LONDON, United Kingdom, Mar 29 – Fans were left ‘heartbroken’ by Rio Ferdinand’s candid documentary Being Mum and Dad on which he opened up about the pain of coming to terms with the death of his wife while being a father.
The 38-year-old’s documentary followed the former England star’s life with his three young children after the death of his wife Rebecca Ellison’s from breast cancer aged 34 in May 2015.
Viewers immediately flocked to Twitter to praise the ex-Manchester United player and pen their ‘utmost respect’ for him as he talked about how he was suddenly forced to learn to talk about his feelings.
The documentary saw Rio speak to numerous other widowers and health care professionals about coping with the loss of a partner – for both himself and the couple’s three children, Lorenz, 10, Tate, eight, and Tia, five.
Viewers were left both incredibly touched by his story, but also impressed with his bravery in opening up about his grief with the public.
One fan kicked off the high praise by writing: ‘A humbling programme thank you @rioferdy5 – we need to express our feelings and talk #BeingMumAndDad #itsgoodtotalk.’
Another wrote: ‘This a truly honest and touching portrayal of effects of grief. Massive amount of respect to @rioferdy5 & others involved #BeingMumAndDad’
Rio also appeared on Good Morning Britain today, on which Piers Morgan learned that the husband of London terror attack Aysha Frade was seeking the former footballer out for advice.
When asked how John Frade should deal with the death of the mother of his children, Rio told Piers Morgan: ‘There’s no denying that its going to be a hard period of time but what I’ve got from my journey is talking as soon as possible, to friends, to anyone who will listen, and just talking about the whole situation, your feelings, talking about the future, about a pathway for your children. But more importantly talking to your children. Let them see emotion, let them see you cry let them show times of weakness but also times of strength.’
After the piece, recorded yesterday, was aired, Piers Morgan said that John Frade had seen the documentary and was hoping to get the ex-footballer’s advice on dealing with grief. The presenter promised to try and introduce them.
Ferdinand also revealed the difficulty he faced as a parent explaining that they would never see their mother again to his three children, aged nine, seven and four at the time.
‘For any person to have to tell their kids that they’re going to leave the hospital and they’re never going to see their mum again, that’s the hardest thing to do – to put it into words for young kids…to break it down into little person’s thinking and words in a way that they can understand it and a way that they won’t be totally, scarred by that one message that you give them.’
He also recalled another painful moment, when his son saw cards on the wall of the hospital thanking members of staff for their hard work, that highlighted to him how difficult it can be to translate things to children.
‘I said that they [the cards] were thank you messages for staff up on the wall and he said “Well they didn’t help my mum.” The way that kids just see things in black and white and that’s it, his day went on, it hits home that I’ve got a lot of work to do,’ Rio explained.
Clearly a relatable story to so many, one touched viewer wrote: ‘I’m like Rio. After 3 years I still worry I haven’t grieved properly. Or that everything will come crashing down tomorrow. #BeingMumAndDad’
Sports presenter Gabby Logan then added: ‘Such a raw, honest and loving documentary #BeingMumAndDad well done @rioferdy5 you gave yourself to that.’
Actor Will Mellor commented: ‘Massive respect @rioferdy5! It’s so hard to deal with a loss and you are doing an amazing job with your children mate! #BeingMumAndDad’
Comedian Russell Brand added: ‘@rioferdy5 what a beautiful film. A tribute to the power of honest communication. Well done mate.’
Swiss footballer Phil Senderos then added: ‘Leader on the field, role model off of it. Puts everything into perspective. Big respect for @rioferdy5’
It appears that Rio too, had been inspired by the show – admitting he felt the documentary was the ‘first step’ to feeling better, after confessing he had no desire to go to therapy.
He spoke on the show about his coping mechanism to the loss – explaining that he has thrown himself into work over the last few years in order to keep his mind off the tragedy.
Having talked to a number of fellow widowers about the grieving process, Rio reflected: ‘I don’t think I’ve grieved properly.
‘[The widowers] all seemed so clear, like they’ve gone through it all clinically, but I don’t feel like I’ve done that yet. I’ve not given myself that time to sit down and flush everything out and go through it.
‘I don’t ever sit and dwell – and being busy helps that. I’ve been preparing for the day I retire for five or six years, so I had things in place I could walk into – my restaurant, foundation, and TV work.’
‘None of us knew it would coincide with what happened to Rebecca. But it did, so I didn’t need to think too much.
He went to admit he was grateful for his busy working schedule, adding: ‘I feel better when I’m working, its my defense mechanism I suppose.
‘I’m not in a position right now where I can sit down and chill. I don’t like having certain thoughts in my head.’
Having thrown himself into his projects however, Rio even admits himself that her actual death in May 2015 still remains unclear in his head.
‘It all became a bit of blur,’ he explained. ‘So if anyone asks me now, I can’t explain what happened.’
‘The last time she was at home she tried to talk about it, but I just blocked it out. I just said, “Why are you talking like that? You’re going to be alright.” I’d close up.’
This method of distraction had also become apparent to his mother Janice – who appeared on the show as a huge female influence in his children’s lives.
She said of her son: ‘Being 100mph is the only way he gets through, he can’t just stop because that’s when he has to think about his loss and his children’s loss.’
However he did state that as a lone parenting figure, he now spends as much of his time at home as possible – having vowed to focus on family time following his retirement, which came just four weeks after Rebecca’s passing.
He said of his past football career: ‘I was out the house 50% of the time. Rebecca had it all in her mind that when I retire, then we can spend quality time as a family. At least the kids know now this is something she wanted for them.’
The struggle to find a suitable type of therapy for his children was also something that struck a nerve with him on the show – as he broke down in tears while admitting he ‘couldn’t work out’ his oldest son Lorenz.
He said: ‘I worry about all of them but I just can’t get anything out of the two boys.
I want to help them and for them to be able to talk so I know they’re alright, as I don’t know right now. They talk about memories, but I don’t hear feelings.’
However, Rio appeared in a better place with his thoughts by the end of the programme, having achieved goal of being able to discuss his late wife with others.
Deeming the BBC one-off a ‘type of therapy’, he said: ‘There’s a much clearer picture about going forward. Inside I’m opening up and breathing a little bit.
‘I’m opening my mind to think about little moments we shared together, which I wasn’t capable of doing before. I can sit here now and comfortable say she’d be looking down and telling me ”Well done, its all been worthwhile”.’
Rio had spoken about the documentary earlier on Tuesday – and admitted in that while he hopes the show will help others like him, there’s ‘no given time’ for moving on from grief.
The former footballer explained on This Morning that everyone is different when it comes to starting new relationships, following the loss of a partner.
Speaking to Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, Rio was asked about the possibility of meeting someone new.
‘There’s no given time. I met some widowed fathers and someone met someone after two months,’ he explained. ‘You can’t judge people its how you feel.’
‘Judging people is what I did a lot before but I don’t anymore,’ he added before pointing out that: ‘I’ve still got my wedding ring on.’
Rio had addressed his wedding ring on the show – reflecting that while he still wears his, it could be something that is holding him back from moving forward.
He said: ‘In a lot of my life I know I’ve not moved on. Like my wedding ring, I don’t see myself taking it off.
‘But the other men have said that was the thing holding them back from moving in on in life. So maybe you need to do those things to breathe properly again.’
Rio is currently rumoured to be dating TOWIE star Kate Wright, 25, with the two reportedly enjoying a string of nights out together, although neither has confirmed a relationship.
Rio’s wife Rebecca was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 but had appeared to be clear of the cancer following treatment.
But a scan earlier in 2015 revealed it had returned and spread to her bones and she died just five weeks later on May 1.
Rio met Rebecca, a former fitness trainer and accountant, while he was at West Ham United in the late 1990s. The pair married in the Caribbean in 2009.
Rio explained that he wanted to do the documentary for the couple’s three children.
‘I didn’t know how to grieve for my wife’, he candidly admitted, explaining that he has always been closed off emotionally and didn’t know how to communicate his feelings, either with his wife before she died or with his children.
‘From the background, I’m from a council estate, you don’t show emotion, I went into a career where it’s the same in the dressing room, macho. I’d be the same way, thinking I don’t want that in the dressing room, I want to win.’
‘For my children’s sake I’ve realised I’ve got too show emotion, cry if you want to cry.’
‘I think the main reason for doing this documentary was that I wanted to help myself open up, to help my children, help other people. What I’ve learnt along the journey is that talking is so important but my children need to see me talk and see my emotion.’
‘I’ve learnt that talking doesn’t make the pain go way but it helps a lot.’
He added that he learned techniques through speaking to other widowed fathers and professionals to help him and his children express their grief, including the use of a memory jar to help stimulate conversations about Rebecca.
‘We use it most days, and if someone comes in the children ask “have you got any memories you want to put in the jar?”‘
Rio also admitted that two years on from her death, he didn’t think Rebecca would recognise the man he has become.
‘She’d think it was another man. My upbringing wasn’t about talking like that…This Is the one good thing to come out of it as my kids will benefit.’
‘I’m undoubtedly a better dad because my kids are benefiting and I see that day in and out. Its testament to them that you couldn’t tell they have lost their mum in a room full of kids.’
After the show was aired, Twitter was awash with praise, with one viewer writing: ‘Fantastic documentary @rioferdy5 must have been difficult filming that… inspirational! and ‘What a brave thing to do to speak so publicly and honestly about your loss,’ before adding: ‘Your wife would be proud.’
Acknowledging it as one of the most inspirational feats he has achieved across his career, another wrote: ‘In many ways, Rio will have more impact with this than any kick on a football field.’
As another added that it was touching to see a change from his usually cheeky personality, writing: ‘It’s strange seeing @rioferdy5 like this as we are used to the laugh a minute. Massive respect for doing this.’
Meanwhile others commented on the truly heart-breaking nature of the tale – with Rio and his three children having lost Rebecca at such a young age.
‘Absolutely heart breaking watching #BeingMumAndDad @rioferdy5 what a strong and amazing father you are to your beautiful children,’ one penned.
As another affirmed: ‘My heart is absolutely breaking for Rio. I can’t even imagine what experiencing pain like that is like, life is so cruel!!#BeingMumAndDad’