My final, and most personal post (3 years late)

13 Oct

Well this is a long time coming isn’t it? It has been on my mind for some time, but I haven’t been sure whether I should post it. I decided today that I would, mainly for three reasons:

  1. I have never shied away from posting the difficult parts of my PhD – particularly my post ‘When things don’t go to plan’ and finding myself in ‘The Valley of Shit’. I remember contemplating whether to post that, asking thoughts on twitter. Many of you said yes, but some felt maybe I shouldn’t. I’m glad I did.
  2. I loved blogging right through my PhD (the good, the bad and the ugly) and I loved reading all the comments everyone made, offering advice, help and support.
  3. I hate unfinished things.


So here goes my final, and most personal post (over three years since I graduated)

I remember as I was getting closer to completing my PhD (although there were times I thought this would be my life forever), I imagined my final blog to be filled with pictures of champagne flowing glasses, lots of laughing and giggling and some amazing photos of my graduation. I imagined my words filled with excitement, anticipating what lay ahead for me as Dr Emma Burnett.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

My previous blog post was about my Viva on 1st May 2015. My minor corrections were straightforward, and I was able to complete these within the week. They were signed off internally and I was awarded my PhD within a couple weeks. The celebrations I imagined didn’t come because just days after my viva, my husband of 10 years left me, completely out of the blue. You may have noticed in my last blog post that Alana (my daughter) came to meet me after my viva, not my husband – he never turned up. That was painful. Just days later he was gone and my life as I knew it was no longer.

What is important I think for this blog is to briefly tell you how this relates to my PhD. Now I’m not for a minute going to say that me doing my PhD was the reason for Chris leaving. However, it absolutely contributed to it, and that is the point I want to make here. There were issues going on which deeply affected Chris and had done for several months before he left. I’m not going to go into these reasons because that isn’t what is important here.  I was so focused on my PhD that I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming at all and I had no idea of the issues Chris was going through, none. Crazy really, when people told me afterwards they knew something wasn’t right. I didn’t. I was his wife and I am devastated by that. It took me a long time to admit, but I had become blinded to what was in front of me. I relied on Chris for pretty much everything in relation to the house, the dogs and the teenage children. He was also running his own busy and demanding business. My main focus was going to work and studying. I regret that more than anything.

My graduation day was painful. I didn’t want to go. I cried most of the morning and through most of the ceremony. It wasn’t what I had imagined it to be. I have just one or two photographs from that day. I was thankful for my parents, and my son Jack for being with me. Alana was away travelling. Chris came too. He arrived on his own and stayed just for the ceremony. He said despite what had happened, he was proud of me and wanted to be there. I think that made things worse. Very few people knew what had happened and I don’t think I did a very good job at pretending to be happy. To be honest, I don’t really remember much of that day anymore.

The days, weeks and months that followed were hard and I struggled with many things. I often blamed my PhD for the way my life had turned out, and wishing I had never done it. I even said I would give it back if I could go back to the way things were. I really meant it. However, I had an amazing family and some really wonderful friends and colleagues who helped me hugely.

Wait… don’t get the hankies out. My final post is a happy one. Chris and I are together, and we have been since 2016. It took us a long time to get to where we are now, and if I’m honest, there were many times I didn’t think we were going to make it. However, our relationship is now at its very best and we are happy, silly and having lots of fun.

We reflected a lot on many things since then, including how my PhD affected our relationship. I want to leave you with this:

A PhD is tough for the person doing it – of course it is. But it is just as tough (if not more) for the people/person close to you. They sacrifice a lot and pick up so many pieces which often go unnoticed and unappreciated. They also have to listen to all things PhD pretty much all-the-time (how utterly boring for them). In the end, I got what I had been working towards for all those years, but what about Chris? What did he want? Where did that leave him? I didn’t know the answer to these questions because I never asked and they were never discussed.

I would have never, ever made it through my PhD without Chris (and Alana and Jack) and for that I will be eternally grateful. Knowing what I know now, amongst other things, I wish with all my heart I had made more time for my family while doing it.

Thank you to everyone who has stopped by since I have been writing this blog, and to everyone who have taken the time to post comments. For those who are still in PhD world (or any other world), be kind to yourself and especially those close to you. All the very best of luck xxx

The End


7 Responses to “My final, and most personal post (3 years late)”

  1. Paul Bolton October 13, 2018 at 2:15 pm #

    Really powerful Emma. I’m glad it all turned out well in the end. Be kind to yourself and others is definitely the way through this life

  2. JULIE RASMUSSEN October 13, 2018 at 4:30 pm #

    Dear Emma

    I read your blog and felt sad to hear what happened to you. It had a nice ending though.

    I completely relate to you. Neil Wigglesworth always told me that I reminded him of you. I lived slept and breathed my phd. It took 5 years. How my partner and daughter survived it i don’t know. But i do know it took its toll on all of us, not just me. So i completely understand.

    Im glad your story had a happy ending and you got back together.

    Its been a hard year for us this year as my brother was killed in Menorca on April 1st.

    But we are coming to terms with it slowly. The first year of any loss is always the hardest. He will be 48 on 27th October. So my mum and dad will be very sad. They dont know it yet but my daughter is pregnant (just a few weeks) so this will make them really happy.

    Take lots of care Emma. I often think of you.

    Best wishes Julie Rasmussen

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Emma Burnett October 13, 2018 at 6:04 pm #

      Hello Julie. Really lovely to hear from you. I still remember our telephone conversation so many years ago. A big thank you to Neil – a lovely compliment for me.

      How unbelievably heartbreaking for you and your family losing your brother, and at such a young age. Life is very precious isn’t it. I am so very sorry.

      A new person joining your family – how wonderful for you all. I wish your daughter an exciting pregnancy.

      Thank you for dropping by Julie. I wish you all the very best and hope to bump into you on our travels. xxx

  3. Haitham Al-Sheeshany October 14, 2018 at 11:11 am #

    Thank you for sharing this Emma. I am subscribed to your blog and reading it was indeed helpful throughout my own PhD journey (I passed my viva Dec. 2016).

    Your words are another example of how hard it is to carry on on such journey, I am glad things are well at the end and hopefully it will be upward for you and all of your family members.

    I know it was hard on my family, harder than it was on me even!

    “happy, silly and having lots of fun” <— Amen to that!

    • Emma Burnett October 14, 2018 at 3:34 pm #

      Thank you for dropping by and commenting Haitham. I am so pleased my blog helped you and congratulations for passing your viva also. Thank you for your kind works and I hope you are being silly too 🙂

      • Haitham Al-Sheeshany October 15, 2018 at 5:41 am #

        Thanks Emma. It is a totally different world after the viva! One thinks s/he knows that but it is beyond expectations.

        Silliness is abundant and in good supply, no worries 🙂

        All the best.

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