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A Coloring Book for Getting Through Tough Times During Cancer

Deborah S. Derman created an adult coloring book to help patients cope with difficult times.
BY Katie Kosko
PUBLISHED August 26, 2016
The ability to grieve and heal comes at an individual’s own pace. If anyone knows that well, it is Deborah Derman, a professional grief counselor with more than 20 years of experience, whose own healing came by taking it one step at a time. 

Before the age of 40, she suffered three major tragedies: the suicide of a close friend; the death of her parents in the crash of a small plane, which she witnessed while waiting for them at the airport; and her husband’s sudden, deadly heart attack that left her widowed with two young sons and a third child, a little girl, on the way. Shortly after that, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Derman, an 11-year breast cancer survivor, now spends her time helping others, and she hopes that her new book, “Colors of Loss and Healing: An Adult Coloring Book for Getting Through Tough Times,” will bring people a sense of calmness and reflection — something she wishes she’d had as she was trying to heal. 

“I think when someone is undergoing a loss or they’re in the middle of a very stressful time, it’s important to carve out a space of peace and quiet, because from that place of peace and quiet you can gather your thoughts and you can figure out what your next step needs to be,” Derman says. 

She used her personal tragedies, along with insights from her professional life, to come up with 35 hopeful words meant to promote healing and forward movement through difficult times. To accompany each word, she carefully thought out an illustration that can be colored; these were then drawn by illustrator Lisa Powell Braun. The book also acts as a journal, with blank pages that can be filled with personal thoughts and feelings. 

Derman says her “lightbulb moment” came after a friend gave her a coloring book for her birthday on Christmas day last year. Opening it up, she saw a ton of blank spaces that needed to be filled. As she sat looking at the pages, she realized that the book mirrored the way she had managed to get through each of the tragedies that had come her way: one small space at a time. 

“All you have to do is pick up a pencil and start somewhere,” Derman says. “And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the lines, out of the lines; it doesn’t matter what color you choose. Just start.” 
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