We’ve been getting wonderful coverage around our new idea of creating a safe space to become empowered and nurtured during a time of great upheaval – namely a divorce, break up or bereavement.
Here’s the Femail article
‘Four years ago I used to wake up at 3am, transfixed with fear, wondering where I was going to live and how I was going to pay the bills,’ Sue Atkins, 56, tells me.
Sue is not a woman easily flustered. A deputy headmistress-turned-parenting guru — she’s This Morning’s resident expert and the author of 21 books including Raising Happy Children For Dummies — she is used to being in charge.
And yet, when she and her accountant husband of 22 years decided, amicably, to divorce, it reduced her to tears.
‘I’m empowered in this kind of thing, I’m trained in coaching and still I found it quite a harrowing experience. You don’t know where to turn. I thought: “Where do I start?”’
Divorce is messy and overwhelming, she says, because there are so many important decisions to make in a short time, to say nothing of the emotional roller coaster. ‘I think what it really symbolises is the death of your dreams. Because nobody goes into marriage expecting it to end.’
After the divorce, Sue bought a house in Warlingham, Surrey, and started again. But as a ‘born teacher’, she wanted to use her life experience and make it easier for other women.
So she has teamed up to launch a series of divorce retreats with two others: financial adviser Jo Read, 45, author of manual Suddenly Single, and independent divorce consultant Nicky Ingram, 45, who has 14 years of working in solicitors’ firms.
The trio, who dub themselves the Divorce Angels, want to create safe havens for women going through the mill — offering advice on how to deal with the break-up of the home, legal issues, financial concerns and how to handle co-parenting.
And they all know how catastrophic the end of a relationship can feel. Brighton-based Nicky divorced 16 years ago. Her children are 22 and 17 and she hasn’t remarried. ‘It was traumatic — I had two young children and that’s when I began to study and then work in law.’
Jo, who lives in Beckenham, Kent, has been separated for two years after her husband left their 15-year marriage. ‘It takes longer than people expect to get to grips with the emotional turmoil,’ she says.
All three Angels have been through their own turmoil, but they stress Suddenly Single is not about wallowing in self-pity. Instead they want to create a community of like-minded women.
‘We want to offer a place to take stock, take charge and take off,’ says Jo. ‘If you can engage with the right professionals early on it will make a big difference to the speed with which you get back on track.’
Together they have compiled a checklist of how to look for legal advice. ‘This person is going to find all your intimate and financial details, so you need to feel you have someone batting on your behalf,’ advises Sue.
‘You need someone who is robust, but not necessarily aggressive. You don’t want to kick off with a horrible letter, and off you go to court. Because the only ones winning in that area are the lawyers, and then you see their kids going off to private schools.’
Nicky advises clients on the paperwork to take to meetings, while Jo works on cashflow.