Allissa Pietrowski – The “During” is the Journey

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was thirteen years old. At thirteen I had no idea what breast cancer meant. In an instant, I came to know the three parts that my life had just been broken up into: before cancer, during cancer, and after cancer. I have learned that I can’t change the before because that was already over. I learned from my mom that I could in some way change the “during”. She taught me to stay positive, never give up, stay focused, have faith, be kind, appreciate the little things and so much more. My biggest struggles in all of this were coping and dealing and learning to live after the loss.

I lost my mother when I was 21 years old. It was just the beginning for us. The start of a beautiful mother-daughter relationship. A friendship. The time when I began to see her as a friend and not just a mom who told me what to do. I began to value her opinion and see her point of view. Then, in the blink of an eye, three months after my twenty-first birthday, she was gone. My excitement for us, and all that was going to be, was completely shattered.

After you are dealt such a great loss in your life, sometimes all you are left with are memories, the “what ifs”, the “could have beens.” You struggle with all that is to come in life without your loved one by your side. You think about how different and more beautiful life would be with her still here.

Some people find it easier to shut out all of the feelings because then you don’t have to feel. Others use the loss as a guiding light in their life. I have chosen not to forget. I won’t forget her smile, her laugh, her touch, her mannerisms. I won’t forget all the good moments filled with laughter and love. I choose not to forget the tough moments where obstacles were overcome.

Although a loved one may be gone it is your job to keep her alive. I believe loss is a two-way street. You  can’t just sit there and count on a ghostly figure appearing to give you a sign. You have to have faith, you have to believe, you have to talk to them, talk about them, remember them, picture them in this life, smile and carry them with you wherever you go and in all you do.

Some moments are harder than others. Some moments unbearable, unthinkable, unimaginable, but I choose each time to continue on. I find ways to keep my mother alive. I find ways to bring her along on their bittersweet journey. I find ways to connect with her through this veil I cannot see through. I know she is here.

It isn’t easy, but everyone who lost a loved one should try to find comfort in the smallest of things. Remember the old times but take a dream, a sign, a song, a light flicker, a penny, a sound, a butterfly, a number, or just anything that made you stop for a brief moment and think of them as a new memory for you to hold.

Today and every day I am grateful for where I am in life. Life hasn’t been easy. Big moments, small moments and every moment in between are all bittersweet. There is always going to be something missing from my life. I think that the most beautiful thing is when you find the good in a bad situation. When you are able to smile through the pain. When you find purpose again. When you enjoy life anyway. That even after a loss, such a huge loss, life can still be wonderful, beautiful, incredible and happy. It’s all what you make it. We only have one life. I know I live every day for the ones that can’t.

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