Before death… and after death…
January 20, 2018
When the novelty wears off…
February 11, 2018

By Jo Smith-Hooker, from When Hope Shines

I typically struggle with the start of each new year. Coming into this year however I made myself approach it differently.

Around October last year I knew that things needed to change. I needed to start taking better care of myself… start pushing myself to really step out of my comfort zone…  make the conscious choice to be happy… give my permission to truly grow, open myself to new adventures and to discover who I am.

I made the decision that 2018 would be different and so far it most certainly has been. Part of that process has been reflecting on where I stood a year ago. Reading through my private (blog) post from the end of January 2017, I can see just how much I have grown over the past year and especially the past couple of months.

I’m ready to share it today with the wider community, hoping it will reach someone and remind them…



30 January 2017

I’ve had a very up and down start to 2017. Can you even begin to believe we are staring down the start of February?

Maybe when I say some ups and downs what I really mean to say is I’ve had some normal and some downs. Is this my new normal?

Last month the girls and I went on holiday to Tasmania. On holidays I was free of everyone who knows me. I could just be. I didn’t feel like I had to pretend. Didn’t feel like I had to live up to some idea. Didn’t feel like I had to wear my happy mask. It was healing. It was good for my soul.

I was happy.

Then reality happened and we came home.

The girls are now back at school. Our youngest just started high school. Another major milestone Daniel wasn’t here for and I just wasn’t expecting nor prepared for the wave of emotions it has brought with it.

Some days I think I haven’t even really begun to deal with my reality. I think I have, but then I feel like this didn’t happen to me. That it’s someone else’s life. I’ve shut it out. Pretended it’s a different life. A different person. Because all I know with 100% certainty is, I am not the same person I was on the morning of 5 September 2013. My husband died and along with him I died too.

My new normal is a lot like my old normal I guess. I get on with my days like everyone else does. We navigate our way through this thing called life. We experience the ups, we experience the normal and we experience the downs. That’s the constant that has remained in my “before” and “after” lives.

What is different is this. Daniel is missing in everything I do. The ups. The normal. The downs. And the everything in between. I’ve grown and I’ve changed in this “after” life. I’ve accepted for the most part my life as it is now. I’ve accepted that without any uncertainly at all, Daniel is never ever coming home. I miss him so damn much and I miss me. Even in my moments of pure joy, pure living, pure being in the moment, there’s still a part of me that is missing and I just don’t feel whole.

I don’t think people get this AT ALL.

It’s been almost 3.5 years for me. This past week we marked Australia Day. I was meant to go to a BBQ. Somewhere I would meet new people. I was looking forward to it. And then I wasn’t. I knew leading up to the day, I couldn’t be around happy couples and happy families and just deal with it, like I’ve learnt to do.

That’s what we do on this journey….. we learn to deal with it. But some days I just don’t want to deal with it. Some days I just want the quiet of our home and the peace of knowing that today I don’t have to put my face on. I don’t have to pretend that I’m happy with whatever exciting news someone is sharing, because it hurts.

Some days I JUST DON’T CARE.


Grief is exhausting.

My life is exhausting.

Please don’t get me wrong this is not exclusive to grief. I think this is each and every one of us on occasion. This is life.

Some days (yes still) my greatest achievement is that I’ve gotten myself out of bed, somewhat presentable and have dropped the kids at school on time.

Some days I just have to give into the grief.

Some days it’s all I can think about. What I’ve lost. What I can’t get back. What will now never be.

Some days I just have to be the mess that is me.

Then I consider that once upon a time this was not some days. This was every day. I’m now years into this journey and I don’t care what anyone says….. Some days grief still claims my days and that’s ok.

Daniel is missing from everything I do. I can still feel that. The reality is I will always feel that.

I think there is a power in giving into your grief. In knowing that sometimes you need to be sad. You need to cry. You need to sob. You need to rant and rave. Because this means you are getting all these emotions out. You are not allowing them to build up inside.

There is a power in knowing that this is a moment of time that you are giving yourself permission to feel absolutely everything.

There is a power in knowing that you will again pull yourself up and continue to march on in life.

There is a power in knowing that you are strong. Knowing that right now you do not feel it, but you are in fact strong. Every day you have survived so far proves this.

This is a tough journey. A heartbreaking journey. But it’s also a discovery journey. I had no idea what I was truly capable of until my husband died. I’d rather not know quite honestly. But I do. I’m tough and so are you!

We just deal. We put on our brave faces and we just keep dealing with what gets thrown our way. Because we have no other choice. Because if you are anything like me you are stubborn and there’s no way you will allow this to completely break you.

Some days it may rule us, but we knock it back down and we stand again.

WE ARE WARRIORS (even if we don’t feel like it!! I don’t feel like it at all. But we are.)





Jo xx



Jo Smith-Hooker was 36 when her husband died instantly in a motorbike accident in September 2013. She lives in Brisbane with her two daughters. Her loves include adventures, writing, spending time with those she loves, music, travel and running (ok, the love part is a work in progress).

You will often find her curled up with a book, living in an alternate universe. She is passionate about walking alongside others on their grief journey and is a Management Committee member for First Light Widowed Association.

She shares her experience and journey with loss and life on Instagram, @whenhopeshines.



  1. Cobie says:

    Beautifully written Jo. Thanks for your honesty. It’s real and that’s what us grieving need to read to know we are not alone. Big hugs to you and your girls.

    • Jo Smith-Hooker says:

      Thank you so much Cobie. It’s scary being so “real” publicly, but if it helps others not feel so alone, then it’s worth putting myself out there. Hugs x

  2. Wayne Smith says:

    Beautiful words Jo, I truly believe in life after death, I believe that this ‘life’ is in a spiritual form that is enabled to watch over you and your beautiful family by a higher power. If you think I am bordering on senility then so be it, it’s just the way I feel about certain things that’s all.. I believe Daniel is with you all the time, keeping you from harm, and loving you all from another dimension…….

    • Jo Smith-Hooker says:

      Thank you! No definitely not senile!! He’s watching over us and keeping us safe always, along with the other Smith men xx

  3. Conal Healy says:

    Well done. Keep going. Well crafted.

  4. Nikee says:

    Sounds very familiar. I lost my husband 16 months ago. I have 6 kids. Its hard work but yes we need to be strong for our children. They are the reason i get out of bed everyday. My little man is 7. I hate doing major milestones in the kids lifes alone now

    • Jo Smith-Hooker says:

      Nikee, I feel for you so very much. I have two girls and they were the reason I got myself out of bed every day, particularly during that first year. I cannot imagine 6 children… wow! The kid’s milestones will get us for the rest of our lives I believe… they are the huge moments they should be there for. Hugs to you xx

  5. Margaret McCall says:

    Beautiful Jo , I lost my husband January 2013 & I also believe there is life after death & I do believe my husband is watching over me & our daughters , strange things have happened n we look at each other & say it’s Dad lol x

    • Jo Smith-Hooker says:

      Margaret, thank you so much for you lovely comment. It is a comforting and beautiful thing to have signs and for things to happen that make you just know it’s them xx

  6. Danielle says:

    There is nothing quite like knowing that someone else gets what you are going through. It’s a life raft when the grief waves turn into a tsunami. Thank you for this.

    • Jo Smith-Hooker says:

      Oh Danielle, thank you so much. I hope in your moments when the waves seem unending that I’ve helped some. It’s so hard to hold on sometimes, but we have to right?! Hugs xx

  7. Albertha says:

    Hi I’ve been widow now for nearly 12 years I’m 62 and got used to living alone but not good at socialising or going to any event or party alone .
    I just found out this morning about this event .. Too late I missed it?
    Is this association/ groups for young ones? My heart goes out to you all, I’m still alone and you eventually get stronger but New Year , Xmas Easter are all very hard still. ?
    Stay strong and stay busy… That’s the key…??

    • Jo Smith-Hooker says:

      Albertha, thank you for your comment. You are so right, we learn to get stronger, but it doesn’t stop the waves and certain times of the year are definitely more difficult than others.

      Our president has been in contact with you regarding future catch-ups. Take care xx

  8. Caryl says:

    Thank you Jo. ,
    I am 23 months into this journey , and our stories have several parallels. Your words speak to me and I cannot tell you just how much they help , you put into words the thoughts that I can’t . Thank you for your words and your strength.

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