“The Gifts of Grief” by Mary Jo Bergstue


The Gifts of Grief

Mary Jo Bergstue

Mary Jo Bergstue

I am someone who likes structure. I like to have a plan and stick to it. But as we all know, life has a way of adding twists and turns we never saw coming—some good and some terrifying. One of those big turns for me was on January 20, 2013 when I got the call that my father had passed away from suicide. Many months were filled with rapidly changing emotions, public breakdowns, and private anguished prayers. I knew it was going to hurt, but what I didn’t know was that wonderful gifts would be given to me as well. Of course, I would have loved these gifts to come through other circumstances, but they are gifts, nonetheless.

One gift was a new outlook on how to handle my relationships. I now find myself often filtering decisions through the lens of: “If this person were gone tomorrow, would I regret any of this?” There are days when I am feeling fussy because someone hasn’t done something the way I think they should and I wonder, “Would I care about this if I knew I was going to lose them soon?” Or someone may ask me to do something that is out of my way and I think, “Is this something I will wish I would have done?” It has given me a long term outlook for the little things.

I now understand what David meant when he wrote that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). There were times in my grief that I felt God’s presence more than ever before, and although it took time (and still continues to take time), He is repairing my broken spirit.

Through my grief, I had the privilege of watching a body of believers carry each other’s burdens. I saw His hands and love with each meal brought, phone call, hug, and card sent. I saw Him when good friends cried with me and offered help before I even knew what I needed. I saw members of my church love on my family even though they did not know them personally. They saw a need and they met it.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

I began to understand what a privilege it is to comfort others who are going through a similar type of loss. I was and am still amazed how God will use the hurts from my heart to help heal someone else. I am blown away that each time an opportunity presents itself for me to love on someone else, it heals my heart a little bit more, too.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

If you have lost someone you love, my prayer for you is that you will grieve authentically, knowing that your grief journey will not look like anyone else’s—and that is ok. I also pray that as you grieve, you will see each gift He has for you along the way. Your gifts may look different than mine, but I hope that they will draw you closer to the One who created you.

“And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” Isaiah 45:3 (NLT)


About the Author ~ Mary Jo Bergstue 

Mary Jo is a preschool ministry assistant at Willowbrook Baptist Church. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Counseling through Liberty University. Upon completion of her degree, she plans to specialize in grief and trauma counseling. She has a passion for seeing people who are hurting find healing though Christ Jesus.



  1. Tracy Williams March 4, 2016 at 9:04 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. You will always be able to give hope to others because of your journey.

  2. Susan Leshinsky March 4, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Wonderful & beautiful – just like the author. ?

  3. Sheila Eisenzimmer March 4, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Grief is such a horrible journey to navigate. Thank you for sharing how ALL the body of Christ can be used for His glory even in tragic circumstances where you might not know the one who grieves. It is such an honor to minister with you and see first hand how God blesses the efforts of those who submit and say ‘whatever Lord, I will do as you direct.”

  4. Jane Orton March 5, 2016 at 4:19 am

    What a blessing you are, MJ. Thank you for sharing your journey and how God has blessed it.

  5. Leah Dion June 9, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    I am one who was touched so deeply by your trauma. Such beauty came from the ugliness of yours and my traumas. How blessed I am to call you friend.


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