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GriefSPEAK: Playing with madness – Mari Nardolillo Dias

by Mari Nardolillo Dias, contributing writer

Can I play with madness?  

The prophet stared at his crystal ball 

Can I play with madness? 

There’s no vision there at all 

Can I play with madness? (Adrian Smith, Iron Maiden) 

Leisha thought she was mad. Felt like she was mad. Behaved as if she were mad.  Uncontrolled emotions, confusion, memory loss, inability to move. to breathe. Grief can feel like madness.

And I am sometimes perceived as the prophet in the quote above. Contrary to many an opinion, I do not have a crystal ball. What I do have is a metaphorical vegvisir. (Emphasis of metaphorical) .  “A vegvisir is an Icelandic magical stave intended to help the owner find their way through stormy weather.“ If this sign is carried, one will never lose one’s way in storms or bad weather, even when the way is not known.” (Huld Manuscript IB 3834, National Library in Reykjavik.)

My vegvisir is my ability to listen and hold the perceived madness. It does not allow me to see into the future, to know Leisha’s future, but I can help her to find her way, even if the way is not known. To her. Or me.

I travel with Leisha this week and many others in the past and future. According to her, she had voluntarily reinvented herself several times throughout her life. Now she is faced with an involuntary reinvention. As a widow. Where does she go? Who does she become?  How does she define herself in this world?

She looks into a mirror which provides no reflection and it is me who she looks to… To create a reflection. I don’t have a crystal ball. What I do have are years of listening and working with traumatic stories of loss.

Each and every one of them results in a difficult, tumultuous but successful reinvention. I believe Leisha’s reinvention, her reflection, will be the same.  


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