GriefSpeak: Thinking Out Loud, 9/11 – Mari Nardolillo Dias

By: Mari Nardolillo Dias

Hiraeth: (n) a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was, the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.

Today, my hiraeth is 9/11. The irony is striking. Why would anyone have a nostalgia for one of the most devastating periods in our lives? It is not the devastation but rather a yearning for the camaraderie, the cohesiveness and the singularity of purpose and focus. As US citizens, we were one. We had a common foe, and it wasn’t each other. Disparity, micro-aggressions, and rivalry did not exist. We shared a common focus, and we were one. I grieve the oneness that once was.

The sadness is not lost on me. It took a major attack on our country for us to rally. It was an untended consequence of the massive loss and death associated with this monstrous attack. On this, the 20th anniversary, I am inundated with media accounts of heroes: firefighters, police, and first responders who lost their lives while saving others. Family members interviewed these 20 years later recall not only the events, but the emotions of that day, with the same degree of intensity they felt at the moment. Trauma is not what happens to us, but how we respond to the events. Trauma still exists in the generations of those lost by those who survived.

We who survived, perhaps thousands of miles away, were invested in this massacre and its aftermath. We mourned strangers as we would family. It was a time of fellowship, shared love, and pain. And purpose. There was universal empathy, understanding, fellowship and respect.  Bumper stickers proudly displayed our flag, store windows and tree branches were swathed in red, white, and blue ribbons, flags adorned household windows – all of this from California to Texas, from the Dakotas to Vermont. “From sea to shining sea.” In the study of sociology, symbolic interactionists discuss the power and poignancy of symbols. At the time, the ubiquitous nature of our flag served as a tangible symbol, a reminder that we were all connected by a common thread with no degree of separation.

This is not the America I live in today. We don’t celebrate the flag, we burn it.

It was the dichotomy I saw this morning on the news – between seeing a clip from 9/11 showing a community of Americans with shared tears and angst, followed by a clip of Larry Elder being “egged” as he travelled the streets of Los Angeles and Venice Beach that appalled me. The unity that once was, has disappeared. This is not about politics. This is about the loss of the sense of humanity. We are now divided. This division on all fronts is lamentable. Unacceptable.

Even the conflict over leaving Americans behind in Afghanistan has resulted in ire, not unity. I miss the country that was on post 9/11. By no means do I wish an attack on our country. The prospect terrifies me. I grieve the cohesiveness and community of our country, regardless of age, color, gender, ethnicity, social class. and culture, we gathered together with a common goal, shared values. Where did it go? When did we lose it?

I am sad.  I am grieving. I am homesick for an America that rose up against a common threat to our democracy. United, not divided. I for one, will never forget.


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:


Author, GriefSpeak


  1. Dr Raymond Giillette on September 14, 2021 at 7:20 pm

    Keep the faith
    We must learn to be the better angels

    • mari on September 15, 2021 at 1:14 pm

      Thank you so much Ray! A beautiful perspective.

  2. Rich on September 13, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    I believe that we still have hope to be better. I will not allow my heart to be closed to that which I don’t know or understand. Today the world we live in is much different than twenty years ago however, our spirit to overcome still exists in everyone. Although it may be misguided by those who benefit from dividing us, we can’t lose perspective. People like you Mari have the ability to lead others to this level of consciousness.
    It starts with us….. it’s responsibility rests in the very person who wishes to be known and understood.
    Let us hope that we can find our collective hearts.

    • mari on September 15, 2021 at 1:16 pm

      Couldn’t have verbalized it better myself! Thank you for taking the time to respond in a thoughtful, insightful manner.

  3. Michael on September 10, 2021 at 6:56 pm

    Never lose hope, within us resides the need for connectivity. Other needs seem to have pushed our desire to connect aside, but there it is, waiting for us to return.

    • mari on September 15, 2021 at 1:17 pm

      Thank you for reminding me to remain optimistic . I rarely hear from kindred spirits. M

  4. F. Leon Sibielski on September 10, 2021 at 11:17 am

    Spot on!
    You certainly know how to capture the moment, the world in which we lived and now face living.
    Remember what was, because we may never experience that again.
    Sad and scary.