A sunrise over the mountains with clouds in the background.

GriefSPEAK: If Only – Mari Nardolillo Dias

By: Mari Nardolillo Dias

…”I need to know that things are gonna look up

Cuz I feel us drowning in a sea spilled from a cup

When there is no place safe and no safe place to put my head

When you feel the world shake from the words that are said

And I’m calling all angels…” (Train)

If Only…

I suspect we all held are children and grandchildren closer and tighter this week… Our hearts stopped beating for a moment Tuesday when we heard the breaking news. We witnessed grieving parents, grandparents, neighbors, and siblings. We listened to a young survivor trying to explain what he saw and how he felt. And maybe, just maybe, you heard what I did – a silent sigh of relief when some parents found out their children were safe.

Yes, there will be trauma, perhaps PTSD – and hopefully PTG (Post Traumatic Growth). There will be survivor’s guilt, felt by both parents and children. The community of Uvalde has been offered grief counseling and support. My experience tells me they need to be listened to, heard, and held. They are all in shock. It’s surreal. It didn’t really happen. It couldn’t have happened. It happened. No, it really didn’t happen. It happened. It is fresh. Raw. It is akin to watching an old movie reel in their minds. Painfully slow.  

They will bond in common tragedy with others who share the experience of loss. This will help. They are not alone. Unfortunately. As time moves forward, they will busy themselves with funeral arrangements and celebrations of life. Then… nothing. The news will move on, some may forget, but the grievers’ lives are forever changed.

Trauma sucks the marrow out of our bones. We move one foot in front of the other without direction. As more details come out, some are angry. What was the shooters ACES score (Adverse Childhood Events)? What was his resilience score? How long was it, really, before tactical forces went into the school? Many want to find an answer to the “whys”, an explanation that makes sense. If only the shooter was unable to purchase a gun. If only the fence was higher. If only there was one available point of egress. If only someone had reported troubling statements on social media. If only they had man traps.

 If only it was that easy.

I speak to this from a perspective of a grief therapist and psychological autopsist. Mass shootings have at their nexus a “perfect storm” of potential mental health issues, attachment disorders in childhood, personality traits, disengaged from society, and a red flag on social media, and, and, and… so many variables.

Although even if they find it – even though it won’t, it still may not make sense. Many of my clients sue the doctors, the hospitals, the caretakers. Despite the machinations, they will never feel fulfilled or satiated. There are many intended and unintended consequences. Yet none of them will serve as relief.

We are all in shock. Today we saw the pictures of the children who passed. It is a travesty. Just like the story of the little girl who told her mother she was going over to a friend’s house because her friend’s doll broke. When she returned, her mom asked her if she helped her friend fix the doll. The little girl replied, “No, I helped her cry.” Let us all help each other cry. Listen, hear, and hold your loved ones dearly. Anger is a distraction from the real emotions of the heart.

Calling All Angels.


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, Vol. 1: Stories of Loss