England

Why Christmas will be different this year

Composite image of contributors to the story

Christmas is a special time for families across England but it holds extra meaning for those who have experienced life-changing events over the year. Here are some of their stories.

My mum died last Christmas

Image copyright Connor Maguire
Image caption Connor Maguire says he will be thinking of his mother after she passed away on Christmas Eve 2016

"My mum wanted to have one last Christmas with us but she just didn't make it," says Connor Maguire, whose mother died of lung cancer on Christmas Eve 2016.

"We had to give up our home because me and my brother couldn't keep it up," says the 22-year-old. "My brother got taken in with my grandparents but there wasn't room for me so I went to the YMCA.

"I was in a really dark place after losing my mum. I didn't know who I was. I was drinking and taking drugs. I just thought I can't keep doing this so I quit everything."

Mr Maguire now has temporary accommodation in Worcester with Spring Housing Association, a charity set up to prevent homelessness.

"I'm going up to my mum's grave on Christmas Eve and setting off some lanterns," he says.

"She was amazing at Christmas. She organised everything for the whole family.

"I'll be going to my grandparents and all the family will be around but it won't be the same without my mum.

"She must be looking down on me and pushing me on because I'm just going to keep looking up and getting on in life. Next year is going to be better."

Our first Christmas as parents thanks to IVF

Image copyright Gemma Southwart
Image caption Craig and Gemma Southwart say they owe their Christmas happiness to staff at Hull IVF unit who helped them to conceive baby Finn

After years of hope and disappointment, Gemma Southwart and husband Craig have finally got what they had always wanted - a family.

"Christmas is all about family and we did start to think is it just going to be us and the dog," says Mrs Southwart.

"Never in a million years did we think we would be spending our first Christmas as parents."

Mrs Southwart, 34, from Filey in North Yorkshire, had surgery for endometriosis and doctors told her she would need help to get pregnant.

"We were only able to have one go of IVF on the NHS in April 2016 but five days before our wedding we found out it wasn't successful.

"We were devastated but we said let's go and have an amazing wedding day, go on our honeymoon, relax and have another go when we get back."

The couple were delighted when Finn arrived in July weighing 9lb 7oz.

"It's amazing just being a family at this time of year," says Mrs Southwart.

"It's not about gifts and Finn is too little to know it's Christmas but putting the tree up and watching him looking at the twinkling lights is a dream come true.

"We are looking forward to going for walks along the beach with the pram and everyone coming around to meet him."

My first Christmas without my leg

Image copyright Kris Overend
Image caption Kris Overend says Christmas is about looking back at what he has achieved and making plans for the future

Kris Overend, from Stockport, was born with a club foot which became painful to walk on. He had his lower leg amputated in March and a prosthetic leg fitted in October.

"Normally I'm like a big kid at Christmas... but not having my leg will slow me down this year," says the 24-year-old.

"It's still very new to me. It's taking me 15 or 20 minutes in the morning to come around, put my leg on, let it settle in and slowly start going about the day.

"The good thing is when I had my foot I was always in pain but I'm not anymore. I just need to take things slowly and get used to it."

The drama teacher has a lot to celebrate after being named the Prince's Trust Young Ambassador of the Year in the North West for his work inspiring young actors.

It will also be his first Christmas in his new home with his fiancée Sophie.

"It's completely different for her too," he says. "She's become a carer at 24. I know she doesn't see it like that but she helps me so much.

"My whole outlook on life has changed and I'm making all these plans to go travelling and do things that I couldn't do with my foot."

Image copyright Kris Overend
Image caption Kris Overend will be spending his first Christmas in his new home with fiancée Sophie