A person using a smartphone in front of a crowd.

GriefSPEAK: A sign of comfort – Mari Nardolillo Dias

by Mari Nardolillo Dias, contributing writer on grief and grieving

JoJo died at the age of 36, a successful attorney and a lover of humanity, he passed from an accidental overdose on September 14, 2016 at 11pm, just short of his 37thbirthday. His mom, Deb, was numb with the pain of losing her first born son. She struggled with the pain that interrupted her – both when expected and when not unexpected. The loss was sudden and surreal, and through the pain Deb’s deep faith carried her.

Fast forward to October 3, 2017. JoJo’s 38th birthday. Deb anticipated a difficult, dark day. Her efforts to bring in some light included one of her effective coping mechanisms. Social media. She posted a request for all to post memories and stories of JoJo. The written word would not disappear, and she could reread them throughout the day – when the darkness might contaminate the light. She was determined to not have a bad day. Deb remembers that morning well. She asked God for a sign that JoJo was safe with God. Not a sign from JoJo – but a sign from God. A big request- as God can be very busy.

Deb felt a bit lighter after her social media posts and readied herself for the day. At 8:43 am, as Deb sat in her car still in the driveway her son Mikie came to speak to her through her driver’s window. Her cell phone sat on the console next to her. As was her custom, Deb looked down at her phone. It wasn’t ringing, pinging or vibrating. Just a habit. What she noticed took her breath away.

There on the screen was JoJo’s contact information. Written in RED. Surprised and curious, Deb showed it to her son, Mikie. He could not make sense of it either. Like many of us, it took some time for it to “click.” As Deb sat in traffic at a red light on Douglas Avenue it did indeed, click. The unexplained can make sense. And it did. It wasn’t a sign from JoJo, but rather a bigger gift. A sign from God. JoJo was with him. God wasn’t too busy after all.


Dr. Mari Nardolillo Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief. Dias is a Certified death doula, and has a Certificate in Psychological Autopsy.

She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI.  For more information, go to: