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GriefSPEAK: Ambedo, one with a teardrop – Mari Nardolillo Dias

By: Mari Nardolillo Dias 

Ambedo:  “a kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details…briefly soaking in the experience of being alive, an act that is done purely for its own sake…” 

Erin often experiences ambedo yet finds it disturbing. Rachel experiences ambedo on a weekly basis and waits for it to envelop her as she finds it peaceful. Others believe we can choose ambedo. “[We} all have choices that we’ve got to make, sometimes I think you like to watch me make my next mistake.” (Dean Petrella). The use of the word “melancholic” depicts a trance that is sad and pensive. When we think and/or feel a loss, whether due to death or a non-death loss (independence, home, marriage, job, retirement, etc.) we often find ourselves in such a trance.  

Ambedo is an altered state of consciousness. An otherworld. If someone taps us on the shoulder or the phone rings, we are startled by reality. Some may want to return to ambedo, yet it’s not that easily accessible. We can’t just wish it. Or breathe our way into it. It comes upon us when we least expect it. “The poet, John Roedel, tell us:  

 “Open up a bag of Red Rope Licorice and suddenly I’m eight years old again. I’m standing in the middle of our family’s old drug store. The waxy floors that are cleaned every six weeks. The humming lights that never quite illuminate the far corners of our long rectangle shop.” (Roedel, #8, “Upon Departure.”) 

We are drawn to focus on a taste, a smell, a sound, and we become one with the senses. This vivid sensory experience can be raw, both soft and sharp, much like a “razor wrapped in silk.” (Dean Petrella). Ambedo reminds us that we are alive. Whether good or bad. Some tell me, “The wrong one died” when they lose a partner. They find a perverse pleasure in the sadness. They wallow in it. It brings them comfort and calm. It fits. Just the right size of sadness. Others battle the shift to the alternative consciousness as it stings with memories.  

Despite these varying reactions, I find ambedo a welcome diversion from the chaos of reality. I close my eyes and wait for it to come. Welcome it. Embrace it. I find myself one with a tear drop. It feels good. It feels right. 

Our psyche protects us from what is just too much to bear. Embrace ambedo. It keeps you small, engaged in a moment.  


To read more articles for RINewsToday by Mari Nardolillo Dias, go here:

Dr. Mari 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:


Dias is the author of GriefSPEAK, Vols. I and II