Hope in loss

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - WOMAN -

SHIRLEY Leong is a pint- sized woman, po­lite and at­ten­tive. Her hair hangs loose in chest­nut curls; her face is care­fully madeup. A ca­reer woman, the 54- yearold banker has spent 32 years climb­ing up the cor­po­rate lad­der, rung by rung. Now se­nior vice pres­i­dent in Trea­sury and Trade So­lu­tions at Citibank, she never ex­pected that her hus­band would lose his bat­tle to can­cer three years ago.

“Ev­ery­one thinks that ev­ery­thing set­tles down af­ter the wake, but that’s when all the sor­rows come out,” she says. She mourned for him by go­ing for grief coun­selling, sup­ported by her two adult chil­dren, Sam and Sara.

“I could ei­ther throw my­self into work to for­get about the grief, or choose to have a work­life bal­ance,” she says. “My faith re­ally helped me. It was not an easy jour­ney; there have been ups and downs.”

Her hus­band was sick for three years be­fore he died, so it fell on her to man­age it all.

“I had to. Go­ing through treat- ment, he was too weak k to con­tinue work­ing. I had to ta ake re­spon­si­bil­ity for the fi­nances s, the home,” she says. “So it went from hus­band- and- wif fe to just me.”

But the glam­orous p pow­er­house did what she ha ad al­ways done: per­se­vere, no m at­ter what. “As a ca­reer woman, th he sup­port of Citibank was very im mpor­tant. And the sup­port of my y sib­lings. I’m very lucky to have an el­der sis­ter who stayed withh me and helped us.”

She has found that b be­ing a lay grief coun­sel­lor has he elped her to “over­come” her own grief. No longer mired in shock and de nial, she wants to reach out t to oth­ers and give back.

“I want to en­cour­age e women in my sit­u­a­tion n to know that in their loss there is hope. Re­mem­ber that ‘ a bend in the road is not the end of the road un­less you fail to make the right turn.’”

AZMAN GHANI/The Star

Work­ing woman: Leong has spent 32 years build­ing a ca­reer at the bank. In cop­ing with her grief, she chose no to throw her­self into work to for­get about her loss.

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