A widow who found love after her husband killed himself was served a second dose of tragedy when her fiancé was killed before her very eyes.
In the space of four years Elizabeth Sim lost both her partners plunging her into ‘very dark places’ for a while.
Now she is disarmingly positive as she talks about life after the two tragic deaths, Wales Online reports.
She said: “Sometimes it doesn’t feel like my life, but like a dream, but I am so proud of how far I have come.”
Elizabeth, from Bridgend, married her childhood sweetheart Paul who tragically hanged himself in the family’s garage in 2012.
She went on to meet Matt King and the couple got engaged on her 40th birthday.
However her dreams of everlasting happiness a second time around were shattered as she cruised along the A40 on her motorbike just behind her new fiancé in 2016, chatting to him through the headset the couple wore on long rides.
They were on their way home after a Sunday spin up to Llandovery for lunch.
The 44-year-old, who is a nurse at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, said: “Matt always made me ride out front so it was my pace.
“Coming back from Llandovery the roads were quite windy but I wasn’t really feeling it and I didn’t know why. I told Matt through the headset to go on in front after we got through the twisty bends and I would just follow him.
“The road straightened out and we had this beautiful open road ahead. I could see an Army lorry coming at a junction and it just didn’t stop. It cut across our road and just took Matt out.”
Elizabeth could hear Matt through her headset as the tragic events unfolded almost in slow motion before her making it more surreal.
Her first priority was to steer her own bike around the crash before parking up and running back to Matt.
“He knew,” she said.
“It had all gone quiet in my own head.
“I took my helmet off but regretted that straightaway because I couldn’t talk to Matt then.”
The lorry driver, a Dutch soldier in the UK as part of a military exercise, had already started working on trying to resuscitate Matt.
Elizabeth said: “I could see the terrified look in his face.
“I went to pieces on the side of the road. It was awful.”
Matt died in hospital following the crash in Powys.
The couple had been engaged for less than 10 weeks after Matt had proposed to Elizabeth in January.
She is the first to admit she had had her “dark days” but wants to speak out to show others that there is life after bereavement.
Not everyone experiences it twice though.
“It’s not easy, it’s a struggle, and the dark days still have the ability to consume you.
“But in that darkness I have found a fight and more passion than I thought possible. I want to leave my children and family a bucket full of happy memories.
“Life is both tough and cruel but it’s equally amazing.”
At the time of Matt’s crash Elizabeth was coming towards the end of her training to become a nurse.
Life had taken a turn for the better after a tough few years.
Elizabeth has lived in Bridgend all her life and is the first to admit she hadn’t ventured too far as she grew up in the Welsh town.
Matt was her first boyfriend at primary school and come back into her life in 2012.
He was the one who kept popping over to check up on her in the weeks after her husband Paul had killed himself.
On the day Paul initially attempted to end his life Elizabeth had been on her way home from a dance competition with her two children, Fern and Jake.
Nearly home, she pulled over to check a text on her phone. It was from Paul.
“Normally I would leave it but I pulled over because I just knew something wasn’t right,” she said.
“It was Paul and it said: ‘Leave me to the police because when you get home you will be a widow’. When I got home he was hanging in the garage.”
Telling her young children to stay outside Liz managed to get Paul down in time. “I thought I had saved him,” she continued.
“But obviously I didn’t because he did it again two weeks later.”
The second time round there was nothing Elizabeth could do. They had been married for just two years.
“At the time it felt like suicide in Bridgend was the norm,” Elizabeth said. “It kind of felt like it was all we were hearing. It seemed to be one after the other.”
But Liz refused to be simply another statistic: “I’m quite a positive person. I knew if I dwelt on it I would go down a deep hole and I didn’t want to do that.”
It was Matt, with his lust for life and a penchant for motorbikes, that helped Elizabeth see the fun in life again. “I always thought motorbikes were dangerous and were for idiots,” she said.
“But Matt got me to go on the back with him. He said you can’t say you don’t like them until you try it.”
Matt, a “proud Welshman” who “lived life with every breath”, pulled Elizabeth along with him, taking her out of her comfort zone.
Elizabeth was hooked and the couple soon enjoyed weekends away with a group of biker friends as part of a large motorcycling community called The Pheasant Pluckers.
But on March 23, the day tragedy struck, it was just the two of them.
Those friends have supported her through the hard times that followed but so too have a remarkable group of people she has met through an old passion she has picked up again of her own accord: running. Not just any old running, either, but ultramarathons.
“Paul gave me my love of running,” said Liz. “He proposed at the top of Snowdon and he did so many hikes and runs for charity.”
She has run the Snowdon Marathon three times since his death and each one was for him, she added.
Last month Elizabeth completed her first ever 100-mile ultramarathon along the south Wales coast, raising more than £1,000 for the Wales Air Ambulance in the process.
“In the days after Matt I didn’t cope,” she says, still with a cheery note in her Welsh accent. “I didn’t leave home and my daughter basically did all the cooking and cleaning. Life had become really dark.
“Matt had gone. He was more than a friend. I had known him all my life and our dreams had just come true. We were going to be a complete family, I guess, with my two and James, Matt’s son. I didn’t know how I was going to pull myself out of it.”
Fern and Jake, from Elizabeth’s first marriage before Paul, both adored Matt.
They were just 19 and 18 when Matt died and, in the midst of her grief, she suddenly heard her son crying upstairs and realised Jake had hardly left his room.
“Jake had sunk too and, hearing his sobs, I suddenly thought I couldn’t carry on like I was otherwise I was going to take them both with me and I didn’t want them to live like that.”
Someone suggested she get into running and in 2016 she did her first half-marathon. “I had a focus, I was doing something that was moving forward,” she says. “It was my saving grace, my therapy if you like.
“My family and friends think I am absolutely crazy but they understand that my past is what drives me forward.”
Training with the Ogmore Phoenix Runners, she signed up for the 2017 London Marathon and in that same year completed the Dublin and Edinburgh marathons too.
Ultramarathons seemed the next logical step: “I thought I might as well,” she said.
She finished the Dragon 100, a 100-mile race from Rhossili Bay to Cardiff Bay, on September 13 this year, a race she did in aid of the Welsh Air Ambulance in memory of Matt.
True to her sunny disposition she didn’t really enter the dark places that are usually associated with long-distance races that go through the night.
“I’ve been to darker places in my life,” she said.
“I often wonder if I had lost Matt first would I have thought about ending my life?
You do think: ‘Would I, could I?’ It was an awful time and it did make me think. But having lost Paul I knew I could never do that.
“I would just advocate that others who are in the darkness to find their sunflower, find something that makes them search for the sunshine and not sit in the darkness.”
And, with that, she grabs the dog leads and heads out the door with her two dogs out onto the trails in the Ogmore Valley.