Michelle Dockery considers herself a ''widow'' following the death of her fiancé.

The 'Downton Abbey' star's partner John Dineen passed away in December 2015 at the age of 34 after battling a rare form of cancer and Michelle said the pair were ''married at heart''.

She told The Guardian newspaper: ''I refer to myself as a widow, yes. We were engaged, and married at heart, and so I do consider myself a widow.

''That's the first time I've said that, and it's a bit of a relief to say so.''

Michelle, 35, also spoke about the devastation she felt when John was diagnosed and when he passed away.

She said: ''I don't have the vocabulary to describe what it felt like. And what it still feels like. It is. 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.''

And she and John kept his diagnosis out of the press because he was an extremely private person.

She said: ''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.

''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.''

Michelle threw herself into her work after John died but is planning to take some time off soon.

She said: ''It's just important for me to take the right time off. There was this feeling after John died of, what do I do now? What am I doing with my life? And so, work was the next step. I just had to work. To throw myself into the next job was the only option for me.

''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. 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.''