MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) Surviving life. It’s something we all try to do. When life gets tough, sometimes people opt to turn to the guidance of a life coach.
Before launching her own life coaching and consulting business, Darcy Luoma's career was rooted in politics and non-profits. Luoma served as the director of former Sen. Herb Kohl's office until Jan. 2013.
In the Madison area, Darcy Luoma is one of the most recognizable names in the life coach industry. She’s built her business, Darcy Luoma Coaching & Consulting, LLC from the ground up and developed her own leadership model, “Thoughtfully Fit.”
Little did she know this is what would help her navigate her darkest days when the life she knew completely crumbled. For the first time, Luoma is opening up and telling her story on-camera to NBC15 after sharing it with NBC15’s media partner, BRAVA Magazine.
Darcy Luoma balances motherhood while working full-time as a business owner. Before launching her own business, her career was rooted in politics and non-profits working on the presidential campaign of Al Gore and serving as the director of Senator Herb Kohl’s office.
With all of these experiences, Luoma said she got to see how people communicate and how they interact.
“I’ve been fascinated with it my whole life in terms of what creates the best dynamic for communication and then ‘where do we get in our way,’” said Luoma.
It was that curiosity that prompted her to take one of the biggest risks. She launched her own business to follow her true passion.
Since Jan. 2013, she’s spent her days building her coaching and consulting business from the ground up. She admits she had very little work-life balance, but was lucky to have a stay-at-home husband.
“So John was a full-time, stay-at-home dad. He did all the haircuts, dentist appointments, and girl scout cookie sales, all of that which allowed me to focus on my business,” said Luoma.
Focus is exactly what she did. She’s logged more than 10,000 hours of coaching and consulting, delivered 250 keynotes and workshops, and has worked with thousands of individuals to date. Most recently she earned a certified speaking professional designation from the National Speakers Association. It’s a title she said she worked years to earn.
Luoma found success rather quickly. She described it as “being blessed with abundance.” With her business thriving, she launched her coaching team three years later in Jan. 2016. But, for this well-articulated woman, who spent much of her life studying the dynamics of communication, Luoma struggled to find the words to tell a side of her story very few people have heard – until now.
“I was completely blindsided. I had no idea and with that one phone call my world was literally turned upside down,” said Luoma.
Her husband of 10 years and the father of their then 8 and 9 year old daughters, John Gilbert, was arrested for child pornography and sexual assault of a 15-year-old. Luoma’s very structured life quickly turned to shambles.
“All of these processes and systems and flows and structure that I had built in my live were upended – just like that,” as she snapped her fingers.
She had to deal with an overwhelming sense of emotions, everything from tears, anger, frustration, and anxiety. She described it as she was in a space of hiding and seclusion.
This all happened just two months after expanding her business and five days after launching her signature leadership model, “Thoughtfully Fit.” Now, all of the advice she had given to countless others quickly became her lifeline to survival.
“Everything that I had spent years, really decades researching and putting together, now I was implementing. I was ground-zero,” said Luoma.
Darcy said she had two options: crumble or face the situation head on – thoughtfully.
“I think if I wasn’t a mom, I’m not proud to say this, but probably there would be a different outcome,” reflected Luoma. “I probably would have crawled in a hole. But I had to figure out that balance between honoring those emotions, the fear and anger, with ‘life goes on.”
It wasn’t as easy as life goes on. She said it took years of work practicing the three steps of being “Thoughtfully Fit” – pause, think, act.
So many times in the moment she said she wanted to have a “knee-jerk” reaction. Instead, she would take a breath and think: “What do I need right now?” “How do I want to show up right now?” What’s most important?” “How am I getting triggered?”
After running through a list of internal questions, she said she was able to act from a place that was more thoughtful. It’s those three steps – pause, think, act – that has brought Luoma to know and accept her new normal.
“I’m hoping that part of my story can provide hope. That there is a way out,” said Luoma. “If you do handle that adversity thoughtfully you can not only find hope and be happy again, I would say that the silver linings and the hidden blessings that I didn’t expect have been greater than one could imagine.”
How can there be a silver lining when you find out your husband of 10 years, father to two small children, and partner in life is living a double-life? Luoma shared this as the blessing she didn’t even know could exist.
“John handled everything with the girls, but when he was removed from the picture, I became primary,” said Luoma. “I’m a single, full time, 100% mom. I’m so much closer to my girls.”
Luoma did file for divorce. Gilbert was ultimately sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
Currently, Luoma is working on a book that shows how her own personal experiences helped to shape her coaching model, “Thoughtfully Fit.” Until that happens, more of Darcy’s story is in the May issue of BRAVA Magazine. It’s on newsstands now.
To find out how Luoma explained this very heavy topic to her young girls at the time and why she felt after all these years she could open up, watch the extended web video. It’s posted at the top of this article.
Read more of Darcy's story in NBC15's media partner, BRAVA Magazine. CLICK HERE.