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Have you ever felt this way…completely empty…nothing left to pour on others? I did.

When I was a child, I was taught in Sunday School that JOY is an acronym for Jesus, Others, You. In other words, to have joy, you need to place God first, then others, and lastly, yourself. That is far too simplistic. We need to take care of ourselves if we are going to take care of others. Particularly as widows, we cannot ignore our own physical, spiritual, emotional, social, and financial needs; but somehow, we must find a healthy balance. If we want a strong relationship with our children, we must respect their other responsibilities and commitments. We need to ask, not demand. And we must communicate openly and honestly.

During the years of Lev’s declining health and especially after his death, I seemed to have used up all my emotional resources. My cup was empty. I had nothing more to give. I lost interest in the work of the boards on which I served. I could not muster the energy to provide leadership at my church or even to organize our family Christmas gathering.

However, focusing on my emptiness and grief stripped away all vestiges of contentment and joy. When I finally took my eyes off myself to reach out to others, I lifted my spirits and nourished my soul. When my spirits were low and I was tempted to throw a pity party, I sang the words of the old hymn as a prayer:

 O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.

 Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Lesson learned: In being more concerned for the welfare of others than for ourselves, we forget our own needs and pain and discover the joy of serving and giving.

Agree or disagree?
Would you share a time when you felt completely depleted?
How did you get over that hump?

Photo originally posted on Facebook by Project Happiness. Blog excerpted from my book-in-progress, Reclaiming Joy: A Primer for Widows.