GriefSpeak: “Godwinks” – Mari Nardolillo Dias

By: Mari Nardolillo Dias


“…just because he doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean he don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” (Garth Brooks, “Unanswered Prayers”, 1991)

An old friend recently mentioned that Squire Rushnell’s book entitled “When GOD winks at you; How God Speaks Directly to You Through the Power of Coincidence” was the one book that helped him get through the death of his son following a car accident. Rushnell suggests that “godwinks” are silent little miracles.

“When God winks, He is reaffirming that there is absolutely nothing about us that He does not know – our every hurt, our every desire. And to me, that is very comforting” (Rushnell, 2006).
In hospice we referred to these “winks” or coincidences as “angel stories.” Miracles don’t always come in the form of a fulfillment of a prayer or wish to God. As Garth Brooks mentions in his lyrics, “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” These unanswered prayers are in fact, answered. On another day, at another and in another way but if we are aware and observant, we can see the connection. Prayers reflect God’s desire, not ours.

Marian experienced a small “godwink”. When her son Aidan was an infant, his grandmother gave him a stuffed bunny. He carried that bunny with him all day, every day, and would not sleep without him at nap and bedtime. Aidan had used his pointer finger to rub one particular spot on Bunny’s belly over and over, until he dug a hole in Bunny’s belly.  I’m sure you can relate. Eventually Bunny had to be washed. Aidan was worried about washing Bunny with the hole, thinking bunny might be ruined. He was adamant that the hole could not be sewn. They closed the hole with a safety pin and put Bunny in a pillowcase, and sent him off to the washer and dryer. This remained the process of keeping Bunny respectable for years.

Aidan is now an adult in his early thirties and has recently asked, on many occasions about his old friend Bunny. Marian looked high and low for the long misplaced, endearing bunny. She prayed to God, and then Saint Anthony (patron saint of lost items) – to no avail. She swore she knew where she hid it, but every time she looked in her grandmother’s dining room side table, Bunny was not there. Aidan was disappointed. Bunny was a symbol of his childhood, where every memory included Bunny. Every week he would text Marian:

“Mom, any luck finding Bunny?”

Last week Marian was looking for items to donate to a fundraiser. She opened her grandmother’s dining room side table and … there was Bunny! She was astounded. She had rifled through that same space a half a dozen times and never saw him… When she texted Aidan to tell him, along with a picture of the now very aged stuffed animal, Aidan reminded her that although long deceased, the day Marian found Bunny was his grandmother’s birthday. Was Bunny always there? Or did God wait until Grandma’s birthday to show Marian? Godwink. Grandma is doing just fine and directed Marian once again to the location.

The delayed response to our prayers serves a purpose that only God knows. The Rolling Stones paraphrased this belief in their lyrics “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes , you just might find, you’ll get what you need.” (Let it Bleed, 1969).

I invite you to review the seeming coincidences in your life to determine their meaning. For example, many of us pray for a miracle, perhaps to save the life of a loved one with a terminal illness. When/if the person dies, we can become angry with God for this unanswered prayer plea. Years later we may experience something that is the delayed answer. An “aha” moment. The “why”.

Many of my clients state that “the wrong one died” when grieving the loss of a spouse. Does God make mistakes? The answer to why this person died and not you is one only God knows. This requires a great deal of faith and trust. The parents who lose their only daughter to SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood ages 1-18 – see and raise their fists to the heavens, screaming at an inattentive, deaf God. A year later their daughter’s best friend is hit by an oncoming car and although she survives the flaming car crash, the result is a traumatic brain injury and third-degree burns. She will never walk, speak or feed herself again. Is this a Godwink? Coincidence? Their daughter, who died peacefully in her sleep, would have been in that car.

Look for the “Godwinks”. They are plentiful and often provide a sense of peace and understanding in grief. To dodge grief is like walking between raindrops in the hopes of not getting wet. Perhaps the resulting petrichor is the reward or “Godwink” for walking through our grief. We all need to get wet.


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:


Author, GriefSpeak