Since her husband Ross Blair died in July after suffering with a brain tumour, it’s been a hugely difficult few months for former Casualty actress Holly Matthews.
As well as dealing with her own grief, the 33-year-old has had to guide the couple’s two daughters, Brooke, six, and Texas, four, through the trauma of losing their father.
And in an interview with the Mirror Online, the Geordie star spoke about the family approaching their first Christmas without Ross.
Holly and the girls won’t be alone – they’re planning to spend Christmas Day at Ross’s parents’ house.
However, the actress – who’s also appeared in Waterloo Road and Doctors – is under no illusions about how difficult it’s going to be.
She said: “At 33, I’m a widow with two little girls, and have somehow got to navigate us through the emotional minefield of Christmas and find our new ‘normal’ for being able to move forward.
“By now, my husband Ross would’ve bought the turkey and be preparing to cook Christmas dinner. And he’d have come with me to watch our daughters in their school nativity plays.
“Christmas is all about families – it’s so painful facing your first one after losing someone. But you shouldn’t try to recreate what you had or put pressure on yourself. There’s no right or wrong way to feel.”
Ross passed away in July, three years after being diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour. He was just 32 years old.
And shortly after, brave Holly appeared on Lorraine, where she revealed how difficult it had been to tell Brooke and Texas that their father was dying.
She told Lorraine Kelly: “I was terrified to tell them. I felt sick. But I knew that with brain cancer, because you deteriorate, we might not have got the chance where Ross would act appropriately.
“And so, when we did tell them, my six-year-old, as I was starting to say it, went: ‘Just say it.’ She knew.
“Ross responded appropriately. He said he loved them and gave them a cuddle. And even though perhaps he wasn’t connected fully, it was enough.”
Since Ross’s death, Holly has been working alongside The Brain Tumour Charity to raise awareness of the illness.