Based on Della Long Halper’s 30 years of work as a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist, she came to the conclusion that guilt – and the inability to let it go even later in life – causes people a great deal of anguish.
In a large percentage of cases, the St. Charles Township resident found that the guilt that kids feel in childhood stays with them into their later years. Although guilt is an emotion that most people experience at some time in their lives, there are no guidelines for working through the negative feelings that remain, and guilt becomes part of the way they think and feel about themselves in their daily lives.
Long Halper has written a young adult chapter book, “The Lessons of Petunia Rabbit,” with a human protagonist and numerous animal characters. Her hope is that young readers in their early teens and older – as well as adults – will find advice on how to better examine their own lives and how guilt has affected them – coming out mentally healthier on the other side.
The 400-page story begins when 13-year-old Alex Fielding, after an argument with her father, is involved in an accident that puts her in a coma.
Just before the incident, Alex was thinking about the death of her mother in a car accident, and how she felt responsible because her mom had been coming to pick her up.
During her coma, Alex’s dreams are filled with the life and adventures of Petunia the Rabbit and her interactions with the Squirrel family, Constable Parker the dog, the wise Mr. Tony Owl and others, from whom she learns many life lessons.
Long Halper said she used animals as characters in the book instead of people, because she thinks that children and young adults hear messages from animals as less judgmental. In the same way children having difficulty reading often open up and begin to enjoy reading to a dog at the library, rather than in front of the class, Long Halper said she believes young people will be more open and responsive to the teachings of Petunia the Rabbit and her animal friends.
“The Lessons of Petunia Rabbit” was released by Christian Faith Publishing. Long Halper is Catholic, with a strong personal relationship with God. She said the book is not heavy-handed in the religion department, but does take the opportunity, for example, for Petunia to learn that a good prayer should be about more than asking God for something, but for promising to be a better person in some way.
The lessons of learning to do the right thing and the folly of impulsive behaviors are a main focus.
“I started writing the book just for the fun of it, but as time went on, I thought there were things in the book that other people could benefit from,” she said.
One valuable lesson Long Halper said she has learned in life is that people shouldn’t judge their own behavior when they were children by grown-up standards.
She added that giving themselves a break for their mistakes will lead them to become more tolerant of others’ mistakes.
Long Halper said younger children will gain the greatest benefits from the story, if it is a shared experience with a parent or other caregiver. She believes adults, too, will find something in the story of value to them.