Seven Days: Behind the Writing

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

Bitter experience has taught us how fundamental our values are and how great the mission they represent.
~ Jan Peter Balkenende

Seven Days CoverSeven Days has been, by far, the most difficult piece of work I’ve ever written, in both time and energy; it’s also been the most rewarding.

After my father died I went in search of my “new normal”—the normal I’d have to create without my father, without his cancer, without the identity I’d created for myself in taking care of him. I wrote Seven Days in order to learn how to create that new normal.

I left my job just shy of a year after my father’s death with the sole intent of writing a book. I had things to say, an experience to share, and lessons to teach. I wanted people to learn, to benefit from my experience with death and the ways in which I believed I coped so well. I was well-intentioned, and still … so terribly naive about not only the process, but my experience as a whole.

The reality of my experience was that I needed more time for it to be complete. The things I had to say needed time to articulate themselves. The experience I had to share still needed to unfold. And the lessons I had to teach, well, I still had to learn them.

It would be nearly six years from the time I left my job until the book would be complete because so much needed to happen.

I needed the end of a relationship to unravel, and then to learn from it.

I needed the guilt of being at peace with my father’s death to set in, and then to move forward.

I needed the peace of moving forward to settle in, and then to be grateful for it.

I needed my learning to happen, and then to share it.

In writing Seven Days I learned more about my experience than I did while actually living through it. The recounting of days and events had me reflecting and learning how to be honest about who I was during the experience. I learned how uncomfortable I’d been in so many areas of my life, yet I couldn’t find the strength to show that discomfort, or worse, to find a way to change it.

In the initial editing process I learned how raw the experience still was when my manuscript was returned to me with half its words missing. I felt like they’d been ripped from my gut, but ultimately decided that they were carefully set aside so I could be fiercely courageous when choosing which ones belonged back on the page.

By the time the final editing stage rolled around, I was crystal clear about the story I’d told and the voice I’d used. I felt like a mother bear protective of her vulnerable cub. By handing over my cub to my editor, I had really handed over my heart.

Now that the book is published, I leave my heart in your hands to take from my experience whatever you will. I make no judgements on how to deal with grief, on how conversations ought to be had, on what it means for one to be authentic. I only show you my dealings with grief, my conversations and how they came about, and an authentic look at who I was as I moved through the whole experience.

In the beginning, I thought I had to tell you how to learn from your journey. In the end, I simply had to tell you how I learned from mine.

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