After losing her dad to a stroke aged seven, Jo Threlfall embarked on a life-changing healing journey, raising awareness of the condition in his memory.
The sudden death of a loved one is undoubtably a painful experience. But being bereaved as a child can have a lasting impact on people’s lives.
Jo Threlfall knows it too well. The loss of her dad to a stroke at seven years old was a very emotional time that, she says, left a massive hole in her heart.
“It was really hard. Me and my sister had a strong bond with him, but we had no idea he had any symptoms. In the early 00s there was no awareness of stroke.”
Overnight her family’s life fell apart and her French mum was forced to raise Jo and her sister in a country where she had no family and support.
“Growing up without a dad was really hard. As he was the person I always went to for help, I felt like I had missed out during a lot of my childhood of having a male figure in my life.
“However, it helped us become stronger,” she says. “After accepting what happened, we’ve been able to grow as a family and remember him for the wonderful and loving person that he was as a dad, husband, and friend.”
As she got older, Jo discovered new ways of coping with grief. Running was at the front.
“I’ve learnt that you’ve got to remember the person’s life and don’t hold what happened to them your main memory.
“You’ve got to see that what happened to them made you realise how precious life is and with their story, you have the power to make a change and help save lives.
“Raising awareness, fundraising and doing sports events have helped me show my strength and beautifully capture my dad’s personality, charisma and strength as a human,” she continues.
“My dad was strong and had so much reliance. And running has allowed me to keep his memory alive and reminded me of the things he taught me as a child. Anything is possible if you believe in yourself, as he used to say.”
Since her dad passed away, Jo, now working for the digital marketing agency Embryo in Manchester, took part in countless sporting events with Great Run, including marathons, half marathons and 10k runs across the country.
She helped raise funds for research and support services through the Stroke Association and shared her story to help others like her.
“I aim to make people more mindful of their health and wellbeing, as certain lifestyle choices put you more at risks of a stroke.
“It’s important to be aware of stress and other mental factors that can impact your health. This is something that my father was dealing with and could have been one of the reasons why he had a stroke.
“Most importantly, go get tested. Look out for anything unusual, if you get migraines, see rashes or don’t feel right. Don’t ignore it. Go get yourself checked out.”
Although she admits that it is a lifelong journey, Jo says flipping your mindset is what helped her the most.
“Time will allow your heart to heal. The pain you feel will fade and you will begin to let go of the sadness and anger.
“You will appreciate the life you had with them and treasure the memories you had into your present and future,” she says fondly.
“Your loved one will want you to remember the good times not the bad ones. So, flip your mindset and when things get hard, remember a special moment you had. It helps.”
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