FOUR years ago Jo Smith-Hooker was preparing to conquer a bucket list item - to run her first half marathon, alongside her husband Daniel.
This Sunday, Jo will again line up to run the 21km distance at the Gold Coast.
This time she is running to raise awareness and funds for First Light Widowed Association, an organisation that she is incredibly passionate about.
Two months after their first half marathon, Daniel died instantly in a motorbike accident on Mt Archer. Jo was 36 and their daughters 8 and 11.
"I honestly thought I knew what grief was. But I didn't have a clue. The day my husband died, my world shattered. I suddenly had no idea who I was or where my place was in this world," she said.
Jo learned very quickly that life didn't stop because she was grieving.
"I stood still and the rest of the world moved on. I wanted to scream at everyone and make it all stop. This monumental thing had happened and yet life carried on."
Late last year, Jo met the founding directors of First Light Widowed Association, a not-for-profit who's vision includes establishing a community and providing support to widowed Australians.
First Light is a new charity, founded to fill a void.
"There were times I was searching online at 3am, thinking I was doing something wrong because I couldn't find the support I needed.
"Australia has an organisation for everything and yet I couldn't find the one that supported young widows. I couldn't find the one I desperately needed."
Meeting the founding directors of First Light, she fell in love with their vision and knew she would do whatever she could to help. She says it changed her direction and renewed her hope.
"I completely underestimated the value of connecting with others widowed. Grief is as unique as you are. We all walk this journey in our own individual way, but we share a common experience.
"It's an amazing and soul calming moment to sit with someone who just gets it - no explanation necessary."
Preparing for this year's half marathon, she says the biggest challenge this time hasn't been the physical and mental side of running the distance.
It has been the emotional challenge. Knowing that her husband had planned to run the distance again, but she hadn't.
"I quite explicitly told Daniel what he could do with next time, when the talk started before the sun had even set on our half marathon.
"He planned to run it again and I didn't. So my 2017 Gold Coast Half Marathon I'm running it for Daniel, because he can't.
"I know without doubt he's proud of me and that's what keeps me going. I'm also hoping to prove a little something to myself and beat our 2013 time."
To support Jo and First Light Widowed Association in raising awareness and funds visit: https://gcam2017.everydayhero.com/au/jo-smith-hooker
More information about the association can be found at www.firstlight.org.au
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