You have to see this bereavement counselor's surprising take on the adult coloring book craze.

By Chelsey Hamilton
July 05, 2016

Grown-up coloring books are all the rage right now—an estimated 12 million books were sold in 2015, according to Nielsen Bookscan, up from 1 million the previous year. Most books feature swirling mandalas, intricate floral patterns, or scenic cityscapes, and help colorers soothe everyday stress and explore their artistic side.

One new adult coloring book, however, was designed specifically for people who've experienced significant loss or challenges in their lives. Colors of Loss and Healing: An Adult Coloring Book for Getting Through Tough Times ($11; serves as both an art project and a guide for coping with grief.

Deborah Derman, PhD, a Dresher, Penn.-based grief and bereavement counselor, was inspired to write the book after receiving a coloring book for her birthday last year. “I looked at the book and all the little lines and thought, ‘oh my gosh I’m never going to finish this!’" she says. "But I picked up a pencil and I started to color, one little space, and another little space. I was so relaxed, it was like a meditation almost. I realized this is exactly how I got through all of these losses—one small, little space at a time."

Derman knows from experience what it takes to heal after a personal tragedy. At age 27, an ex-boyfriend died by suicide, sending Derman into a spiral of grief and self-blame. Ten years later, she was waiting for her parents at an airport when she watched their small private plane crash from the sky, killing everyone aboard. A few years later, her husband died suddenly from a heart attack, leaving her a single mom. And shortly after his death, Derman was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer. Rather than allowing grief to take over her life, Derman picked up the pieces, channeled her sadness into researching loss and methods of healing, and eventually earned her doctorate in psychoeducational processes.

For her book, Derman drew on her own losses, as well as experiences of her patients. She distilled those elements and feelings into 35 words and phrases, such as "one day at a time," "resilience," and "bitter and sweet." She then took those words to Lisa Powell Braun, an illustrator, and together they created illustrations for each word and phrase.

“When someone is grieving or having a difficult time with loss, one of the hardest things to do is concentrate," Derman says. "Your whole world is focused on what hurts and what’s lost, and everything seems so overwhelming. I want people to be able to take this book out in a nice space with pencils and have a few quiet moments a day, putting aside their concerns and just being in a quiet, contemplative state.”