Woman finds healing in dance after murder tears family apart
On a bright morning on July 19, Ms Amanda Seet enjoyed a quiet moment of reflection on the Sentosa Boardwalk. She had a cup of frozen yogurt in hand and a friend to reminisce with.
This annual deed – to picnic near open water – has become a cathartic ritual of sorts for Ms Seet, 23. It is one of the ways she has learnt to cope with the loss of her mother five years ago.
Ms Seet was two months shy of turning 18 when her father fatally stabbed her mother, Ms Low Hwee Geok, in the carpark of the Institute of Technical Education College Central campus in Ang Mo Kio in July 2018. The case sent shockwaves across the nation.
Ms Low’s ashes were scattered in the sea. She would have been 62 in November.
“Being around the water”, Ms Seet told The Straits Times in her first comments about the incident, “just makes me feel like some bit of her presence is still there”.
Dealing with tragedy like hers at such a young age was tough, and Ms Seet took years to come to terms with how things unravelled. But having had “more time to process, heal and adapt to life after the ordeal”, she feels the time is now right for her to talk about the case openly.
Another factor for her coming forward was the rising number of cases of domestic violence in Singapore.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development investigated 2,254 new family violence-related cases in 2022, and 2,346 cases in 2021. Meanwhile, the National Anti-Violence and Sexual Harassment Helpline received 10,800 calls in 2022, up from 8,400 calls in 2021.
Cases reported in the media also brought up unsettling memories for Ms Seet of how her parents’ relationship had soured over the years, leading to a divorce in 2011.
The frayed relationship eventually cost her both parents overnight. To make matters worse, it was in the public eye.
By sharing her experience and how she has coped, Ms Seet also hopes to raise awareness on how others can be kinder to those who may be dealing with similar traumatic events.
“It may (be happening) to people who you never thought would be going through these things,” she said.
Ms Seet recalled being hounded by news outlets in the days that followed the tragedy. Some reporters even pretended to be her mother’s friends, or tried to gain access to the wake.
“It was just so disrespectful and a complete invasion of privacy. I wasn’t given any time to process what happened,” she added.
Online, uncensored photos of Ms Low’s body were circulated, and a Wikipedia page of the murder was created.
Dance as therapy
Ms Seet initially sought out counselling to heal, but ultimately found it difficult to work through the pain with a stranger.
Instead, she found solace in a passion her mother had always supported her in – dance.
“It has given me a place to express myself without feeling like I have to speak to someone,” said Ms Seet.
“When I’m sad, I dance. When I’m happy, I dance. When I’m angry, I dance. It’s often underlooked how much the arts can do for people, but it’s been like therapy for me.”
At her daughter’s request, Ms Low started placing Ms Seet in classical ballet classes at just three years old, and supported her in pursuing the craft internationally at various dance studios throughout her teenage years.
When she noticed that her daughter’s interest pivoted to street dance and filming creative videos to showcase her dancing, Ms Low encouraged her to enrol in Republic Polytechnic to pursue a diploma in media production.
Ms Low even sent Ms Seet on a month-long programme in Seoul when her daughter said at 16 that she dreamt of being a K-Pop star.
“She allowed me to go there, try, fail, and come back to realise what she was trying to tell me the whole time,” said Ms Seet, with a smile.
In hindsight, Ms Seet agrees with her mother that the dream was not realistic, but was thankful that Ms Low supported her regardless.
“She was never the typical Asian parent who would say: ‘No, that’s ridiculous, don’t even think about it.’”
She continues to live in the same condominium apartment she lived in with her mother. The unit has a home dance studio Ms Low built for her daughter.
“I’m really grateful that she left it behind for me because it has ultimately become my sanctuary… I still feel connected to her because I have something that she left behind for me to continue to pursue my life in.”
A complex relationship
The dedication Ms Low had to giving her daughter as many opportunities and experiences to support her in her passions has kept Ms Seet driven and inspired.
Ms Seet’s relationship with her father, Seet Cher Hng, is more complex.
She has not spoken to him since the tragedy and his subsequent life imprisonment.
And yet, while she is not yet ready to see him or speak more on their relationship, Ms Seet also said she hoped people would not speak ill of him in front of her.
She added: “When people (do that), it’s extra painful because deep down, there is this dilemma within me, because I still have some very beautiful memories with him.
“Yes, I hate him for what he has done. But who are (strangers) to talk about my parents like that?”
In the trial that followed the murder, allegations of infidelity and a financial dispute arose, but Ms Seet said they did not matter to her.
“Regardless of what has been said online, I just hope people know that she was always a good mum to me,” added Ms Seet.
“She was always a good person. She has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. And I think that’s the most important part for people to know and everything else should be discarded.”
Even now, negative emotions from the incident resurface from time to time and Ms Seet copes by seeking comfort in the company of trusted friends.
Accepting and understanding these feelings, and not repressing them, has been a crucial part of her healing journey.
“I’m quite lucky because I have been healing in a very stable manner. There were times when I felt like maybe I (couldn’t go on any more), but I’m still here because of close friends who really supported me,” she said.
She urged members of the public to be mindful when trying to help other survivors of trauma.
“There might people who are not lucky enough to have strong support systems and even one comment can make a huge difference in their healing,” she added.
Despite all she has been through, Ms Seet refuses to view herself as a victim.
She added: “I had to suffer the consequences of a love (between parents) that did not work out, but I’m not about to make my life tragic because it happened, or make it my entire personality.
“That’s something that has kept me going all these years. And I don’t think either of my parents would have wanted that for me.”
And though the pain Ms Seet carries will never truly go away, the sight of open waters will always soothe the ache.