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Tembi Locke’s Ted Talk: Love and Grief


The main element of the story of Tembi Locke is drama. A story about overcoming grief associated with the death of a young person is impossible without emotional tension. Tension rises as the woman shares her non-unique but very tragic experience. The drama’s climax can be considered the opposition of the ordinary and quiet life of two people in love to the moment when they learned about the diagnosis  bone cancer. Remembering this situation reaches the limit of possible human emotion. If it were not for the beginning of the video, which refers to the death of Tembi Locke’s husband, it would be impossible to guess how this story would end.

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A young girl accidentally meets the love of her life in a cafe. “I knew firsthand that life can change on a dime, when I was 20 I rounded a corner in Florence and I locked eyes with the man who had changed my life” (Locke, 2015, 2:19-2:31). She knows that love accumulates and grows over the years lived together, but she cannot even imagine what awaits them next. The drama lies in contrast between the feelings of young 20-year-old lovers and people who have lived their lives in a joint struggle with a terrible disease.


Tembi Locke’s Ted Talk makes the listeners think about many things: how to cope with grief, what is life and death, how to accept the inevitable. However, the main question that should be realized is the power of absolute love and connection. Having met her future husband, a young girl could not imagine that this was love for life. She could not guess what kind of love it could be. Despite her deepest regrets, the woman is grateful to life for this experience.

Locke says that after taking these 40 steps  from her bedroom to the bed where her loved one died, she is ready for all the other steps in her life. “Sometimes I walk them easily, sometimes not but they have taught me, they have prepared me for the rest of my life there are no steps I cannot take” (Locke, 2015, 9:07-9:19). It is possible because these 40 steps taught her the power of absolute love and the importance of connection. Not everyone has access to such an understanding, and certainly, not everyone is given it in such a tragic way. However, it makes the listeners think about what is really important and valuable in life  love and mutual understanding. People often do not notice this in the transience of life, so it is important to listen to such stories to understand.


The intimacy and personality of this experience make Tembi Locke sound respectable. It took her ten years to pass her own test 40 steps dividing her life into before and after. It also took the woman three years, two months and two days to talk openly about her difficult experience. It is not only the woman’s inner strength that is striking but also her ability to mentally experience her grief, again and again, to tell people about it and convey important truths.

The struggle of Tembi Locke with a hostile world lasted ten years, but these years have made her who she really is. The important thing is that she does not blame fate or higher powers for the fact that she lost her husband and her daughter lost her father so early. “I learned two simple things: unconditional love and connection, things that are the fundamental anatomy of this human experience. Two things that suited me with the heart skills that I would need to take the 40 steps” (Locke, 2015, 5:22-5:35). She passes this test with courage while working on herself to help her daughter and others cope with grief. The woman, by her example, shows the importance of not withdrawing into herself but talking about her grief not only to cope with it but also to help and support other people in a difficult situation.

Character Arc

In Tembi Locke’s monologue, the strongest personal development is observed, which is beyond the power of every ordinary person. It is not just that she managed to survive a terrible loss. The thing is, with what dignity and selflessness she lived while her husband was ill and when he died. The woman could not expect that she would have to face such a mentally and physically difficult test. In this situation, she had a choice: having learned about the diagnosis, she could refuse to go this way and leave. However, the possibility of such a choice did not stand before her since she was originally a very strong person. Tembi Locke does not spend a lot of time talking about how the ten years of her husband’s health struggles went. She talks about the invaluable experience she learned from this difficult situation.

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The woman honestly admits her weakness: she did not immediately become a fighter. When the terrible news came to their house, her first thought was  “why”. It is a completely normal reaction to a traumatic and unexpected event. However, Tembi Locke emphasizes that at that moment, her life was divided into before and after – from the moment of the sad news, she became “the caregiver.” “I have everything I want and the potentiality for everything that I could imagine, and then in May of 2002 we heard these words rare soft tissue bone cancer, overnight I became a caregiver”( Locke, 2015, 3:48 – 4:09). At that moment, the woman pushed her life with her ideas of happiness into the background and began to adapt to the new cruel conditions. After ten years of struggle, she has not broken, she has become stronger, and now she can pass any life test. It is amazing how, in such a difficult environment, a woman did not break down but, on the contrary, became stronger and gained valuable experience.

After Effect

The main thing that Tembi Locke’s monologue can be remembered for is the inner strength that she radiates. Hearing about the intimate experience of the death of a loved one is hard. However, a woman does not do this to share her grief and feel better. On the contrary, she proves how much moral strength is required to bring her experience to the public by reliving traumatic events. Tembi Locke talks about what she went through to share her struggles with grief and help others make the process as easy as possible. She talks about how it can take any amount of time to come to terms with the loss, and that is okay. A woman does not call on everyone to be selfless and sacrifice themselves. She encourages trying to understand how valuable a lesson life can teach people.

Having passed such a difficult test, the woman says that it is important to learn not to receive but to give – love, support, and care. It is important not to dissolve in the grief but to appreciate how it can make a person stronger to cope with life’s difficulties. “I share my little story of momentum in the hopes that you will remember it when that moment comes when you too will take your 40 steps” (Locke, 2015, 10:01-10:12).


Locke, T. (2015). What forty steps taught me about love and grief [Video]. TED.

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