Visions Anew Institute

Visions Anew Institute
Divorce is Challenging

Friday, August 5, 2011

Visions Anew Supports Divorcing Attorneys

By Carla Schiff, Esq. Stern & Edlin PC

“You can’t come to work and just boo hoo” said Debra Chambers, an attorney with Swift Currie McGhee & Hiers LLP, who recently finalized her difficult divorce. In addition to the apprehensions of being a lawyer who is now the client in an unfamiliar area of the law, women lawyers, like everyone else, have to deal with the emotional side when they go through a divorce.

“There’s so much pressure, it’s got to come out somewhere,” said Chambers. Hibernating in her office with the door closed wasn’t enough.

Chambers attended a weekend retreat for women with Visions Anew, a nonprofit, 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to providing support for individuals, primarily women, going through a divorce. Once arriving at the retreat, entitled “Divorce Survival Weekend,” Chambers had misgivings about being there and would have left but for a snowstorm. She was glad she stayed.

“Rise above.” This was the powerful message delivered by Visions Anew CEO and Founder, Margot Swann. As the weekend progressed, Chambers was able to share her story in a comfortable, nonjudgmental and confidential environment. By the end of the weekend, Chambers was able to let go.

Lynn Sturges, an attorney with The Law Office of Lynn H. Sturges, attended a Visions Anew retreat because of her divorce, also found a “safe outlet to tell [her] story,” as did Deborah Ebel, an attorney with McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, who noted, “very few people want to be bothered listening to your tale of woe; even family and friends tune out after a while. . . . Even those of use who consider ourselves ‘tough cookies’ need a place to break down.”

Michelle Araúz, an attorney with SunTrust who also attended a Divorce Survival Weekend, said, “as an attorney you are very good at the business side of things, you have success in your job, success in your life, how could you fail?” Araúz recognizes, “As a female attorney, you just can’t fall apart, you don’t have the luxury to check out.” Araúz knew that with young child, she could not fall apart or check out at home either.

When Araúz drove up to her Visions Anew retreat, she was immediately greeted as she drove up by a Visions Anew alumnus, who carried her bags to her room. For this “self sufficient female attorney, this wasn’t necessary but it really helped to feel taken care of.”

At Visions Anew retreats, retreat alumni cook the meals and work to make new attendees feel at home, showing that there is life after divorce. While some of the programs involve empowering information from legal, financial and therapeutic experts, other programs allow time to share and listen. Some attendees come ready to share, while others come to listen.

Ebel, who came to a retreat with a healthy does of skepticism, was surprised that she found herself actually participating, sharing and even “letting loose” as the retreat ended with Zumba dancing.

There’s no question that going through a divorce is “extremely distracting and overwhelming, “ said Sturges. Indeed, presenteeism—the problem of employees being on the job but not fully productive due to illness, conflicts at home or other stressors, “appears to be a much costlier problem than its productivity –reducing counterpart, absenteeism.” This is known all too well by any attorney with a crucial staff member going through a divorce.

Recognizing that many employees cannot afford to attend a Visions Anew retreat or seminar, Visions Anew has created a unique, panel presentation, cleverly entitled “Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage and Helping a Divorcing Friend,” which educates men and women about various aspects of the divorce process in house. In April, Visions Anew presented a similar program for the 9,000 employees at the Centers for Disease Control.

Visions Anew also encourages employers to incorporate their services into their Employee Assistance Programs by providing a confidential subsidy for employees to attend a seminar or a retreat with the goal of helping to mitigate the presenteeism caused by divorce.

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