As a writer, I’ve always been interested in exploring universal human emotions — love, hope, fear, loneliness — and how they impact our actions, our choices, and the assumptions we make about ourselves and the world. My mother died when I was very young, and I have struggled with that loss throughout my entire life. That experience informed who I am and, by extension, all the significant choices I have made. Several years ago, I learned of a program — I Have a Friend® — created by Hospice of Santa Barbara that would enable me to use my experience in a productive way. The program matches adults who lost a parent as a child with children who have recently lost a parent. The adult serves as an example to the child that one can experience such a loss and still become a successful adult. Perhaps more importantly, though, the adult understands exactly how it feels to be in the child’s shoes, and no explanations are necessary. At one point during my involvement, one of the counselors very offhandedly mentioned the idea of my writing a handbook of sorts for surviving parents. I considered it, but concluded that it would be extremely difficult to do because of all the variables — the ages of the children, whether they are boys or girls, whether the surviving parent is a mother or a father, the circumstances of the parent’s death, etc. — and because, my own experience aside, I bring no specific expertise. Still, I was intrigued by the idea, so I decided to use fiction as a means of exploring the grief and sense of loss children experience when they lose a parent — in this case, a mother — and how the surviving adults can help them through the process of healing. And as I moved through the storyline, however, I realized that when a child loses a mother, a mother and father have lost a child and siblings have lost a sister. Their grief is equally profound and has its own impact. I decided to explore those losses as well, and that’s where the protagonists and real conflict of the storyline originate.
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