Book Shelf: The Way Men Heal

Author: Kyle Balduf

The Way Men Heal Book CoverThe ways we grieve are as varied as the swirls and ridges at the tips of our fingers. This is why Tom Golden's The Way Men Heal (G.H. Publishing, 2013) is such a refreshing perspective of grief. In his book, Tom challenges some of the traditional judgments associated with healing. And don't let the title of the book fool you. Tom explains, "The masculine side of healing is used by both men and women. It is not simply a 'man's' way of healing."

The cultural assumption that men don't grieve or don't deal with their feelings is at the root of the way many mental health clinicians are trained. In his first job out of school, Tom struggled to help men who were grieving, leading to his research into modes of healing. He discovered that those who favor a masculine mode of healing tend to heal in an active way rather than an interactive way. In other words, they tell their story through actions, not words. This can make identifying masculine mode grief challenging, because the grief is virtually invisible. When someone isn't crying or displaying outward signs of pain, it is difficult to recognize that action can be part of the grieving process. But healing actions not only connect the grieving with their pain and loss; they also keep the memory of a loved one alive into the future.

When my twin brother died in Afghanistan, I was faced with the greatest pain of my life. I felt like I had been propelled beyond the stars and into a new universe, one with a cold, dark, bleak landscape. As friends and family poured into our house, we surveyed this new land of grief together. We sat in the living room and told stories. We talked about how we were doing. But after the first few days I became restless. I wanted to get out of the house and do something-anything.

I began helping with the planning of Kevin's memorial service, making a video slideshow that would encompass Kevin's life. I spent hours flipping through photo albums and listening to songs. Then I sat down with my good friend and began to create the video. As I soaked in the sea of memories, I found myself explaining the pictures and talking about the significance of each moment. Conversation about my grief naturally took place as we worked. No one would have realized that I was actively grieving: I didn't even realize it, but this activity was a vessel for my grief and an initial path toward healing.

My hope is that you will read The Way Men Heal and broaden your understanding of the unique ways we grieve. Even as a mental health practitioner, I found myself learning new things from Tom. It's an informative and eye-opening book. The section titled "Tips for Helping the Men You Love" was particularly insightful, overflowing with practical ways to walk with those who grieve in a more masculine mode. Tom also brought his observations to life by sharing the stories of Michael Jordan, Brett Favre, and Eric Clapton, explaining the unique way each of these men actively grieved his own loss.

For those who don't enjoy reading or who have little time to do so, I have good news. This book is concise at fifty-four pages. I read it in less time than it takes to watch a movie. Tom also maintains a website with many grief resources, including a video version of the book. You can access these resources by joining Tom's website at thewaymenheal.com. Membership is not free, but there are several tiers of pricing based on length of time you plan to use the website.

Remember this: the best way to promote healing in ourselves is to seek to understand. The Way Men Heal can help us on that journey. 

By Kyle Balduf, surviving twin of Sgt. Kevin Balduf, Written by Thomas R. Golden