When Christine Carr lost her husband to pancreatic cancer in 2015, she found comfort in an unusual place: her textbooks. As a young widow at just 37 years old, Christine says that studying helped to give her a much-needed purpose. She has recently completed her MBA with The Open University.
“My husband Tony became ill and was diagnosed in 2013,” says Christine. “He spent until June 2014 undergoing treatment and that was my life really. I was still working full time, but he was going to treatment every day.
“It was a case of spending as much time as possible with him. He passed away in January 2015 after spending Christmas in hospital. He was just fifty and I was thirty-seven; we had been together for eighteen years.”
When Tony passed, Christine began to fill her time with seeing friends, going to the theatre and doing as much as possible. “It was my Dad that suggested going back to study,” says Christine, who had already completed an undergraduate degree and a Masters degree. “I had always wanted to do an MBA, but it seemed so massive!”
Taking the first step
“I thought about The Open University straight away. I knew I would want that flexibility to study and work full-time too. I remember attending an open evening, which was initially quite scary as I lost my confidence when I lost my husband, but the evening was great. I literally left afterward, rang my Dad and said: ‘I’m doing it, I’m signing up!’”
As well as coping with the loss of her partner, Christine also had to undergo spinal surgery in October 2015. She began her MBA with The Open University just a few weeks after leaving hospital.
Christine says: “I remember going to one of the welcome tutorials on crutches and hobbling my way to Regent’s Park. I needed a distraction, so it was good to have something to concentrate on and all the excitement of starting a new course.”
“I now realise that I did struggle,” admits Christine. “I’m surprised I managed to keep anything in at all, they call it ‘widow’s brain’. Every time a TMA was due, especially in the first year, I was always jokingly blaming my lovely Tony and saying, ‘This is all your fault!’”
Residentials proved particularly challenging for Christine, who says her confidence suffered following Tony’s passing. “The residentials were quite hard but the people there were so supportive. The first one I remember, I don’t think people knew I was a widow, but they could tell I wasn’t as confident, and they let me just do the introduction part, while they did the rest of the presentation. The support was there, which was really good.
“There were a few times I was struggling and thought about stopping my studies, but because my parents had helped me with funding and were so supportive, I wanted to keep going.”
Looking to the future
Now that Christine has completed her final assignment and successfully finished her MBA, she reflects on how the course has helped her:
“When you’re doing a course, it can seem like you’re just learning ‘bits’, but when you finish you realise it’s all come together and it’s amazing. The way I speak to people, the way I address things, I just think everything about me has changed. It’s changed the person I am. It’s made a difference.”
“Studying was a perfect way to forget about what had happened in a positive way and concentrate on something new. The OU has helped change my life by giving me a purpose and a goal when I needed it most.”
With a BSc, MSc and now an MBA under her belt, Christine is still finding ways to keep herself busy.
“I don’t know what I’ll do next as I’m very used to planning ahead and filling my time. I have just started a new job though, which is exciting!”
Byline: Carly Sumner
Carly Sumner is a Digital Content Officer in the Development Office at The Open University. She loves telling stories and has spent the past 10 years writing about everything from nappy bags to balance transfers. She holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Media Studies from Coventry University. When she’s not writing, Carly enjoys reading, sharing good food with great people, and all things colourful.