Hope in loss
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.’”
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.