A dove sitting on a branch covered in snow.

GriefSPEAK: December dove -Mari Nardolillo Dias

by Mari Nardolillo Dias, contributing writer on grief and grieving

Photo: Mourning Dove – Audubon Society

December is a very significant month in the life of Richard. So significant that he spent 2 hours – in May – describing it. As Richard told me his “December Story” he was back in that moment. As he shared this memory it became December in May.

It was midnight on Christmas night, 2022.  A very cold, snowy, dark evening, when Richard returned to his empty home, solitary, without his 62-year-old vibrant wife who was born in, and passed in, another month of December after a battle with COPD and subsequent heart failure. More recently, his elderly dad was born and passed away in a December as well.  Richard mourned the loss of these two special people who were missing on this, his 72nd  birthday.

As he pulled into the driveway, lost in his thoughts of both dad and Ruth, he noticed a seemingly unidentifiable object, a shadow of sorts. As he slowly continued up the driveway his high beams revealed a mourning dove. Odd. At the midnight hour in the dead of winter. At first, Richard suspected the dove was injured as it was not moving. He got out of the car to look closely and saw the bird was alive. The mourning dove allowed Richard to pick her up, and sat in the palm of his hands. She then cooed (howe howe)  and quietly flew away. He shared that he was both sad and joyful re-experiencing the December story with me, and admitted he cried the remainder of the evening. 

In the fabled Huron/Wyandot Iroquois legend, Ayu’ra (Iohara)’s cared for the dove, and when she died all the doves traveled across the land in order to remain with her. The doves were not allowed in, and since then they have been in mourning for Iohara ever since. The sound that the Iroquois attributed to the dove was howe-howe, also the sound that their tribe used to chant over the dead at funerals. Many people think of this dove as the “morning dove” and release them at weddings. Richard experienced the true meaning of the “mourning dove”.



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:


  1. Colleen Magill on May 12, 2023 at 1:13 pm


    That was truly beautiful!
    Thank you Richard,

    • Mari Dias on May 16, 2023 at 1:42 pm

      I’m sure Richard appreciates your feedback, Colleen. I will certainly share it with him!
      Be Well.