Rio Ferdinand has spoken out about coping with grief and parenthood after the loss of his wife.
Rebecca, the mother of Rio’s three children, passed away in 2015 after a battle with breast cancer, and now the former England centre-back has opened up about his journey after the tragic loss as part of a new BBC One documentary, ‘Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad’.
During a preview of the show, Rio said: ‘I loved my wife more than anything. Me and Rebecca, we had an unbelievable relationship. You just don’t believe that the worst scenario can happen.
‘The last time she was at home she tried to kinda talk about it, but I just blocked it out, I wouldn’t talk.’
Of the couple’s children, he added: ‘This is one of the only things in life we’ll go through together where I haven’t got the answers for them, and that’s quite a worrying, daunting thing’.
Earlier this month, Rio told The Times that helping his children through grief was the hardest thing he’d ever done: ‘You realise playing football was a f***ing walk in the park compared to telling your kids their mum isn’t coming back. I’ve never had to do something so hard, so emotionally draining and testing.
‘I realised I wasn’t connecting with my kids about their mum. Especially the boys. My little girl sleeps with me every night. She will say things. She finds it easy to say, “I’m missing Mum.” She’s young, she hasn’t got that mentality of dissecting stuff. The boys will think, “This might make my dad sad.” I couldn’t get anything out of ’em.’
He added that the loss had taken him to extremely difficult places emotionally, saying: ‘At the time you think, “I’m coping.” You’re sitting there, the kids are in bed, you can’t sleep, but you don’t want to think about anything. That’s when the problems start.
‘I never understood suicide. Then you sit there and you can understand how people get that low. It’s a lonely dark place. I can easily see why you just slip over that edge.’
Back in February, he also admitted that he hadn’t yet ‘grieved properly’ after Rebecca passed away.
‘I don’t think I’ve grieved properly. I’ve not given myself that time to sit down and really flush everything out,’ he said.
‘As footballers, we often talk about missing important games through injury as if it was the end of the world. Believe me, it isn’t when compared to your wife and mother of your children dying of cancer at the age of 34.’
Rio and Rebecca pictured together in 2013, two years before her death
Rio’s hour-long show is set to air on BBC One on 28th March at 9pm, with Alison Kirkham, the BBC’s controller of factual commissioning and events, describing it as a ‘revealing and immensely personal documentary exploring the complexities of grief’.
As well as Rio and his children Lorenz, Tia and Tate, it will also show the lives of other fathers who have been similarly bereaved and are now raising their families single-handedly.
At the time of Rebecca’s passing, Rio released a statement which read: ‘Rebecca, my wonderful wife, passed away peacefully after a short battle with cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.’
‘She was a fantastic loving mother to our three beautiful children. She will be missed as a wife, sister, aunt, daughter and granddaughter. She will live on in our memory, as a guide and inspiration.’
Rio retired from his football career just a few weeks later, having played his last match for Queens Park Rangers in March of that year.