On Grief, Love & Resilience – A Conversation with Tembi Locke, NY Times Best Selling Author, Actor & Entrepreneur.

On Grief, Love & Resilience - A Conversation with Tembi Locke, NY Times Best Selling Author, Actor & Entrepreneur.

Tembi Locke is a writer, entrepreneur and thought-leader in creativity and resilience. She is a NY Times best-selling author, actor, screenwriter, and TV producer with a passion for connecting with her audience both on the page and on the screen.

In partnership with Hello Sunshine, Tembi served as co-creator and executive producer for the adaptation of her memoir, “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home,” for Netflix. The series, “From Scratch,” became an instant global hit, spending weeks on Netflix’s Top Ten List in over thirty countries around the world and earning six NAACP Image Award nominations and the prestigious Los Angeles Film Italy award. Her aforementioned memoir was also a Reese’s Book Club pick and an instant bestseller.

In addition to her accomplishments as a writer and producer, Tembi is an accomplished actor with over sixty film and television credits. She most recently held a recurring role on Netflix’s hit show, “Never Have I Ever.” Offscreen, she is a nationally recognised speaker, delivering keynotes on resilience, loss, creativity and the power of storytelling. Her TEDx talk has been viewed by individuals and nonprofits around the world. She launched her podcast, “Lifted,” which features dynamic women sharing their stories of what and who have lifted their lives. T

In this interview I speak to Tembi Locke, NY Times Best Selling Author, Actor & Entrepreneur. We talk about her emotionally transformational journey being a caregiver, how she coped with grief, and how life’s most challenging experiences can unlock love and the power of community.

Q: What did your journey as a caregiver teach you about life?

[Tembi Locke]:  Even now, more than a decade after my husband’s passing, I am still learning and deepening the lessons I learned as a caregiver. It was such a profound and encompassing experience that it almost seems to require a lifetime to fully grasp its significance. Caregiving taught me about the dual nature of love—it’s both an internal and external commitment. As a caregiver, I realised the importance of self-care, not just for my own well-being, but so that I could be there for him. This created a symbiotic and reciprocal relationship; in giving, I received abundantly, and we both were uplifted. Love became an animating force in our lives, guiding us through both dark and light moments. It allowed us to hold the depth and breadth of our experiences. Sometimes, love meant I needed to be alone to process our reality so that I could fully participate in our marriage and care for him. Speaking on his behalf, I believe becoming his caregiver allowed him to accept a form of love that transcended the initial romantic excitement of our relationship—it was a deep, trusting commitment to walk together into the unknown.

Q: When first confronted with your husband’s diagnosis, and the journey that lay ahead, did you realise you had the resilience and strength to take on that journey?

[Tembi Locke]: Diane von Furstenberg often shares a quote that resonates with me deeply: as a child, she knew not what she wanted to do, but she was clear about the kind of woman she wanted to become. Similarly, before caregiving, I had an inkling that the best version of myself would be capable of profound acts—like being truly present for someone in my marriage. However, I lacked any real-life experience of what that would entail. Then, when Saro was diagnosed and our lives were irrevocably turned upside down, I was thrust into the reality of becoming the woman I had hoped to be—the wife, partner, friend, and lover I envisioned. This led to the day-to-day practice of embodying those roles.

Q: Was your experience part of the driver for you creating your podcast?

[Tembi Locke]:  Much of our learning, expansion, and deepening as humans occur within the realm of connectivity, particularly through the conversations we dare to have when we are most vulnerable and authentic. Simply by engaging in genuine, open dialogue, something transformative happens. These discussions blend two sets of energy and life experiences, changing us profoundly. Each of these conversations extends the learning and curiosity that began with my husband’s diagnosis. This questioning—”How do I move forward?”—continued after his passing. I’ve looked outward to see how others have navigated their paths, hoping to integrate their insights into my life to become richer, more present, more fulfilled, more genuine, and more loving.

I think what becomes most apparent for me is that it’s about living in a space between willingness and curiosity. Initially, there’s this curiosity that asks, “What if? Is it possible? What could my life look like?” This curiosity drives the quest to figure things out. Following that is the willingness to embrace discomfort as you pursue these questions, without a clear idea of the answers, but moving forward in the spirit of inquiry, open to whatever may come. That’s what I’ve observed. People often talk about life hacks, but for me, the real “hack” is simply to remain curious and willing.

Q: How did your own life experiences inform your craft, and your art?

[Tembi Locke]: …I remember when I was caregiving, someone asked me what I drew upon to learn how to be a caregiver and how I was managing it. In a somewhat surprising way, my training as an actor prepared me for caregiving. As actors, we are taught to show up ready to explore what might happen without a clear sense of the outcome. In a performance, you live in the unknown—you rehearse extensively, but the live performance can unfold in any number of ways. This requires you to be nimble, flexible, and curious, qualities I had to embrace daily as a caregiver. We never knew how a medication might affect my husband’s system or what each day would bring. I had to remain open and adaptable, yet fully present.

Over the years, this practice of staying open and flexible has been central both in my professional life as a creative and personally. It shapes my approach to every day: I start by asking what the best action is that I can take with the information at hand and the curiosity that drives me. This principle guides me like a North Star. As new information comes to light, I adapt, pivot, or expand my approach accordingly. This mindset not only lives in my personal life but is also deliberately integrated into my professional life.

Q: How did your time in Italy teach you about the ritual and importance of eating together and food, in culture?

[Tembi Locke]:  The first thing that struck me when I was a young visitor studying abroad in Italy, living with an Italian family, was our daily dinner ritual. Every evening at 7 PM, no matter the events of our day or the interpersonal dynamics among us, we gathered together to dine. This practice served as an anchoring force, emphasising the importance of unity and connection as we shared our meal. This routine highlighted something profound about coming together routinely—to set aside the outside world and focus on the moment’s connection as we broke bread.

I noticed the unifying aspect of food extends beyond merely gathering at the table. Unlike in America, where individuals may order different dishes a la carte, we shared the same dishes. I once heard a podcast discussing the brain science behind the impact of everyone at the table eating the same food—it unifies the group in a special way.

Growing up, my family did not consistently share meals together, so this ritual of communal presence and sharing daily experiences was something I deeply admired about Italian culture. Later, when I spent time in Sicily, I grew to appreciate another aspect: eating in harmony with the agricultural and seasonal cycles. This provided a deeper understanding of what humans need at different times of the year—how the winter table differs significantly from the summer table, for example. These experiences profoundly shaped my appreciation for the rhythms of communal and seasonal living.

Q: Did the different cultural notions around death, and of grief in Italy also help you heal?

[Tembi Locke]:  My experience with the culture around grief and loss in Italy, specifically on the island of Sicily, is quite distinctive. There, the openness to discuss the impermanence of life and the nature of death is even more pronounced than in other parts of Italy. This openness is especially tangible in a small Sicilian town, where generations of relatives are buried just a few blocks away in the local cemetery. Regular visits and floral tributes are common practices, involving all generations. Grief and mourning aren’t hidden or marginalized; rather, there’s a communal acknowledgment of our temporary presence in this world and the importance of being present with that reality.

During a visit to Sicily to connect with my mother-in-law, she taught me profound lessons about grief through her own experiences. She showed me how to be still in grief, how to be present with it, how to honor it, discuss it, and carry it. From her, I learned that grief is the cost of deep love.

I vividly recall my mother-in-law often using phrases like, “well, if God wants,” or “if I live to see that day.” These sayings were woven into her everyday speech. We could be discussing something as mundane as salad or the weather, or even whether to buy a pair of shoes, but threaded through our conversations was this gentle reminder that we are not in control. “If it’s meant to be, if I’m here to see that day, that would be lovely. But I might not be.” By keeping this awareness ever-present in our daily lives, it prompts us to reflect on the importance of life. It raises questions like, “What do I want to do today, knowing tomorrow is not promised to me?” and “How do I want to live my life in a way that is loving, connected, and present?” These reflections are crucial because, inevitably, there will come a day when we are not here.

Q: Maybe if we considered our mortality more, we would be less divided….

[Tembi Locke]:  ….you previously asked about whether grief could forge a kind of forgiveness during divisive times. Grief is perhaps the most universal human experience—live long enough, and you will grieve. This raises a crucial question: when I see grief in another, whether a friend or a perceived adversary, what do I choose to do? Do I turn away, or do I lean into their grief? Can I recognize their humanity despite our disagreements or past wrongs? In moments of shared grief, we find ourselves reflecting each other; your grief mirrors mine. Accepting and understanding this similarity offers a profound opportunity. It is a moment where we can genuinely say to one another, “I see you, you see me.”

This realization shapes my approach to conversations, reflecting what caregiving and significant loss taught me: to sit with another person and sincerely say, “I see you. Tell me who you are. Share part of yourself with me.” This act of sharing, whether it lasts for a few seconds or many minutes, is one of the most honoring and sacred interactions we can have. Each conversation I enter might unfold in unpredictable ways, but my aim is always to create a space that honours this depth of connection.

Q: What does legacy mean to you?

[Tembi Locke]:  I often think about legacy, especially when I was writing my memoir. At that time, I was very aware that I was crafting a story meant to outlive me, one that my daughter might one day read. I hoped that through this book, she could gain insights into her childhood that she might not remember, learn about her father’s legacy which predates her, and perhaps understand more about me, her mother, the person who raised her. Writing this memoir was certainly about leaving a legacy.

Since the book’s release, and as my work continues to evolve with the series and other projects, my view of my legacy has crystallised further. I aspire to be remembered as someone who brought the world a step closer to love through my creative endeavours—whether as a writer, an actor, or a podcaster. I aim for each interaction I have to touch upon that element of love. To me, that is the essence of a loving legacy.


Thought Economics

About the Author

Vikas Shah MBE DL is an entrepreneur, investor & philanthropist. He is CEO of Swiscot Group alongside being a venture-investor in a number of businesses internationally. He is a Non-Executive Board Member of the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and a Non-Executive Director of the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Vikas was awarded an MBE for Services to Business and the Economy in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2018 New Year’s Honours List and in 2021 became a Deputy Lieutenant of the Greater Manchester Lieutenancy. He is an Honorary Professor of Business at The Alliance Business School, University of Manchester and Visiting Professors at the MIT Sloan Lisbon MBA.