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Menomonie couple uses own experience to launch app focused on grieving

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MENOMONIE (WQOW) -- When they first met, Laurel and Robert Fraher dreamed of creating children's books together, and the grief they felt after their daughter died from cancer pushed them to do just that.

When their daughter Julia, who would have been 17 this year, died at just three from neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer, resources for bereavement were limited at the time.

"I just found myself thinking that there were more resources for people going through the grief that was not that heavy, but something uplifting and comforting," Laurel Fraher said.

A Kickstarter campaign led to the pair self-publishing "See Me in the Wonder: A Love Poem," written and illustrated by Laurel through their creative collaboration HappyLove Studios.

"I really feel connected to Julia when I look at the beauty of nature," she said. "The book really focuses on seeing our loved ones that we've lost in the beauty of nature, so falling leaves, in a sunrise, in the snowflakes."

Since publishing the book in 2017, the pair have been working on an app inspired by the book.

"What I saw was as an opportunity to provide it to more people in maybe a different context, part of that context is it being a digital environment, where you can integrate things like sound and interaction," Robert said.

"But, it also gives the advantage of putting it in people's pockets so they can have it with them in times where they might need it."

The "Seeing the Wonder" app is based not only on their own experience but also extensive research into how people interact with images, words and music.

"We started to think about the types of activities that we engaged in when we were in the grieving process. The idea of journaling, the idea of seeking out moments when we would feel a sense of connection with Julia," Robert said.

"The app borrows from models and case studies related to cognitive behavior therapy and creative arts theories. The fact is we're all different, we learn differently, we think differently, and we process grief differently."

The couple stresses that the book and the app are about connection and finding moments of wonder, no matter your belief system because in one way or another, everyone experiences loss.

"Grief is one of those dimensions of the human experience that I think a lot of people deliberately try to ignore," Robert said. "I think there's a lot of stigmas attached to when you're not okay. Part of what we're trying to do with this app is really raising the visibility of the discussion around grief."

Their app, "Seeing the Wonder," is available for purchase for iOS and Android devices. The pair have also made their book available online, for free, on their website seemeinthewonder.com.

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Stephanie Rodriguez

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