friends I trusted and knew that was it. At the time, I was coming up with the brand name for my new business which consisted only of a single robe. I had no idea where I would take the company. Now, I feel that it was all meant to be. To me, being All You Are is a symbol for our life’s journey, to becoming all we are. I’ve come to understand that that is why we’re here. To experience all that is meant for us and to grow through those challenges so we can help others overcome challenges as well. By being all you are, you have the most to contribute to your family, community and the world.
What brings you joy today?
These days, my five-year-old daughter is by far my greatest conduit to joy. On a regular basis she pulls me out of standard adult thoughts to the beauty of the moment. She points out the frost pattern on the car roof on a freezing morning, says hello and makes eye contact with the shopkeeper, forcing me to smile and interact as well, skips down the street and invites me to do the same. I recently realized that if I want her to keep that innate, natural joy as she grows, I need to model that for her. I need to reflect my joy back to her.
All You Are donates 1% of all revenue to International Justice Mission Canada, an organization dedicated to protecting children from abuse and forced labour around the world. Browse the collection here.