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The different shades of green

Elderly lady colours a picture book with colour pencils.
Colouring helped her to see the beauty of the world.

To Mrs Ho, reaching her 60th birthday was like a milestone in life. And the best part was to have all her family around her – eating, laughing, and her grandchildren running about. It was everything she wished for in the world.

Yet the next day, her daughter broke the news that she is getting a divorce. In her mind’s eye, she saw the picture of her family shattered.

Her daughter and son-in-law started visiting separately to avoid meeting each other. There was no longer laughter and dinner gatherings. One day, Mrs Ho overheard her grandchildren discussing that their parents no longer wanted them. She was so stricken with sadness that she cried every day.

Gradually her mind became trapped in rumination. She pondered upon the issue day and night, searching frantically in her mind for reasons for her daughter’s divorce. She blamed herself for being a bad mother, that she did not teach her children well, and felt responsible for the plight of her grandchildren.

Her knee-jerk reaction was to cut herself off from her daughter, even when her daughter tried to communicate with her. Yet at the same time, she felt sad for doing so as she always had a close relationship with her daughter.

Very quickly, Mrs Ho spiralled into depression and even had thoughts of suicide. It was as if her world became grey and stripped of joy. Fortunately, she had awareness of her condition and sought help. That’s when her psychiatrist referred her for counselling at O’Joy.

During the first counselling session with O’Joy counsellor Magdalene, Mrs Ho could not say anything but cry. Her tears fell profusely as if to vent her emotions – sorrow, guilt and grief all at once. She was sceptical that counselling could help her. However, with the guidance of Magdalene, she could slowly express her feelings.

When Magdalene first introduced a colouring book to Mrs Ho, her initial reaction was “I don’t know how to colour!”. But she decided to give it a try anyway to occupy her time. Slowly, as she added colours to the pages, colour gradually came back to her world. For the first time during her morning walks, she noticed how leaves had different shades of green, and promptly added her observation to her colouring book. Sometimes, she would sit back and flip through the pages to admire her work. Her new interest even inspired her to go on bus trips so that she could observe the colours of nature.

During their counselling sessions, Magdalene guided Mrs Ho to process her self-blame as a failed mother. She led Mrs Ho through the years where she brought up her children and how she supported them as they grew up. Gradually, Mrs Ho could self-affirm that she has been a good mother and that she has fulfilled her duty for her children. She came to the acceptance that her children have their own lives and minds, and their decisions are not her responsibility. Eventually, the colouring book became a topic for conversations where Mrs Ho could reconnect with her daughter.

Having dedicated all her life to her family, Mrs Ho decides that it is time to live for herself. She now enjoys meaningful time with her grandchildren by fetching them from school.

Colouring helped her to see the beauty of the world and counselling helped her to discover the value of herself.

Here are some of Mrs Ho's best works.

* The names, photos, and some details in this story have been changed to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the client.


O'Joy serves vulnerable elderly like Mrs Ho who suffer from depression and anxiety as a result of their grief and losses. By supporting our Services for Older Persons, you can help such elderly live out the rest of their lives with new meaning and purpose.


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