Writer Chelsea Lin Wallace on loss through the eyes of a child

Losing something close to our hearts is difficult at any age, but exponentially so for a child.

I will never forget when my two-year-old daughter left her stuffed animal, Bunny, at the beach one foggy day. Bunny had dirty cream fur, the perfect shade to blend in with the sand. Between the shells and the shiny stones, Bunny was forgotten when we packed up to leave. It wasn’t until we got home that we realized what we had done. Oh the tears! His heart was broken. I might have been able to calm her down quickly by promising her a new rabbit or an ice cream, but instead her experience immediately took me back to my own childhood.

I was 11 when I lost my Lovey, Woolly, on a plane. Woolly was not just any love for me. I had loved him alive, I’m sure. I still remember the day he ate my cheerios without asking (I saw the crumbs on his face). When I lost it the grief was unbearable. Even though I moved around a ton as a kid and used to say goodbye to friends, schools, and homes, nothing compared to saying goodbye to Woolly. But I didn’t just feel my own pain, I felt Woolly’s too. I kept wondering and worrying if he was okay. Has anyone found it? Will they love him like me?

Connecting to this pain allowed me to meet my daughter at that time. It created a safe space where I could honor her emotions and where she could express them freely. It also gave me the patience to help him find Bunny – and we did. It just took a frantic run to get back to the beach.

Despite the fact that Bunny finally arrived, reflecting on those emotions inspired me to write a picture book about loss. Loss is often the last thing we want to talk about with our children, but children experience loss too. When we connect with children empathically, it helps them process and heal. It seemed particularly important to me to be a parent in this perspective. Having moved around a lot as a child, I had to deal with the loss of homes, friends, schools and, of course, Woolly. It made sense, then, that my first book had both movement and loss at its heart.

Macmillan Publishers

A house named Walter is told from the perspective of a home. When the family he loves moves away, Walter’s feelings are hurt. He holds on tight to his grief and shuts everyone out, until he meets Little Girl. Little girl faces her own loss, but she deals with hers differently. She’s opened up so much that she can feel Walter’s pain.

My goal for this book is to help readers discuss their own experiences of loss and how these emotions are processed. Do we let them out like Little Girl? Do we keep them hidden inside like Walter? How do you overcome difficult feelings? And what helps us heal?

Reading to a child is a shared experience; a moment of connection. I hope my book will help children and adults embrace each other in moments of empathy in the face of loss. You may lose a Bunny, a Woolly or a Walter, but you will always find your way back to love. After all, where there is love, there is home.

Chelsea Lin Wallace moved around a ton as a kid. By the age of 12, she had lived in 12 homes in 4 states. Although moving around meant a lot of letting go, she clung to her creativity. She started doing poetry and stories when she was 6 years old and found she felt more comfortable in her writing. A HOME NAMED WALTER, beautifully illustrated by Ginnie Hsu, is his first picture book. She hopes it will inspire children to write their own stories. Nowadays, Chelsea calls Los Angeles her home, where she lives with her husband, daughter and dog. You can read more about Chelsea and her books on his site.

This article was originally published