Tony Lynch is the founder of Memories of Us, a nonprofit helping men cope with feelings of loss and grief. Having faced loss himself, Tony knows the challenges that come with facing grief. He spoke with us on the podcast to talk about his experiences working with his clients and discussing such heavy topics.
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Today on the podcast. We have Tony Lynch joining us from memories of us. A nonprofit that supports men going through stages of grief or who have lost a loved one. So thank you so much, Tony, for being on the show today!
Tony: Yeah, thank you very much for having me.
Sabrina: So can you get started by telling us a little more about your nonprofit and how you got started in the nonprofit industry?
Tony: I started Memories of Us under a year ago now. And that came after, you know, I lost my son going on four years now. He was eight. And then I lost my mother going on two years now. You know, some of the hardest losses that you can ever think of and, you know throughout the process I did try to go out and find help, but, you know, it's really hard.
Most of the organizations are catered towards women and what they need, or you know, if we did find one, it was co-ed. We know that when most men who have gone through a loss, you know, it's hard for us to open up in the first place, let alone be around and in a group full of women because you know, their misconception, you know, we start to show emotions.
You know, we always think that, you know, it's a sign of weakness and it's just the way that we've never been taught or the way that we have been taught from, from men in our family. You know, we were always taught to suck it up. We were always taught to, you know, keep your head up and keep pushing forward.
Well, there's sometimes where suck it up just stops working. And, you know I’ve experienced going through it. I've seen the different stages and they look nothing like what people think they do. You know, the five different stages, you know, according to psychology, books and things like that.
You know, it's supposed to be really cut and dry, but it really isn't. It isn't. It's manifested as ways in men throughout time through things like suicide. It looks reckless. It looks very, very chaotic. Our family suffers from it because we don't know how to deal with it. So we, we tend to look for other ways to cope, you know, to try to hide the pain from other people.
So, you know, addiction, other forms of addiction and things like that. These things need to be addressed when it comes down to men and what we need to actually understand what loss is and the feelings that come along with it and not be afraid to express how we feel, you know? I think, I honestly believe that if we learn how to talk to our families, we'll learn how to bond a little bit closer, and you know, can persevere through a lot of things. We first have to learn how to deal with it and understand exactly what we're going through.
Sabrina: Yeah. As a woman, I guess I never, ever thought of approaching grief in the eyes of a man. I always knew that if I was experiencing something, I could talk through my emotions with the people around me, my mom, my grandmother. But I never think to approach the men in my life. So it's really interesting to see organizations like yours opening that conversation for men and giving them a safe space to really feel.
Tony: Exactly, exactly. I do believe it's important. I believe that it's important for our emotional and mental health, and it actually helped curb a lot of the misconception of, you know, of men and grieving. Because a lot of times, you know, when you ask the average man what grief is, they don't know what it is.
But if you ask a woman, you know what, what the grief looks like to their significant other or sibling or things like that they go you know, we don't know because you know, we don't show it. We don't show it. We hold it in. And, you know, a lot of things just need to change from that.
Sabrina: So what makes your organization different from others? I know that you guys deal specifically with men which is something extraordinary in itself, but what about how you approach your mission makes you special?
Tony: Well, what sets us apart is that, you know, as you mentioned before we are specifically towards men. But the beautiful part about it is that we don't just cater to one race of man or, you know, one type of man.
Everybody's welcome, everybody's welcome. And, the programs that we do offer, are specific to what men go through. And we also do other things too. You know, we work with other organizations as far as house enabling services and things like that. And, you know, most organizations don't touch this aspect of it because they are afraid of not understanding everything that comes along with it.
Sabrina: Moving on now to the more organizational aspects of running a nonprofit, how do you fundraise? How did you get started?
Tony: How did I get started? Just like anything, it was a thought. It was one I struggled with for a long time cause I didn't know how I was going to do, how I was going to get donors or learn how to fundraise cause you know.
There's books out there. So I've had to learn a lot of things. When I approached people with the idea, they weren't, yes, a great idea, but you know, ABC and D and I went, well, you know, that don't work out too well for me. So I just bucked down and I started putting things together, working with different, let's see, one hope, I'm working with them now during a fundraiser.
They sell wine and their contributions go through a lot of different organizations like veterans. Memories of Us, we actually do support our veterans. We support alzheimers. We support all of these things. So finding an organization that actually deals with these different organizations and these different charities was key to it.
And, when I got with them, it just became a beautiful working relationship. So that's one of the ways I've gone about doing it. And I'm learning, learning from others for the most part. And which directions to go with.
Sabrina: Yeah. Like reaching out to other nonprofits, seeing how they run things and seeing how you can partner with them. Is that like that kind of thing?
Tony: Yeah, it's pretty much, you know, you have to pick nonprofits that kind of coincide with what you're doing and a lot of, a lot of them would tell you no, but a lot of them did say yes, so that that process actually became pre pretty easy for the most part.
Sabrina: What's the biggest challenge you're facing currently and how are you trying to overcome that challenge?
Tony: The biggest challenge is... I'm trying to be there for those guys, on those hard days, the one-on-one, I've been pretty privileged so far. Technology has come a long way, which allows us to do virtual meetings and things like that. And, what some of the counselors do that I work with, they live in different areas, so it's easy to have them get them connected with the right people so we can help make those days and those nights a little bit more tolerable.
And the hotlines for suicide prevention, they're open 24 hours, but a lot of, a lot of guys won't pick up the phone and call anybody. They'd rather email, which is still a great way to do it because I can then connect them with other people that are in that general area to keep that support going on.
So, you know, the challenges are there, but it's just adapting to it and figuring out different ways to do the job that we set out to do.
Sabrina:That's fantastic. I guess, cause it's sometimes harder for people to talk and vocalize on the phone. So emails are another great way for them to reach out and get help. Are you running most of the grief counseling and all the support systems, or have you grown your organization to the point where you can have other people work with you on that?
Tony: Believe it or not, I'm actually the only one that is doing it right now. So I've set up everything on my own and that's just how important it was to me. And I'm, you know, I'm slowly but surely people are starting to come in, but when it comes down to, what I'm doing, I'd rather be more specific about the people that are bringing in as far as counselors and things like that. And I'm actually in the process of going to school to get my counselors degree so I can make more of an impact in some of these guys' lives and, you know, be able to provide that support system everywhere that we go. But, other than that, it's just been a very specific process for the most part.
Sabrina: How has it been for you? Because I know it must be hard, helping people because it's obviously very emotionally challenging for them, but it also must take a toll emotionally for you to deal with such heavy topics a lot of the time.
Tony: Well, you know, it has times where it can be emotionally and mentally draining. But, I've always gone into the notion of I would rather these guys do that on me than to carry it around with them and take it home with them. So I just find different ways of releasing it.
Like, I love to work out. So that's one of my releases right there. And, I'm a praying guy, so I know how to ask for that weight to be lifted off my shoulders. But it's been a humbling experience, and has been a blessing to be able to bridge that opportunity for these guys. And, you know, you learn so much about people, you learn so much about men, the different, the different ways that we cope with these things. So to be able to have that opportunity is, is a blessing for the most part.
Sabrina: I guess, yeah. The same way that it would drain you, it would probably also energize you. You know, when you get to the point with a client or a person and you start to see them, work through their grief and start to get to a better place.
Tony: It is, it's very fulfilling. And, you know, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I'm actually glad I took this direction and going and doing the nonprofit and things like that because it does make a difference. It makes a huge difference. And you right, it does energize me when I could see another man, you know, three, four months from now, and they have the biggest smile on their face because their families are doing good. And they are out and healthy and they figure out the things that they need to do in order to stay on a more positive path. And their relationship with grief changes. It's no longer negative. You know, they look at it and go, you know, yes, I had this time with them and I cherish it dearly and I can keep continually doing the things that I set out to do when I had my loved one here.
So to watch them continue on in a healthy manner in their life and have a smile on their face is the biggest reward that any person will ever get, or have.
Sabrina: Oh, for sure. I've had a couple family members who have been in a similar sector, in doing social work, grief counseling, and a lot of them, you know, had to resign because they said it was so hard for them to sit there with kids or with families and talk about topics like this.
But on the other end there, they still have that passion. They still want to help. So it's amazing that you're able to do both and have that strength to help people through these difficult times.
Tony: As I said, it's an honor to be able to do these things, and I just wouldn't change it for the world. I really wouldn't. This might be one of those things to just get up in the morning and you're just excited to see what an impact you can have in someone else's life. You know, it just makes life that much more interesting and bearable, especially in these difficult times.
Sabrina: Yeah. So how do you find men who need help? Do they contact you? Are there places that you have notices on your organization so that people can go and find you?
Tony: You know, believe it or not, I've had a couple of people reach out to me across LinkedIn, one of the social media apps, Facebook and Instagram. But a lot of people I run into randomly at grocery stores, you know, little areas like that, just running across people and we'd just strike up conversations.
And, you know, and it usually just goes from there a lot. I would say 10% of the guys that are with my group right now have reached across to me from people that I've known, you know, that I've suggested, heard about my group and suggested it to them.
So these guys reach out to me across email and things like that. So, it kind of fluctuates, you know, whatever the situation is I guess.
Sabrina: That's so interesting that you meet people doing everyday activities and you just happen to connect with them and they get brought into your organization.
Tony: Yeah well you know, they say hurt people attract other hurt people. And that is, that is known to be true. Cause you know, there's some hurt that just doesn't go anywhere. And other men, believe it or not, we actually feel that from other people, just like women. When you're going through something, people can easily detect the energy that you're putting off. You know, I really don't think, I, I never thought that I would portray that sort of energy to people. But fortunately for me, I do. And other men just see me and I'm very approachable, so they want to come over it. And you know, I have conversations and then, somewhere down the line, it just changes and men start to reveal certain things as far as their loss.
And usually that's a cue for me to go, okay, this is a chance for me to provide value to you. Let me tell you a little bit of some about my nonprofit, and this is exactly what I do. And from there we just develop friendships. And, the conversations that we have go a lot deeper than what people actually think because they, we start understanding, you know, there's different aspects to your grief that you didn't understand, but this will help.
So, yeah, that's been interesting how that works.
Sabrina: Yeah. So how have you been adapting to all the changes in the world going on with Covid 19? How has your organization changed in terms of how it operates in order to account for all the crazy things that are going on right now?
Tony: Well, we try not to focus on the crazy stuff.
You know, I'm actually a personal trainer as well, so I also help the guys find better ways to keep their immune system strong. And then we do participate in some physical training and things like that, you know, helped the bonding experience as part of the process. And also coping or adapting to it as one way.
And like I said before, I do a lot of virtual emails and then, you know, we still can host small groups as long as they are under 10 people. And so it just makes, you know, if you do it the right way, you can do it three or four groups in a day. We're just, you know, seven, eight people and be totally fine with that.
Sabrina: Yeah. It's not necessarily changing the entirety of how you work, but adapting.
Tony: Yeah. Just adapting to it. Yeah. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. We just need to make sure that it has some padding on it. That's all.
Sabrina: Yes! How have you noticed a change in how your clients have responded to the climate? Do you think it's been hurting how they open up about their grief or it's about the same?
Tony: Well, in some cases it increases the grief because it is uncertain. And, or those guys who have lost someone close to them, they tend to worry about their loved ones because no one wants to have to go through that again.
So they're, in some people, there are, there's changes. People are uncertain or afraid. You know, as a man, we have every right to be and as, as a human race, we should be worried because we don't know what's going on. And, not living in fear is the key to it. And so we find stability in going you know, what. These moments that we have with our loved ones right now, we need to start cherishing them and not just stop the way that you lived a life, but be more cautious about how you live your life. Making sure that you're taking a moment and in living those times with your families, everything else will work itself out.
You know life, life has a strange way of doing that for people.
Sabrina: Yeah, definitely. Do you have any advice for people who are looking to get into the nonprofit sector?
Tony: Yes! Yes, if you do get the opportunity, try to align yourself with people that, better in, in line with your visions and your goals. You know, and don't be afraid to put in the work because it is a lot of work and don't be afraid of the paperwork, but that's all that is.
But, making sure that you have good mentors and making sure that you have the right people in your organization that will help keep it going and all the different aspects that you need to go in.
Sabrina: Yeah, you can always learn how to do paperwork, but the passion, that’s something that can't be taught.
Tony: Yeah, you have to have a strong passion for it cause if not it'll definitely discourage you. And I speak from experience on that. You know, it's, it definitely can discourage you. So you're passion and the reasoning why you, why you're doing it has to be very, very strong. And, you know having the right people that have those specific needs to get you where you need to go, let them do their job, you do yours, and then you let them do their job.
There's a reason why you chose them. So, understanding the different roles, you know, making sure that you have people with strong suits in those roles, and just keep pushing forward. You know, just keep pushing for it. Cause if your passion is to make a difference and, and your community starts off with one person and, develop your programs, develop your, you know, develop your strengths around that one person, you always want them to feel the impact that you have in a positive way.
And that's going to help you duplicate that. on a large scale.
Sabrina: So before we go today, can you let our audience know where they can learn more about your organization and how they can contact you?
Tony: Yes. The organization is Memories of Us, and you can find us on the web at www.memories4us.org or you can email me at email@example.com. We're actually across Facebook and Instagram under the same names, memories for us. And Facebook is the same thing and memories of us limited.
Sabrina: Thank you! So for those listening, definitely reach out to Tony if you need some support. And as always, thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next time on Fundraising Superheroes!