Last year I had a conversation with a friend who was grieving. She asked, “Will my capacity ever return?” I instantly said “No.” It had been almost 4 years at the time since I lost my firstborn daughter and 3 years since I lost my second daughter. But something didn’t sit well with me in that response.
In our performance-driven society, we often equate capacity with productivity or the ability to accomplish a thousand tasks (too extreme?) in a given day. If that is how capacity is truly defined than my answer to my friend would have been correct. But as I thought about it, I don’t think that is a true definition of capacity. For capacity includes not only the “power to produce, perform” but “the potential for treating, experiencing, or appreciating.” Thank you, Webster.
I thought about this after my conversation with my friend and changed my answer. I wrote her a note that began with “I was wrong in what I said, your capacity does return but not as it was before.” And I went on to share ways that I have seen my own capacity grow.
Pre-grief me had a high-capacity by that first definition. I was highly productive and could accomplish quite a lot on any given day. But once grief hit I functioned quite differently, and I still do.
Related: Grief Is Not The Enemy
Here are a few of the ways, which I shared with my friend that day, that my capacity has grown as a result of grief:
My Capacity to Focus on What Truly Matters in Life
Grief does such a work on your heart that, at first, the only thing you can really focus on is survival. Eat, sleep, and maybe shower. But the depths of grief is often where we discover what truly matters, who truly matters, and where we want to focus the small amount of energy we now we have.
Grief exposes our utter humanity and puts us in a humble place of both recognizing our limits and also having to choose much more carefully where we focus our time. In a world that encourages us to be spread far too thin, our capacity to focus on those things that are most important grows in grief.
My Capacity to Show Compassion
Let me be honest, at first, I could hardly think beyond myself in grief. However, in grieving, I felt not only my pain so deeply but also the pain that others were experiencing in ways I never had before.
Eventually, I was able to step into the pain of others. Grief was increasing my capacity to show compassion for others. I began to realize we can only meet people in their brokenness to the extent that we have experienced it. And this is a beautiful, redemptive offering of my own pain.
Related: Life Amplified After Loss
My Capacity to Know God
“Is God good? Where is He in pain?” For those who are people of faith (and even those who are not), these questions often come to the forefront of the minds of those deeply grieving. I was no exception to this. I wrestled deeply with these questions. And while I know that there are many who arrive at far different conclusions than I have, I have discovered a deep love for the mystery of who God is in my own grief journey. Grief has increased my capacity to both ask the hard questions in my faith and also know God in far deeper ways than I had before.
Grief changes us and our capacity, but it doesn’t erase our capacity. In fact, our capacity often grows in other ways.
What about you? What are some ways that you have seen your capacity grow as a result of grief?