GriefSpeak: Grateful – A Thank-You note to my clients, past, present and future – Mari Nardolillo Dias

By: Mari Nardolillo Dias

“When two people really “meet” it is like contact between two chemical substances- both are transformed” (Carl Jung)

I am constantly reminded of Jung’s quote above when working with clients. After reading Kottler’s and Carlson’s book “The Client Who Changed Me”, my work is understood and reinforced. Both my clients and my students teach me life lessons as we connect through our humanity.  According to Susan Johnson, “We discover WITH our clients how to live, how to love and how to thrive even when faced with life’s dark places… We are hopeful that… at our best we are able to meet our clients and students as fellow human being and stand beside them with honesty and compassion.”

I have been to many dark places with both my clients and students because I allow myself to join them in their journey. It’s not easy. It is a willingness to be vulnerable and allow our hearts to crack and use every ounce of emotional energy to join them on their path. Last week I wrote about all the moms that lost adult children. As a mom, I needed to focus on their emotions and not on mine “What if?”… There is a fine line between empathy and boundaries, a tight rope we need to walk when giving ourselves to our clients.

This week I worked with abused women, a non-death loss, yet painful and fraught with shame and guilt. I learn an immeasurable amount about humanness when I really “meet” with them. Hannah, whose husband beat her over the head with his steel-toed boots, and then sexually abused their 12 year old daughter. Edward, who loathes himself and although not abused, never feels like he is “enough.” Caroline who struggles with complicated grief over her older brother who introduced her to sex and drugs at an early age and then in adulthood died of an accidental overdose. And finally, Raymondo, a middle-aged man whose childhood spent in an orphanage, has impacted his feelings of abandonment and isolation in grieving his father.

These are difficult paths to walk, with intention next to these grievers. The path is often rocky, uphill and downhill, dark and frightening. But together we can trip and fall in the mire and come out into the light. With much effort and willingness to be vulnerable.

In my 40+ years in this capacity, I have been taught by the best, the most influential experts on life and death. I am but a Sherpa, and I thank each and every one of them for allowing me to travel with them, for trusting me with their hearts, and for teaching me about the human condition. Not from books, certifications, or licenses, but from their hearts and weeping souls. I am, and will continue to be, transformed.


October 2, 10-11 am Saturday, Dave Kane radio show Call-In Radio talk show

Sunday October 9 and Monday (Columbus Day) October 10. – Tent 10 with RI AUTHORS. – Scituate Arts Festival

December 11. RI AUTHORS EXPO. Rhodes on the Pawtuxet


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