Birdhouse Project: Embracing Life through Loss

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Building a birdhouse might not seem like an obvious way to deal with grief but it's exactly what trauma survivors will be doing this weekend.

The University of Kansas-Edwards campus in Overland Park is offering a three-hour workshop titled "The Birdhouse Project." Instructor Kris Munsch developed the program after losing his teenage son Blake in a car accident in 2005.

"Honestly I was trying to save my own life," Munsch, an instructor at Fort Hays State University, told FOX 4.

Munsch has taught the workshop across the country and says buidling a birdhouse is a metaphor for rebuilding lives after a traumataic experience, be it divorce, job loss or the death of a child, adding "I look at it as a collaboration of the heart, minds and hands."

Michele Shanahan DeMoss lost her daughter, Blair, on July 4th, 2011.  The 11-year old was struck by a stray bullet from celebratory gunfire nearly a thousand feet away. The Independence mom says she could barely get out of bed for months when a friend convinced her to try The Birdhouse Project.

"I could barely get out of the car to come in to do the class. I was sweating as I was coming in," said DeMoss.

That was nearly a year ago and DeMoss says the workshop made a huge difference in helping her cope.

"The things you, that are written inside of this birdhouse, I'd say are probably pretty painful," said DeMoss.

Munsch has each participant write down different thoughts on each piece of wood, to describe different emotions as the birdhouse is constructed.

"I think it's just the realness that's behind it," said Munsch. "It's a solid object. You ask somebody how they feel it's really hard to say it but when you write it down on the crisis wall, all of a sudden I have a tool not only for myself to look at it but I have a tool that shows somebody else how I'm feeling."

DeMoss says for her the birdhouse was "My unconventional way of healing. I don't want to do what everybody thinks I should do."

Inside her pink and green birdhouse, (Blair's favorite colors), DeMoss wrote, "That I will always celebrate, honor and I will forever love her."

DeMoss says her birdhouse is something, "outward that everybody can see that I'm working on my grief process."

If you'd like more information about Saturday's workshop at the KU-Edwards campus in Overland Park, contact Marla Sloop at 913-897-8550 or email her at

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