Do Real Men Attend TCF Meetings?


It has often bothered me that more men and persons of cultural minorities don't attend TCF meetings. I know there are societal and cultural restraints which inhibit many bereaved persons from seeking outside help or support. Being both a man and a member of an ethnic group, I know very well the false pride which often restrains us from admitting we are not as self-sufficient as we want others to believe. We are taught (men in particular) at a young age not to reveal when we are hurt. We must be strong and brave and silent.

Stoic endurance is really not unique in my culture. The British call it “keeping a stiff upper lip.” The Japanese call it “gaman.” Hispanics pride themselves on their ability to “aguantar.” In the U.S. it is embodied in the Puritan ethic. When I began attending TCF meetings regularly, I wondered for a long time whether I was a “real man”. Was I less macho than my peers? Couldn't I handle my grief in solitary dignity? The answers, I finally decided were yes, no and maybe. Maybe I could have adjusted to my son's death all by myself. Maybe I could have shunned the possibilities of self-destructive behavior, drunkenness, drug abuse, wild living or the unraveling of my family life without TCF. Maybe I could have dealt alone with all the anger, despair, and depression. Fortunately, I didn't have to. 

I readily admit I wasn't very enthusiastic about going to my first TCF meeting. I imagined a group of people sitting around crying on each other’s shoulders, bemoaning their cruel fate. Instead, I found people who were hurting as much as I; who, like me, were angry, who often felt depressed—but who were working very hard to mend the tattered fabric of their lives. I soon discovered that this was a place where I could talk about my grief and still feel safe about it. Nobody was going to think me less of a man for not getting over my son's death in a few months. 

TCF doesn't promise or offer any quick fixes. There are no magic words or formulas to take away your grief. Whatever “magic” takes place, I know now, happens slowly. I don't believe it is possible for a bereaved parent to “forget,” but I think TCF's support and understanding help make it easier for us to go on with our lives. We need not become lifelong emotional cripples. 

To all of you hurting people who have never attended a TCF meeting, I urge you to give it a try. Attend two or three meetings and see if some of the “magic” doesn't rub off on you. What have you got to lose? You can't hurt any worse than you already have. TCF is for any and all bereaved parents—men and women, minorities and gringos, people of any or no religious faith. The one thing everyone at TCF has in common is the death of a child—and how it feels.


Steve Perez, TCF, Denver CO

                                   Fathers Lose Too 
  Fathers lose too, when a child dies, but there is so much about our lifestyles that makes it difficult for us to deal with those feelings of loss. Dads get caught up in other roles that tend to make us second to Mom in the parent picture.  Dad is generally the primary provider for the family. While Mom may be allotted time for matter related to children, few jobs make allowances for Dads. Nor do we usually allow ourselves time for our feelings, as we use our work to avoid the pain or grieving.
 When our son Philip was born early Sunday morning, I left Jane and our son in critical condition at the hospital and drove forty miles to lead worship at the church where I was the pastor. I told myself I had responsibilities, but it was really a convenient excuse to avoid dealing with the fears and crumpled hopes.
 Wife protector is another admirable role that we Dads adopt. When Philip died three days later, the doctor (on my instructions) called me at 4 a.m. so that I could get to the hospital to be with Jane when she learned of our son’s death. The time on the way there was spent planning how I could comfort her and very little with my own feelings. In those days, what grieving I did was during solitary visits to Philip’s grave. But my feelings were becoming so entangled in my roles that when I found myself at the cemetery it was no longer clear to me why I was there. Only years later do I see the price I and my family paid, and continue to pay, for my roles.
 The grief that was buried has taken much longer to work through, and healing has been prolonged and more difficult. Patterns of not sharing feelings then still plague our marriage and hinder me from giving myself fully to Jane. I still sometimes have to make the effort to unblock the ongoing grief of shattered hopes and dreams that is Philip’s death.
 Father loose too, when a child dies. I am learning that we Dads need to let ourselves feel that grief and to express it and share it so that our roles don’t become a timely escape that leads only to deeper entrapment. 
~Don Ray, TCF Jamestown, NY 

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