Lily Temperley: Widow Without Shame, Geographically Displaced Daughter, Sister + Aunt, Former Corporate Ladder Climber, Partner, Lover + Baby-Incubator, Fashion Addict, Travel Junkie, Writer + Dreamer.
Looking back, life is full of lessons and trials. If I think of defining moments there are many, both positive and negative, the duality being essential for growth. However, there is one experience that has become the foundation to my life story, losing my husband to suicide when I was 29.
As I write this I feel both honored to be able to share some of my story and angry that it is still, eight years on, such a major part of who I am. I wouldn’t wish my experience on my worst enemy.
I now have a clarity of thought and ability to distill my emotions to hold on to treasured memories of my darling spouse while releasing the ugly demons that don’t serve me or his memory. But, it hasn’t always been like this, and some days are harder than others… The anniversary of his death is, every year, 24 hours that I dread. The movie in my mind plays on repeat and I end up having a meltdown of varying degrees. I can still spend that day hiding under my duvet, holding a pity party for one. Other milestone dates (his birthday, our wedding anniversary) still evoke hurt and the depth of my despair is intense, but the joy, love, and warmth from knowing him can usually tip the balance. Not so on the 25th of September. Nowhere in my logical mind can I pull myself into a positive place when that day signifies loss and pain. My memories are still crystal clear as I remember the police at my door, relive telling his parents, and identifying his body. The beautiful man I had married lying cold on a steel gurney.
Plus, I’m not logical at the best of times. I live with my heart and make decisions largely by trusting my instincts. Every year for a day my heart breaks again and my intuition is smothered in the clogging custard that is grief. I lived like this every day following his death, so with the passing of time and doing the work of processing thoughts and emotions, I know I’m making progress. I know I am living my life again when I think I see him in familiar places and I smile rather than cry.
Looking forward, losing your best friend and favorite human on the planet, and getting to a point where you know you have not only survived but you’ve learnt much of love, life and most importantly, about yourself, might make the reader think I can handle anything life might send my way. I think there is some truth in that, but equally, new trials arise and your resilience is tested. Sure, I pray that never again will anything feel as bad as having your life smashed into a million tiny pieces, but I also live with a mostly latent anger that I’ve already eaten a super-mega-giant portion of life’s shit pie and even a small helping at this point is beyond fair.
But life is not fair. The most you can do is be a good person, be grateful for your blessings (of which there are many), and baton down the hatches when the emotional storms roll in. I’ve learnt that everything passes. The joy, the hurt, the fun, the pain. If you try and hold on to any of it you miss out on the highs and lows (and lessons) of what’s coming. One of my mantras is to focus on living your real life. That is, reality. Not the noise or stories in your head. Or ideal scenarios you may be hoping for. Life is like being on a roller coaster that you can’t get off of and you didn’t design. You have no knowledge of the track or any control over how you’ll feel along the journey. Embrace it rather than resist it, it’s happening anyway. Just try your best to enjoy the ride and make others enjoy it too!
For more of Lily Temperley, and the many faces of perseverance order your copy The Overcoming Issue here.