Joanne Lim waltzed through the first 25 years of her life.
Her parents pampered her, she was not in want and she married the first boy she dated.
But things changed suddenly, in quick succession.
Her first baby was born with Down syndrome. Her second was stillborn. Barely a year after she gave birth to a healthy third child, her husband died suddenly, aged just 32.
The big guy upstairs must have been making up for the placidity of her early life, she says.
"In the last 15 years, God has given me enough pain and sadness to last several lifetimes," says Ms Lim, 41, who grappled with depression and a destructive relationship after she was widowed.
To forget her problems, she left her daughters with her sisters and took on jobs in countries as diverse as China and El Salvador.
But four years ago, a Skype conversation with her younger daughter jolted her.
"She made me realise how preoccupied I had been with myself, how I had become so irrational in my grief," she says. "I'd neglected them; I was a bad mother. I told myself I had to live for them, they were counting on me."
She returned to Singapore, bought over an ailing boutique called dress culture, turned it around and did so well that in the last two years she opened two more outlets.
"I'm so glad my daughters have come back to me. We are very close now, but the guilt I feel at having neglected them will always haunt me," she says.
Immaculately turned out in a smart beige outfit which flatters her trim frame, Ms Lim has a firm handshake and a confident bearing which belies the hard knocks she has taken in life.
She is the second youngest of five children; her parents run a business supplying vegetables to restaurants and hotels.