A green christmas tree on a swirly background.

GriefSPEAK: So, this is Christmas – Mari Nardolillo Dias

By: Mari Nardolillo Dias

“So, this is Christmas

And what have you done

Another year over

And a new one just begun” (John Lennon)

I have received several Christmas cards with letters enclosed. These letters summarize the highs, the lows, and the major happenings of the family members throughout the past year. There are births, promotions, retirements, a house bought, a house sold. I’ve never written such a letter. Until today. Until now. I felt compelled to answer John Lennon’s question above. What have we done?

Dear Reader:

The year 2021 included a modicum of normalcy for our family for several months. Winter proved difficult for me as I was teaching via Zoom, wishing to meet my students in person. As a mild winter segued into spring, I felt a resurgence of hope and for the first time, planted herbs and flowers. When summer introduced herself, my family returned to the joy of Narragansett Bay, sailing on “Raven”, and kayaking in Wickford Harbor at sunset. This return to freedom and associated bliss was mired by my brother Bobby’s death in July. The world stopped, as did we. We put our sailing invitations on hold and stood still. Bobby’s death darkened the remainder of the summer for me. When the prospect of returning to teaching in person for the fall semester, I fell short. I was stuck – even the idea of designing syllabi (a fairly undaunting task after completing them for the past 35 years) became impossible.

I took a leave of absence to walk in my grief and to accompany my mom (who turned 93 this year!) on hers. I walked barefoot for several months, even walking the dogs. It’s called “earthing” and found it healing. With unaccustomed free time I was able to return to swimming a half mile to a mile every other day at Absolute Fitness. I walked Mercy for miles every day and engaged in field trips for her socialization. We took several trips to The Block, daily visits to the South Kingstown Dog Park, Blue Beach and Galilee. I published my first book, GracePointe Grief Center is (sadly) booming and I also completed the final draft of my second book, GriefSPEAK Volume 2, a homage and a promise to my brother during his last weeks. We will have a book launch in March 2022.

My son, Adam Dias, announced his engagement to Ema Leigh (finally!) and together they purchased “Indigo”, a Little Harbor whisper jet that lives up to its name. Both Maggie and Moon (their Portuguese water dogs) acclimated well to marina and boat living. They are our neighbors both on land and sea, as Indigo is only a few slips away from Raven. It was not uncommon to see Maggie, Moon and Mercy running up and down the docks to meet their friend “Radar.” It was truly the dog days of summer. And fall. Mercy turned 1 year old in 2021 and excels at her blossoming career as a grief therapy dog.

My daughter of the traveling pants, Lindsay, known for her trips, was able to return to her passion this year as 2020 left her quarantined. Many were disappointed as we all live vicariously through her social media. 2021 brought us a glimpse into limited stateside travel with Lindsay’s road trip to the Midwest throughout 6 cities, several hops over to NYC and an upcoming trip to Disney and a new mini cooper.

My husband Raul is quoted as saying “I have nothing to say about 2021, just grateful to be alive.”

The great nieces and nephews continue to bring joy to the extended family. Roman is now a precocious 3 year old, his brother Luca turned one, and both Bella and Eveleigh are now almost 2 years old and manifesting their personalities.

Just a few weeks ago, my best friend from high school, Deb Manzo McDonald’s husband, Joe Mac, passed. Our relationship is again rekindled with the spark of loss and grief.

This Christmas everyone will receive over the counter COVID rapid tests in their stockings, as we cautiously move into 2022. I happily anticipate Adam and Ema’s wedding, dancing to the live music of The Complaints, reconnecting more often and in person with my soulmate Rita, my retirement, and unhappily anticipate my 70th birthday.”

“So this is Christmas, what have you done? Another year older, a new one just begun.”


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: . She is the author of GriefSpeak, vol. 1, Stories of Loss


  1. Colleen Magill on December 24, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    Merry Christmas, and I am so happy there is a volume 2 coming in March!