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Losing My Husband, Daughter And Leg Taught Me The True Meaning Of Resilience

07/03/2017 17:15
Victoria Milligan

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I woke up on the 5th May 2013 as a pretty-ordinary, happily-married, busy mum of four, and by the end of that day I was far from ordinary.

My family and I were enjoying a beautiful bank holiday Sunday in North Cornwall. We went out on our speed boat in the afternoon, driving it up and down the stunning Camel Estuary but it was as we were heading back to our mooring in Rock that disaster struck.

It has taken hours of trying to make sense of the nonsensical, replaying what happened over and over in my mind to finally gain acceptance that what happened was an accident, a perfect storm of events, which came together and caused the six of us to be thrown out of the boat into the freezing cold water.

As the kill cord hadn't been attached, the boat kept coming back at us again and again in tight, high-speed circles. We were like sitting ducks in the water, nobody knew where anyone else was and we could hear very little over the roar of the engine. It was all happening so fast, my family was in terrible danger and there was nothing I could do. It was terrifying.

My gorgeous husband Nicko and beautiful eight-year old daughter Emily were killed by the boat, my lower left leg and my son Kit's lower right leg were slashed by the blades of the propeller. Fortunately my other two daughters, Amber and Olivia only sustainined minor injuries. That night, after we were all taken to the nearest trauma hospital in Derriford by RAF helicopter. I pleaded with the surgeons to save my leg as I was now a single mum, but there was nothing they could do, my leg was amputated. Kit's leg was miraculously saved, after 15 operations and nine months of wearing a huge metal external fixator.

I had lived a pretty ordinary life up until that day, growing up on The Wirral to happily-married and loving parents, going to the same girls' school from 4-18, then onto university, working in advertising in London, meeting and marrying Nicko, then having four children in my 30's and all the business that comes with being a parent.

There had been no major traumas or health scares, nothing that could have prepared me for the shock of suddenly becoming a widow, single parent and amputee and having to cope with that level of loss. I thought I would collapse from the pain of my grief, I literally imagined myself melting into the floor in one big grief puddle. I look back now, four years on, and wonder how I have survived. I suppose the reality is that I had no choice. Time doesn't stop just because a major tragedy happens in your life and I had three bereaved children, who had lost so much already, to look after. I was determined they were not going to lose me too.

I have had to learn resilience and continue to learn. It requires ongoing training. I don't think resilience is a character trait we are born with but I do wonder how some people are more resilient than others? How are some soldiers returning from war more susceptible to PTSD and others manage to assimilate back into society again? From my experience I believe that there are strategies, actions and thoughts that we can learn to build our resilience. Resilience is something we all need to learn in this increasingly uncertain world, the sooner we are able to get up again and dust ourselves off when something goes wrong, the better able we are to adapt to any new situation.

I have had to adapt to a very different future to the one I thought I would have and one without two very precious people in it. I have had to adapt to being both parents and taking on my husband's roles in the family and household as well as my own. After a lot of shouting at the audio TV equipment, learning to be in control and knowing that I am capable of any tasks has given me a great feeling of self confidence and invincibility. Adapting to walk on a prosthetic leg, was so much harder than I thought it would be. In everything, my grief, learning to walk, living with loss, I have set myself small achievable goals, just getting through the next hour was enough of a challenge, or walking to the front door and back was a major achievement at the beginning.

Overcoming these goals gave me the confidence to keep going and set more goals, but I would never let myself look too far into the future as it was and still is too frightening. None of us know what is around the corner and if I have learnt anything from the accident it is to live in the moment, to appreciate what we have and everyone we have in our lives right now, at this moment. Enjoy the ordinary. My life has been so far from this that I enjoy the everyday chores I used to resent, I embrace the humdrum of daily life in my new extra ordinary world.

Life Less Ordinary is a weekly blog series from The Huffington Post UK that showcases weird and wonderful life experiences. If you've got something extraordinary to share please email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with LLO in the subject line.

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