Emily Atack was in her late teens when her family lost its matriarch Grandma Betty and her parents’ marriage began dissolving into divorce.
Speaking on White Wine Question Time, the actress said it was a time in her life when everything changed for her.
“It was a really strange time, a very emotional time,” she told podcast host Kate Thornton.
“What it did was it kind of really kicked me up the arse to make something of myself. I knew what I wanted to do, and just a very short time after that I started banging doors down and auditioning and I got The InBetweeners really quickly.”
The death of Grandma Betty, her mum Kate Robbins’ mum, was particularly traumatic – especially because of the impact it had on had on her mum.
“Everybody loses grandparents, and it's always sad,” she said. “I'll never forget the impact that it had on everybody afterwards. I just remember seeing how broken my mum was – you know, the strongest woman in the world.”
She continued: “I just remember thinking, 'Oh my God, this is never going to go away because my grandma's never going to come back’.
“The only way that my mum isn't going to feel this pain and isn’t going to cry this much and be this sad… is if my grandma comes back and she isn't. That was a very strange time.”
As well as losing the head of their very close family, Emily also had to deal with her parents, Kate Robbins and musician Keith Atack, splitting up.
The I’m A Celebrity star said she felt like her “family was crumbling apart” and decided to move out of the family home, aged 18, with her younger sister to live in their own flat.
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“We moved out because things were difficult at home,” she revealed. “We lived in this flat and it was quite chaotic - it was like our uni years really. I just sort of said to my sister, 'Right, I'm going to be a famous actress and it's all going to be fine!' I had this thing in my head where it just had to work – there was no other option.”
She added: “It just really made me understand and grow up really quickly. It made me think nothing is certain or guaranteed and you have to secure a life for yourself.”
Despite everything being amicable between her parents now, their divorce in 2008 has left its mark on Emily.
She told podcast host Kate: “I would say with my parents' divorce, that's something that me and my brother and sister, we never really got over it properly because it was so traumatic for us. I couldn't cope. None of us could really, me or my brother or my sister… We went off the rails for a while.”
Even though she says this time in her life still affects her life today, she’s found that therapy has been a big help and would recommend it to anyone else going through a difficult time in their lives.
“Therapists are incredible,” she said. “They've really helped me understand and accept why you feel and think, why you behave in a certain way. There are certain things that upset me that might not upset anyone else because of things I've been through as a teenager.”
Hear Emily talk more about dealing with grief, dating in the time of lockdown and which Hollywood star she has the hots for in the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.