Clinical psychologist, workaholism pioneer, author, sculptor, mother. Born June 6, 1934, in London, Ont., died July 24, 2013, in Toronto of lymphoma, aged 79.
Where does a legacy begin? Most people don’t set out in life to create one. It is often formed in layers, as works and deeds accumulate, and it is only on looking back that you discover a mark has been left on the world.
Born to insurance executive and active churchman Cuyler Henderson and his homemaker wife, Eva, Barb was the middle of three high-achieving children.
She grew up rather idyllically, becoming both high-school valedictorian and university cheerleader. While obtaining her secretarial science degree at the University of Western Ontario, she met her future husband, football player Donald Killinger, who was pursuing his medical degree. The couple ultimately settled in Toronto, and had three children, Kathy, Michael and Suzanne.
Several years into her traditional life as a homemaker, Barbara’s legacy began to take root. Though she was already active in the arts, and busy with many organizations, she began to nurture an interest in counselling. She undertook a doctorate in psychology at York University, a brave decision at a time when women with small children did not often return to school.
In 1978, Barbara began a private practice, which continued until this year.
She had developed a particular interest in workaholism, a subject little explored when she started. Seeing the need among her clients, she undertook what would become her raison d’être – a seminal self-help book about work addiction and its negative effects on personal and professional integrity. When it appeared in 1991, Workaholics: The Respectable Addicts resonated, making bestseller lists for months in Canada and appearing in translation in many countries.
Four other books exploring inner balance and integrity followed, and with them a certain notoriety that transformed her practice and made her the go-to source on the subject. She wrote articles, appeared widely on radio and TV, became a keynote speaker. She found great satisfaction in her work becoming known and her recovery techniques implemented.
Then, as it does in so many lives, tragedy entered. In 2000, her daughter, Dr. Suzanne Killinger, lost her battle with postpartum depression. A subway train cut short her life and that of her infant son, Cuyler.
Barbara herself would wage war against cancer for seven years, throwing herself into her work throughout her illness.
She was also an avid sculptor and reader, a dedicated churchgoer and CBC listener and devoured The Globe and Mail daily, both to keep informed and to mine for articles pertaining to her work. Lately she was putting finishing touches on a revised version of Workaholics and writing a monthly blog for psychologytoday.com.
On July 24, she slipped away peacefully after a courageous battle with lymphoma, her children by her side.
She believed strongly in her abilities and techniques, and during a 33-year career helped hundreds of clients. Her publications still reach thousands more. Her legacy continues. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Sept. 6 at Timothy Eaton Church in Toronto.
Michael Killinger is Barb’s son.