Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Capacity (or lack thereof)

Monday, August 22, 2016
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Capacity (or lack thereof)

1.      the maximum amount that something can contain:

"the capacity of the freezer is 1.1 cubic feet" ·

2.     the ability or power to do, experience, or understand something:

"I was impressed by her capacity for hard work" ·

3.     a specified role or position:

"I was engaged in a voluntary capacity" ·


We can think of the first definition perhaps as emotional capacity. How much emotion, drama and bad stuff can fit into us before we burst?


Number two, I think we’ve got this covered as well. We all know heartfelt loss, have experienced the swings of grief, felt empathy for our children and have fretted about our futures.  We are now experts in topics we never wanted to understand; have gained knowledge we never pursued.


The third definition may be thought of in terms of what we have become as a result of this journey. Perhaps we reached out to someone we have never met, or put ourselves out there and wrote a blog post. We could have become keenly aware of someone else’s sadiversary, and knew just what to do to make that day a little easier for them. We may be the ‘go to’ person in our family when it comes to hospice, life insurance and funeral arrangements.


For me, the question spinning in my head is, “When will my capacity RETURN? When will the slate be wiped cleaned to handle all that is yet to come?” 


I had an interesting conversation with my oldest daughter the other day. She is nineteen. She said “I feel like we had our bad stuff so now we are exempt from anything else.” In the typical fashion of Mom protecting her cub, I quickly shut down that concept. “Honey, I don’t think we are exempt from anything! Don’t think that the rest of your life will be a piece of cake. You just had bad stuff earlier than most. I don’t think it means you’re done, not at all.”


Since I lost my husband in 2012, I think I have attended something like eight funerals/wakes. I have had one daughter spend a night in the ICU and another have some minor surgery under general anesthesia. Every time I repeat these processes that are so deeply connected to the loss of my husband, I experience flashbacks. Being in a hospital, attending a wake, simply the sight of a patient’s belongings bag, or the beep of the heart rate monitor, brings it all screeching back.  


I have re-assembled many pieces of my life since my loss. Found new things to focus on, made new friendships, went back to work. But whenever I am in these medical and end of life situations, the flashbacks continue to haunt me. I am emotionally spiraled back to the days of illness and loss, and it comes complete, with swings of uncontrollable sobbing. You know, the ones I thought I had finally recovered from.


I don’t think it’s fair. My Mom is elderly, I want to be the daughter who can come running when she needs me and handle anything. My own daughters need me to be strong when life brings them adversity.  I either need to figure out how to rationally handle all that continues to come my way, or frankly, it needs to stop coming!


Currently, I am trying to start every day with an empty emotional suitcase and take life as it comes. I’m not sure that is the best approach, but I’ll let you know how it goes. We all know life doesn’t always go the way we’d like. So I am trying to find that extra zipper on the suitcase, the one that gives you just a touch more space – to pack in more stuff. 

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