A woman's hair is blowing in the wind.

GriefSPEAK: Life of sighs – Mari Nardolillo Dias

By: Mari Nardolillo Dias, contributing writer

There are few things in life more telling than a sigh. There is the sigh of resignation or relief, the sigh of exasperation or exhaustion, the sigh of deep peace and relaxation, the dizzy sigh of inebriated love, and the sigh that lies at the bottom of the well of our embodied soul that comes from the heaviness of sadness and the gravity of grief.. (Daniel J. Miller, Ph.D., 2013)

Life of (Sighs) Part 1



I packed my bags for a trip from which I suspect I will never return, as I unpacked my memories garnered from Mother’s “scrying mirror”, one that was capable of seeing the present and the past but incapable of seeing the future.  Although she tried.  Mother’s final suicide attempt was successful, following almost yearly unsuccessful attempts. Her first attempt scared me, the second angered me, and subsequent attempts left me with mixed emotions of confusion, loneliness and despair. By the time she was gone I was grateful for her release from psychological pain with minor forays into grieving as a motherless daughter.

“Good for her”, I thought. She found a way to save herself just as she tried to save every indigent, marginalized, and disenfranchised population while she was alive. She could save everyone but herself. And me.  

Mother often said, “The genetic crop duster was generous with our family.” Mother was third generation bipolar and bicoastal, as was her identical twin sister, Francesca. Mother and Zia were a twin paradox. Mother was like a street sweeper, Zia a snowplow. Nana Carmella described the birth of the twins as close to a photo finish as possible, with Mother arriving 2 minutes before Zia. They were blessings to Nana and a double disappointment to Papa Vincenzo, who like any good Italian man wanted sons.

In the tradition of naming children after saints, Nana named Mother, Thomasina Mary, and Zia, Francesca Mary. (It was very common at the time to use the blessed mother’s name as a middle name) – and ironically the twins were born on July 21, the feast of The Madonna Della Civita. Nana made a small consolation in their naming by choosing names that provided a male sooprannome (nickname) by calling them Tommy (Thomasina) and Frankie (Francesca). Thus, Mother’s onomastico (Name’s day) was July 2nd, Feast of Saint Thomas and Zia’s onomastico was October 4, the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Eventually Mother married, gave birth to me, and suicided. Zia Frankie left the confines of New England to backpack across Europe…

…to be continued next week.


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.