Deborah Derman MA’76

Color Me Healed

Regina Miller, Origin Photo

Breath. Purpose. Compassion.

For many people who have lost a loved one or are experiencing other profound challenges in life, simple words such as these are helping them heal — one page at a time.

Inspired by her personal recovery, professional grief and bereavement counselor Deborah Derman MA’76 created Colors of Loss and Healing: An Adult Coloring Book for Getting through Tough Times.

More than 40 ideas and images fill the book, each accompanied by dedicated pages for journaling. Derman’s art-therapy approach invites people to fill in the detailed spaces with color and written thoughts, offering much-needed focus and contemplation during the grieving process. Each word, embedded in illustrator Lisa Powell Braun’s intricate designs, draws meaning from Derman’s own experiences with tragedy and recovery.

After college, Derman lost a former boyfriend to suicide; 10 years later, she and her toddler son witnessed her parents’ death in a small-plane crash. She had two children under the age of four and was pregnant with a third when her husband died following a heart attack. And, a decade ago, Derman began the years-long treatment that would help her beat a rare form of breast cancer.

“I did know when I was writing my book that it was authentic, it was true,” she says. “No matter who you are, or where you live, or who you’ve lost, these are the feelings that you have, and these are the things you need in order to move through.”

Derman channeled her experiences into earning a PhD focused on grief and bereavement, and she’s open about her history as she counsels others. She’s worked with families of firefighters who died on 9/11, and today she guides grief-support groups near her private practice in Dresher, Pennsylvania.

With the release of her book’s second edition, Derman is surprised to hear from people all over the world. “How did my little book get to New Zealand? I don’t know!” But the wonder comes along with joy, knowing that her work supports people across cultures who are undergoing the universal phenomenon of loss.

“Healing from profound grief is a process that can take a lifetime,” she says. “The experience hopefully will change you for the better. We never forget who we love.”

Published in the Summer 2017 issue

Tags: Alumni, Psychology, Social sciences

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