Already have an account?
Get back to the

‘Touched by an Angel’ and ‘The Baxters’ Star Roma Downey Opens Up About Losing Her Mom & the Blessings of Aging (EXCLUSIVE)

The actress and author gets candid

Mother’s Day is bittersweet for Roma Downey. She enjoys celebrating with her daughter and stepsons, but her time with her own mother was cut tragically short, as she passed away when Roma was just 10 years old.

“Losing my mother was the hardest thing,” Roma tells Woman’s World. “It was as if the world was in Technicolor and then just went black-and-white, but I’ve always felt her heart around me.”

Her faith gave her comfort and strength, she told WW as our latest covergirl. “The promise that our faith makes to us is that death is not the end and that we will be together again,” says Roma, who also lost her father when she was just 20.

Roma Downey WW
Woman’s World

“I believe in heaven,” Roma says. “I believe in an afterlife, so I believe I will be with my mom again one day, but growing up without her was very hard. I always think I had a hole in me and when my daughter was born, she made me whole. It gave me back the relationship I had been longing for my entire life, to become a mother.”

Roma Downey sees her mom in the world around her

Downey says she feels her mother’s presence when she sees butterflies. “When my mother passed, my father took me to her graveside and from behind her tombstone flew a little butterfly,” she recalls.

“My dad said, ‘Oh, would you look at that? That could be your mother’s spirit right there.’ And all through my life, particularly when I’ve needed it the most, a butterfly has shown up, a sign of encouragement, a sign of reassurance, a sign that I’m loved.”

Roma Downey, 1997
Roma Downey in 1997SGranitz/WireImage/Getty

“It hasn’t always been a butterfly in a garden,” Roma continues. “Sometimes it’s a butterfly tattoo on a waiter’s wrist, someone in butterfly jewelry or a t-shirt, but I have seen butterflies throughout my life. They were great reminders for me, and I’ve appreciated that love and encouragement.”

“I felt the heart of my mother around me as I’ve grown up,” Downey continues. “I’ve missed her my whole life. There’s not a day that goes by that I haven’t missed her, but I was so grateful for my years on Touched by an Angel because Della Reese became like a mother to me. She loved me like a mother loves.”

MUST-READ: 10 of The Best Classic TV Moms, Reverse Ranked — Just in Time for Mother’s Day

The two actresses formed a lasting bond that deepened over time. “When we were working together, her only daughter died, and it was so heartbreaking. It was such a terrible time for her and her family,” she says.

“Not long after, she took me in her arms and she said to me, ‘I always knew that God brought me into your life, Roma, because you need a mother. I just didn’t realize that he brought you into my life because I was going to need a daughter. Will you be my baby?’ And I said, ‘Yes ma’am.’”

Roma Downey and Della Reese in 2013
Roma Downey and Della Reese in 2013Chelsea Lauren/WireImage/Getty

“She was my mom and I loved her. I love her still. I had the privilege of being with her when she was brought home from hospice care, and I was with her every day,” Downey says. “She was extraordinarily special to me, so the relationship that those angels had onscreen was very much fueled by the genuine love and respect that we had for each other offscreen. She was like an angel to me.”

Roma Downey realizes that aging is a privilege

“I’m learning to let go of the fear around aging,” Downey says. “I’m a daughter of a mother who died at 48. Growing older is not a privilege afforded to everybody. So I start every day in gratitude. I might joke about my neck, but I’m just grateful for my health.”

The actress in 2024
Roma Downey in 2024Frazer Harrison/Getty

“Beauty really is a state of mind,” she continues. “I love what I do. I love my family and it gives me a little bit of confidence to let go of the fear of getting older. There are a lot of blessings in it and I’m learning to embrace those. I would tell my younger self to stop comparing yourself to somebody else. You’re giving your joy away.”

These days, Roma finds her greatest happiness in her family. She’s married to British TV producer Mark Burnett, who has created such shows as Survivor, Shark Tank, The Apprentice and The Voice.

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, 2021
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey in 2021Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty

“My greatest joy is my family,” Downey says with a smile. “I have a beautiful daughter, Reilly, and two amazing stepsons, James and Cameron. We don’t see as much of each other as we used to because the kids are grown now and they have their own lives and their own friends and interests, but when we do get together and sit down at the table together, we hold hands and pray and then we break bread together. That’s me at my happiest.”

Roma urges women to be bold

Born in Northern Ireland, Roma immigrated to the US, and initially wanted to be a painter. Soon enough, she put that aside to pursue other creative ambitions and become an actress.

“I didn’t really know many people in America, so I’ve made some bold choices along the way, and I think that that’s an important thing,” she shares. “I think if we sat back and waited for everything to be perfectly lined up before we took up an action, we would never do anything.”

Her advice from those early days? “Step out. Step forward. Be bold,” she urges. “What’s the worst that could happen? If you fail, you just pick yourself up. Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned have been in failure. Don’t be afraid to fail because that can paralyze you, and then you don’t take the courage and steps needed to realize your dreams.”

The actress in 2003
Roma Downey in 2003Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty

This philosophy of boldness has served Downey very well. She first earned acclaim for playing Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the Emmy-winning series, A Woman Named Jackie, and became famous playing Monica on Touched by an Angel.

The actress can do it all

Downey has also authored several books, including the 2018 bestseller Box of Butterflies: Discovering the Unexpected Blessings All Around Us and 2023’s Be an Angel: Devotions to Inspire and Encourage Love and Light Along the Way.

Named as one of Variety’s Most Influential People in Hollywood in 2013 and as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2021, Roma has also had a successful career behind the camera as president of Lightworkers Media, a company dedicated to creating inspirational and uplifting content.

She and her husband have produced numerous film and television projects, including the miniseries The Bible, which was watched by over 100 million people in the US, and the 2023 film On a Wing and a Prayer, a riveting true story starring Dennis Quaid.

MUST-READ: Dennis Quaid Shares About His Album, Upcoming Projects and Faith in New TV Special: “There’s Blessings Coming Our Way!”

What’s next for Roma Downey

Roma is particularly excited about her latest project, The Baxters, based on the bestselling books by her friend Karen Kingsbury. “I haven’t been on a series since I did Touched by an Angel and to be back in front of the camera, as well as behind it, was a lot of fun for me,” she tells us of producing and starring in the Amazon Prime Video show.

MUST-READ: Karen Kingsbury’s Bestselling Book Series, ‘The Baxters’, Comes to Life in New TV Series Starring Roma Downey

Karen Kingsbury and Roma Downey, 2024
Karen Kingsbury and Roma Downey in 2024Danielle Del Valle/Getty for Prime Video

One of the things that drew Roma to the show was the fact that she could relate to the matriarch, Elizabeth Baxter. “I thought, ‘I know this woman. I know her well. Maybe I should just step into this part myself,’” she says.

“Elizabeth has a mother’s heart, which I can relate to as a mom myself,” she adds. “We see how compassionate she is and how much empathy she has for her children when they are going through heartache. We see how feisty she is and defensive if anybody from the outside is trying to harm any of her children. Most of all, what I love about her is she’s a prayer warrior.” And who better to play an empathetic prayer warrior than the angel herself?

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.