Michelle Dockery on the death of her fiance: ‘I refer to myself as a widow’

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Part of me will never forgive Michelle Dockery. You know why? Because she was so convincing as Lady Mary Crawley, the magnificently bitchy oldest sister on Downton Abbey. Like, I’m still mad at Michelle Dockery because of sh-t that Mary did to Lady Edith. I know, I know, I need to let it go. Michelle Dockery is actually a very cool person and I suspect she is nothing like Lady Mary. In December 2015, Dockery’s fiance John Dineen passed away, having lost his battle with cancer. Dockery released a statement asking for privacy and for the most part, people gave it to her – she continued working, but rarely spoke about Dineen in public. Dockery has an interview in the Guardian where she makes the lengthiest public statement on her late fiance, and it is heart-wrenching. She also talks a bit about Harvey Weinstein and more. You can read the piece here. Some highlights:

Losing John Dineen: “I don’t have the vocabulary to describe what it felt like. And what it still feels like. It is…” She breaks off. “Sorry, give me a minute.” In the long silence she composes herself. “I’ve never been more committed to anything in my life than to him. So at the time everything just shut down. Work, everything. Work didn’t matter. You suddenly become an [oncological] expert. This stuff becomes your world, and that of course was my priority… I never lost hope. No. I’m not exaggerating when I say that John did not complain once, never, not once, and that gave us strength. It’s what keeps you going, that positivity – to never lose that hope for a miracle. I couldn’t have done it any other way.”

She kept it a secret: “John was a very private person, and the hardest thing was keeping it out of the press when he was sick. It took a lot….[during filming of ‘Downton’] one of the difficult things at the time was the parallels with Mary. It was just baffling, and still is to me, that my character’s storyline was so similar.”

She was only 33 when he died & she doesn’t expect people to understand how the experience changed her: “I wouldn’t expect them to. I spent more time in hospitals that year than some people do in a lifetime. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone or expect them to know.” After losing Dineen, she adds quietly, “You see things differently.” I ask if she describes herself as a widow. “Oh, I refer to myself as a widow, yes. We were engaged, and married at heart, and so I do consider myself a widow.”

How she feels nearly two years since Dineen died: “Someone said to me recently that when a baby is born, they’re considered brand new up to the age of six. But after two or three years, we seem to think a death is no longer recent.” She pauses, her silence marvelling at the glib misapprehension that grief could ever be temporary or finite. “It’s like losing a limb, isn’t it? It will always be a part of you. I know people who’ve had losses and they took time out immediately, but I don’t think I’d have been able to do that. My decision was to keep going. And that’s what we all did.”

She wasn’t surprised by the Weinstein stories: “No. I’d heard the rumours.” She met Weinstein once, halfway through Downton, when Dockery’s star was sufficiently dazzling to attract the producer’s attention. “It was a very brief meeting. Nothing much happened. But I just remember,” and every syllable is enunciated with fastidious precision, like an unpleasant taste, “feel-ing un-com-fort-able. Mmmm.”

[From The Guardian]

Even though John Dineen was Irish, I feel like Dockery’s reaction to everything was so very British – the privacy, the refusal to complain or explain or ever use his illness as an excuse, the stiff upper lip in the face of devastating personal adversity. Imagine going through all of that at such a young age, when you had previously been planning your future together. The general vibe from her is that after he died, she couldn’t even let herself grieve for him because it hurt too much, so she just threw herself into work and has barely caught her breath yet. Poor Michelle. I swear, I will no longer get mad at her for sh-t Lady Mary did to Edith.

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34 Responses to “Michelle Dockery on the death of her fiance: ‘I refer to myself as a widow’”

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  1. InVain says:

    I swear every time I see her picture I can almost see her wearing that grief. I hope she can find peace with it all at some point. If anything, she found a kind of love and relationship that some people never get to experience – which probably makes the hurt that much greater.

    Regardless of how bitchy, I absolutely LOVED Mary. She’s was horribly fabulous.

  2. Astrobiologiste says:

    I can relate. There are somethings one doesn’t so much get over as learn to live with. I for one admire her strenght and resiliency.

    • JustJen says:

      This perfectly captures it. My mom passed away unexpectedly in 2014. She was my best friend and for the first year or so, I couldn’t think about it let alone speak about it w/o sobbing. I’ll never get over it, but I’m trying to live with it.

      • Dtab says:

        @JustJen (much love to you) I know exactly how you feel. My mam passed away after a 14mth battle with cancer in 2014. I truly believe that it doesnt get easier with time…you just learn to live with the pain of the loss. I miss her every day, we had an amazing relationship and I miss that so much. She dies 1 month after my son was born and I see how big he is getting and how she would have loved him.

        I get what Michelle says also, I think I knew more than the doctors at the end and you become an expert in it.

      • Maria S. says:

        I’m so sorry. My mom passed away unexpectedly in 2011. It took 5 years for the absolute shock to wear off; for me to stop reaching for the phone to call her or to stop thinking, “I have to tell Mom that!” Six years out it’s a deep ache — missing her deeply but accepting that she’s gone. I talk to her all the time, and I still see her everywhere — older, petite, olive-skinned women with wavy dark hair. Hang in there.

    • Raina says:

      I agree. She comes across as very resilient and aware of her grief process. I love this actress. I watch Good Behavior religiously and turned a lot of people on to the series with only rave reviews.

  3. Maria F. says:

    i love her new show Good Behaviour (well, they are in the second season). She is so good on that show, sexy, bad, mischievous and great chemistry with Juan Diego Botto (yum).

    • Pedro45 says:

      Agree with all of this. It’s a good show, she’s great in it and he is super hot.

    • Ktgreat says:

      LOVE Good Behavior!!!!!

    • Mata says:

      I love that show, too. It really just keeps getting better and better. I don’t think the ratings are great, so I hope it gets a renewal.

    • lucy2 says:

      I keep meaning to check that one out. I hated Mary on Downton, so it would be good to see he as a different character.
      I didn’t know or had forgotten that she lost her fiance. I can’t imagine how difficult that must be, and to have to do so much publicly at the same time.

    • Raina says:

      Hit man or not, Javier is my future husband. Hands off 😎

    • Marissa says:

      they have the best chemistry! that show had me from the very first episode, when lettie was in that closet, was the most intense two minutes.

  4. Esmom says:

    I feel for her. One of my close friends lost her husband way too young almost exactly three years ago. Many days it’s still just as painful and raw now for her as it was the day he died. Grief has its own timeline and I feel so helpless sometimes in being unable to help ease her pain.

  5. Casey says:

    Her show ‘Good Behavior,’ is terrific, and she’s terrific in it.

  6. Lucy says:

    This is so incredibly sad. I wish her nothing but the best, and hope she can find her peace.

  7. Giddy says:

    I admire her tremendously. I’ve spent plenty of time in hospitals and have had to walk out after losing each of my beloved parents, and my precious grandson. Each time it was a major effort to remember how to walk. People would talk to me and all I could hear was a roaring in my ears. Then I’d go outside and find that the world was still going on; that nothing was different even though my own world was horribly changed and my grief was paralyzing. I’ll be giving thanks this year for the resilience of the human spirit, and that we can survive the unthinkable.

    • spidey says:

      That is one of the strange things with grief, dealing with loss and terminal illness. You walk round in the outside world thinking “how can this all be the same” Because, of course, for those people in that outside world things are just the same.

  8. Squiggisbig says:

    What a horrible thing to go through at such a young age 🙁

  9. Aoife says:

    That was gut-wrenching to read. The way they both reacted was surely personal to them, what they needed to do to get through it and try to get each other through it. It’s not about being stereotypically British, Irish or whatever. In such terrible circumstances it’s all comes down to the person and their character.

  10. Betsy says:

    I like her and I’m very sorry for her.

  11. Myhairisfullofsecrets says:


  12. Reece says:

    There is no time limit on grief. I don’t think people get that until they go through it.

    Ahem, Edith snitched (snitches get stitches) on her and the Turkish diplomat which brought about that shady mofo that Mary almost married.

    • Carol says:

      Edith gave as good as she got. At least Mary didn’t play victim.

      I lost my dad almost twenty years ago to cancer. It just becomes a new normal of missing him and telling my boys stories about him. I still remember my mom saying when he passed, “How can everyone else just be going about their day? Don’t they know my world just ended?” Still makes me cry.

  13. whatever says:

    He was young, handsome, successful, had a fiancée that adored him and by all accounts was a very popular guy. He had everything to live for and it was all taken away from him 🙁 May he rest in peace and may Michelle find some peace too.

    • LannisterForever says:

      Yeah, it just seems so unfair. I loved her as Mary and I wish her the best and that she’ll be able to one day fall in love again.

  14. HeyThere! says:

    I can’t even imagine her loss. All my hugs today go to her. I have only lost friends, never family(yet). I lost 3 great friends before I even graduated high school. And a hand full close after high school. None were sick, all 100% shocking. I still to this day, in my early 30’s, think about them all, all the time!!!! It’s crazy how they stay with you. I mainly only cry if it’s an anniversary, or now as I have aged/college/married/babies…I cry for them and their families about all they missed out on from dying too young. And as a new parent, after having my son, I really don’t know how their parents have managed to exist. I can’t really explain it but it’s a whole new level of grief for their parents now. A loss to large for me to even wrap my brain around. Big Hugs to everyone who has lost a loved one.

  15. Jaded says:

    I lost a much-loved boyfriend many years ago in a car accident. Took me a year before I could come out of my shell of grief. More recently I lost my only sibling in 1990, my dad in 2000 and my mum in 2014. Sometimes I feel like the last one standing – why me? My whole family gone now. It leaves you feeling like there’s no ground beneath your feet, like you’re in free-fall and you don’t know where and how you’ll land. My heart goes out to her, and all you CBers who have lost loved ones.

  16. Dee Kay says:

    I knew that Dockery had (very sadly) lost her fiancé, but until read these interview excerpts, I never realized that her character Lady Mary had experienced exactly the same thing!! After Matthew died, when Mary is still in her haze of grief and her family is trying to snap her out of it, Mary has an outburst at the dinner table: “Matthew’s dead FIFTY YEARS before his time!” Her anguish and outrage and profound grief when she says that line is so powerful. And that same thing happened to John Dinnen: dead fifty years before his time. So, so sad.

    I loved Lady Mary, love Dockery (the bits I’ve seen of her in interviews), love Good Behavior and her character on that show. Wish her all the best.

  17. The Recluse says:

    There is a line from a Jeannette Winterson novel. I might not be remembering it absolutely perfectly, but here goes: This hole in my heart is in the shape of you. Nothing else can fill it.
    I think it applies to what she said.

  18. whatever says:

    I don’t know whether or not Michelle’s eulogy to him was ever posted on here but here are a few extracts. Chokes me up every time 🙁


    “John was an extraordinary man. There are many words to describe him — charming, charismatic and cheeky and he was hugely popular.

    John’s charm was legendary. He could persuade anyone to do what he wanted in the least pushy way possible. Particularly the women. He had a presence that was electric when he came in to the room. He had a wicked sense of humour engaging with family, friends and colleagues in endless banter.

    As well as being playful and fun you could always rely on him to show care and consideration to others. He always made a point of finding out how his family were. He had a genuine interest in other people and was always sorted and available where needed.

    He was a man of great depth and integrity and soul. Whether it was in his personal or professional life John was always extremely loyal. He built so many lasting relationships.

    Despite his extreme private nature it was clear when John was in your corner he was there.

    I was honoured to know John. To love him and be loved by him. He was my friend, my king, my hero, my everything. We are appreciative of the time we had with him. We celebrate him, we honour him and we will miss him.”


    Extracts from The Sun and The Irish Times.

  19. godwina says:

    Ugh, I have always loved her. I don’t claim that for many celebs at all. She’s like Charlotte Gainsbourg for me–just rapt adoration. I love MD so much I’m gonna watch her new western series–and I fekkin hate westerns not made in Italy.

    I am wishing her lifted out of the hell she’s in, asap. Her and anyone else living that particular flavour of grief.

  20. dj says:

    I am sorry for any one’s personal losses here. I admire the way she & her fiancé handled their personal business. Good for her for doing it on her own terms. On Netflix is a new 7 episode show she is one of the stars of called “Godless.” It is very good. It is basically about a town that has a silver mine that collapses and kills most of the men in town. So the town becomes run by the women and its eccentric women are delightful for the most part. Also, Jeff Daniels and Jack O’Connell have big rolls. Strong women!