The brutal killings of Richard Bloom and Brett Goldin – on Sunday 16 April 2006 in Cape Town – remain indelibly imprinted on the minds of many South Africans.

Although the murders sent shock waves of fear and horror throughout the country at that time, the gay populace was particularly affronted; this violent act of barbarism against two openly gay men was instantly perceived as being homophobically inspired.

At the recent launch of his book Soul Conductor – A Tale of Grieving and Healing, author Bryan D. Hellmann delivered a brief speech of thanks to his family and supporters.

He also expressed his personal hope that the publication of this book would give some positive purpose and meaning to the senseless killing of his 28-year-old partner Richard, just two years ago.

The powerful impact of this book lies within the absolute honesty of its writing and the reader cannot fail to respectfully admire the highly intimate revelations of Bryan Hellmann’s private journey of grief and subsequent healing.

Dealing with the deaths of loved ones has always been an emotional challenge for humanity and although most people still believe that the pain of grief should remain a private affair, many authors have seen fit to write volumes about this subject.

And like many of the other publications that have effectively dealt with the inevitable processes of human grieving – some of which are acknowledged and referenced within this book – Bryan Hellmann’s Soul Conductor provides a form of self-help guide for those in need of it.

By quoting examples from his specific experience, he personalises the various stages of his grieving process; from factual realisation to subsequent denial, then practical closure and final acceptance of the death of a loved one.

Although Hellmann’s psychological training and expertise (he is a practising psychologist) remain prevalent throughout, the writer’s human sensitivity prevents it from becoming a mere psychological handbook.

It is also a courageous exposé of a young gay man’s personal experience of grief. The reader is easily drawn into his intimate style of confiding and thereby quickly assimilates the painful trauma within these previously private processes.

Throughout the hundred-odd pages, there are several reminders that this is a personal account and, due to the uniqueness of independent human experience, does not claim to be a panacea for all.

In Hellmann’s own words: “You might feel differently; that is OK, just as long as you recognise what you need to do and do it!” In the end it is clear that Bryan Hellmann has justifiably followed his own advice. The ultimate message of this book is that self-honesty and self-nurturing are essential for healing to take place after grieving the death of a loved one.

  • Read Mambaonline’s interview with Bryan Hellmann.
  • Soul Conductor – A Tale of Grieving and Healing by Bryan Hellmann is published by Aardvark Press and retails for around R125.

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