From One Widow to Another— Local Group Gives Support and Friendship

 From One Widow to Another— Local Group Gives Support and Friendship

By Kami-Leigh Agard

There’s a saying that there’s strength in numbers, and this past Wednesday, December 6, twenty-five women—all widows—converged at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club for their Rockaway WAVES holiday gathering. Though all these women shared the loss of a spouse, some even twice, the gathering was anything but somber. As these widowed wave makers ate, drank and laughed with each other, they reflected on something else they had in in common—their zeal to support and share in each other’s new lease on life.

Rockaway WAVES (which stands for Widows Aspiring Valiance Encouragement & Strength) was co-founded by Belle Harbor residents, Dina Tammaro and Kelly Schmitt. Tammaro lost her husband of over four decades, and after reuniting with her best friend from high school, Bernice Maturo, who started a similar widows’ support and friendship group in New Jersey, she realized that she had to do something.

She shared, “I lost my husband almost three years ago, and Kelly was also a recent widow. She and I went to dinner one night at Pico and talked for hours. This was the first time that I went out with someone who also lost their husband and understood what I was going through. Then, we got to talking about starting a group for local widows. We were members of St. Francis de Sales Parish Bereavement group but wanted to start something different that was more about companionship with other women who got it. So, next thing you know, we started reaching out to people.”

In March of 2022, the two women hosted Rockaway WAVES first gathering at Harbor Light. Tammaro said, “We had our first get-together with as many as widows as we could reach. I was a little nervous at first because we didn’t know how well it would go. However, I have to say most of the women that were here with us from day one are still here, and we have been going strong ever since.

Today, the group continues to host monthly gatherings, whether it’s at a restaurant, someone’s house or even at the beach during the summer.

The women described Rockaway WAVES as a friendship/support group with ladies, who share the common denominator of rebuilding after the severe loss of a spouse.

Schmitt said, “Through this group, we made a lot of new friends. It’s about friendships with women who are alone like you. So, we all get together and have a good time.”

Breezy resident, Joanne Colella, who is also Tammaro’s aunt and lost her husband of 56 years added, “We share how we keep busy, so that you don’t focus on the negative. You see hope, you see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Another woman in attendance at Wednesday’s gathering remarked, “What I tell new widows is when you’re ready, we have grief and widow groups at St. Francis, but this group will give you hope. It’s less about grieving and more about keeping positive that you’ll be ok and deserve to have fun.”

Overall, the sentiment expressed by members at the gathering was how impactful the Rockaway Waves has been in each of their lives. As another woman remarked, “This is a phenomenal group. We have someone to hang out with, laugh and be absolutely ourselves.”

However, the women don’t just hang out, they do some heavy lifting when it comes to discussing their emotional challenges since the loss of their spouses.

One of the longtime group members said, “Sometimes when we have meetings, we throw out challenges by asking questions. For example, have you ever been sent a ‘Save The Date’ notice for a wedding, but later find out that you weren’t even invited? Then, being told that you don’t have a husband, so, the person didn’t know what to do. It’s not that friends or family members don’t love you, they try to understand your grief, but they don’t know. However, in this group, we understand.”

At the gathering, one question that was thrown out was: “So, all of us pretty much are seasoned widows. How did you spend the first holiday after losing your spouse versus what you plan to do now?”

A woman answered, “My first Christmas, I ran. I left December 22nd, got in the car, and went to Florida to visit friends and family because I knew I couldn’t do it alone. And, it worked! It was good for me, and I did the same the second year. However, by the third year, I started to feel a little bit more normal. But, at the end of the day, when you close the door, you’re by yourself. It doesn’t matter how many people you’re around, and in this group, we all understand that. Sometimes, 10 o’clock at night, I’ll get a call or text from one of these women, checking in to see how I’m doing. There’s one profound statement that I will be grateful for and never forget. We all went out to Staten Island about a couple of weeks ago, and afterwards, Dina said, ‘Thank you, everybody. You all gave me that there’s life after death.’

“In other words, we have a life. We’re alive. We’re not dead. We’re here and trying the best we can.”

Another sentiment expressed by the women at the gathering was resilience.

A woman remarked, “We’re all resilient and coping in different ways. I’ve gone through being widowed twice. Society doesn’t teach us about grief. A lot us are in a fog when we lose our spouse, and don’t know which way to go. The first year is hard, but eventually you get to realize that you are not alone. And with this group, there’s no moving on, but moving forward.”

Another way the group supports each other is with networking resources when faced with challenges such as home repairs, finances and more.

“This neighborhood is resilient, and we’re blessed to live here. From the Knights of Columbus, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Graybeards, people our kids went to school with—you can call on anyone in the community, and they’re willing and able to help. Plus, there’s always Google,” laughed one of the women.

The only sober sentiment at the gathering was—every month, there’s more people because they’re new widows being created every day. However, the Rockaway WAVES is indeed here for recent and longtime widows as a dynamic group for support and encouragement.

For more info about Rockaway WAVES, email:

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