A woman is holding a small plant in her hands.

GriefSPEAK: The choice to heal – Dr. Mari Nardolillo Dias

By: Mari Nardolillo Dias, contributing writer

“You don’t heal from the loss of a loved one because time passes, you heal because of what you do with the time.” (Carole Crandall) 

The quote above reflects the motto and mantra of Deborah Manzo McDonald. She lost her adult son and her husband within a 5-year span and made “A Choice”. I can either be holed up in bed for the rest of my life, on drugs and alcohol, or – I can live.” Purposefully. In motion. Deb speaks to all of us with these words: 

“I’m thinking that even though this journey of grief healing is difficult, draining, and exhausting, the loss and pain we feel is truly connected to our capacity to love and be loved… while we continue to do the work of mourning… TODAY I am CHOOSING NOT to remain the same, and I encourage you not to as well… there is HOPE… Let’s open our hearts a bit more… Life is STILL work living.” 

Much of the research on grieving indicates the power that is comes from helping others, getting outside of our own pain. Grief makes us more compassionate, more empathetic. Without knowing, but intuitively understanding, Deb lives a life of helping others as Director of Adult and Teen Challenge. Her love for “the girls” is boundless and she is constantly reminded of the reciprocal impact on both her and the girls in residential rehabilitation. She has changed many lives, and many lives have changed hers. She is a strong proponent of choice, dismissing the victim cape, lined with helplessness and fear. In addition, Deb’s strongest characteristic is her faith in God. With him, all things are possible. Deb experiences this every day and is a firsthand witness with a great deal of evidence that all things are, in fact, possible. 


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


  1. Judi on September 23, 2022 at 3:35 pm

    Lost my beautiful 33year old daughter 11 years ago,& I cannot get myself together ?

    • Mari Dias on September 30, 2022 at 9:05 pm

      My heart breaks for you Judi. It is a very diffcult road. I am but a sherpa to help guide one. Sorry for the delay in responding- First time in 2.5 years I contracted a nasty bout of covid.