Young widows give each other vital support
Chicagoland Young Widowed Connection president and co-founder Wendy Diez (left) and treasurer Susan Donatello (right) are shown at WineStyles on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, in Glenview. The group will be having a fundraiser at the business. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Ti
Updated: February 22, 2013 2:31PM
GLENVIEW — When her husband died in 2009 of an aggressive brain tumor, Wendy Doyle Diez found a lack of emotional help for young widowed people with young adult challenges.
She had a toddler son and her daughter was 10 days old.
“Not many groups are out there for us, like grief support. They are few and far between,” she said.
In response, she and Laura Tully Dennis, both of Chicago’s northwest side, formed the Chicagoland Young Widowed Connection in late 2011.
The group now numbers 140 men and women, and they meet bimonthly to exchange support group information in many ways, as well as schedule social gatherings.
“We wanted a comprehensive organization to meet many needs of men and women including offering information on local support groups and offering social outlets and workshops on the practical issues of widowhood,” Doyle Diez said.
The organization is hoping to hold future workshops on topics including financial planning, obtaining new insurance, estate planning and car and home maintenance and reentering the workforce.
Glenview resident Susan Donatello serves on the group’s board of directors.
While the workshops are important, she said the friendly get-togethers were equally supportive.
“After a year, while one never gets over it, we wanted a more social aspect to our group. The widows wanted to go out and be social, but still share feelings,” she said.
“The best thing about our group is we share very personal feelings that can validate emotions, such as kids, school and family.”
The group hosted a wine tasting and fundraiser at WineStyles, 1517 Waukegan Road, Glenview on Feb. 16.
Cathy Dhamer’s husband was murdered in 2006 outside their Park Ridge home.
Family members and police believed the unsolved shotgun murder was a botched mob hit because a man convicted of racketeering owned a home across the street.
“I’ve never been in a support group. It just didn’t fit and I was not ready. I’m better off talking to friends,” said Dhamer, who now lives in Niles.
“But I do find people to talk to at the Chicagoland Young Widowed Connection and St. Paul of the Cross Church (Park Ridge). At (CYWC), we do wine tasting, bowling, breakfast. We talk about is how long it has been since the death and what are you experiencing.”
Dhamer said anniversaries and holidays were the hardest.
“It’s terrible. It has been six years now, but for me I still feel horrible,” she said.
Diana Maggio Gumushian, of Norridge, also is a board member who lost her husband in 2008. She said 90 percent of members were female.
“Females seek out support groups more than men. Men react differently to grief.”
In January, the Chicagland Young Widowed Connection held a “We Survived the Holidays” breakfast.
“You see commercials for couples showing cards and jewelry. Instead of being alone we might laugh, cry or something between. That’s how it is when we get together,” Maggio Gumushian said.
She also said many members of the Chicagoland Young Widowed Connection have children.
In some school and church situations, she explained, only one parent can attend a function such as the First Communion for her son, a second-grader.
“That can breed certain feelings toward him and me. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts made in school? How does one feel sitting in a classroom?” she asked.
“We get together and talk about these situations and network with other parents.”
Similarly, Donatello believed her son at times needed a male influence.
“Not as a replacement, but a male connection for my son to be tough with or throw a ball around. I’m not that personality type,” she said.
“Often you think what you’re going through is unusual, but then you connect with others.