Since I created the Gateway Women Reignite Weekend in 2012, it’s helped thousands of childless women shift the way they experience their childlessness. So what’s so special about it? And how might it help you?
Well, first of all, let me go back in time to 2012… I was still in my own early days of recovery from childlessness and this blog was just turning one. Being around families and children was incredibly painful and many days my grief felt so familiar to me that I presumed this might just be what being middle aged felt like! I struggled to get up some mornings, my career had stalled, my friendships were in free-fall, my marriage was over, my romantic life was a disaster and the only thing that seemed to give me any pleasure at all was cake and red wine…
I think that should I ever write an autobiography I’ll call that time, ‘The Carbohydrate Years’!
The idea that I had something to offer other childless women, that I had any kind of ‘wisdom’ to impart was laughable to me. However, having been part of a 12-Step program called Al-Anon (for friends and family of alcoholics and addicts) I had experienced first-hand the power of peer-to-peer healing, no experts needed – we all had more ‘expertise’ in the issue that you’d ever want… As a member of Al-Anon I’d help organise meetings (members take turns to do so) and I found that it was a kind of leadership I felt OK with because it wasn’t about me, it was about ‘us’. I wasn’t expected to have all the answers, none of us were – we were just a group of strangers brought together because we were each struggling with different versions of the same awful situation. We learned that just by being there for each other, by giving each other the gift of our full attention as we listened to each other’s stories whilst withholding judgement, comment and advice, healing could happen. It was this experience that gave me the nerve to believe that if I could create a robust structure and confidential and safe space for childless women, we too could help each other to heal.
That first Reignite Weekend had nine participants but it felt like a football stadium of people to me! I was terrified that I’d bitten off more than I could chew but, emboldened by the courage and determination of the women sitting around me, I got through it; we got through it. I’m still in touch with many of those pioneering women five years later and their lives have continued to unfold in positive (and surprising) ways, and which they attest, grew out of the new direction their life took that weekend.
So what is the Reignite Weekend?
The Reignite Weekend is a mixture of truth telling and deep emotional healing, of challenging new ideas and taboo-busting discussions, of sisterhood and friendship, creativity and kindness, empathy and recognition.
Yes, there are a few tears, but they are healing tears, tears of connection, rather than the tears of silent despair so many of us have sobbed in private over the years. And many of them are tears of laughter too, of being understood — finally.
The content and experience of the weekend has the capacity to create the framework you need to start thinking and acting differently in your life. To begin to take pride in your identity as a woman again. It gives you the tools and the companions you need to start creating your ‘Plan B’ – a meaningful and fulfilling future without children. The friendships and connections that are made on this weekend are lasting ones too – some participants from each weekend continue meet up at regular ‘Reignite Reunions’, and deep, soul-sustaining friendships have been formed.
One of the unexpected collateral losses of childlessness is the way it affects our friendship group, so the power of having a new ‘tribe’ cannot be underestimated. When my own friendship group was in free fall, I presumed that I was just rubbish at friendships; I had no idea how common this experience is. Childlessness can rip apart those relationships that form the structure of our lives: within our family of origin, our old friendships, our colleagues, our intimate partners and ourselves. The Reignite Weekend can be an important step towards changing that for the better.
Having worked personally with over a thousand women, and seen again and again how this weekend changes lives, I wanted to create a way for more of you to experience the power and the magic of the Reignite Weekend. And so in 2017 I started to train others to lead it. So far, I’ve trained four GWS (Gateway Women Sisters) and they’ve gone on to deliver successful Reignite Weekends in Pasadena (California), Rugby, Leamington Spa and Brighton (UK). The feedback from the women who attended these workshops shows that the Reignite Weekend, in safe, well-trained hands, continues to deliver.
I know that for many of you, there will be an understandable desire to ‘do the Reignite Weekend with Jody’ but I want to remind you that the healing doesn’t come from the facilitator – it comes from the process, it comes from the group; ultimately it comes from YOU. Those of us who lead these weekends are there to open the door for you, it’s up to you to step through it.
My mission for Gateway Women is to help as many childless women as possible. And that doesn’t just mean in my lifetime. I want to create a safe space for personal healing (the Reignite Weekend) as well as a global friendship and support network (Gateway Women) that will both change the experience of childlessness for each of us, and for the generation of childless women that will follow us. It’s time for the childless liberation movement.
I can’t do this alone and, over the next year, I am training more GWS (Gateway Women Sisters) from the UK, Ireland, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Each of them has worked with me over the last few years to heal and move forward from the devastation of chidlesness, each in her own way. Each of them brings their own energy, history and presence to the sacred task of holding the space for your healing, for your Reignite Weekend. I’m so excited to know that so many more of you will be able to discover that your spark really can be re-lit; that you can indeed, be ‘reignited’.
I don’t write about the workshops here very often, so if you’d like know more about when one is happening near you, the best way to do so would be to sign up for my monthly update email. Don’t worry, I’m not one of those people who sends out loads of emails – you don’t have the time to read them and I don’t have the time to write them! You can also check the workshop calendar here for those coming up soon.
And until then, I’d like to introduce you to three of the GWS, all based in the UK, and all leading Reignite Weekends soon. I know it’s a big deal to attend; they do too and each of them talks about what it was like for them to pluck up the courage to book, let alone to attend!
With hugs and in sisterhood,