Despite it being a universal experience, sadly, it’s still taboo to talk openly about death and bereavement in our society. So, when anyone does reveal they’re struggling, it’s often considered a radical act. Today, former England football captain Rio Ferdinand is being hailed as a hero for opening up about his struggle to cope after the death of his wife in a moving documentary.
Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad aired on BBC One last night and has attracted widespread praise from fans, celebrities and public figures alike. Don’t worry if you missed it, the hour-long programme is available to watch on BBC iPlayer – and we recommend you do.
Since Ferdinand lost his wife Rebecca, 34, to breast cancer in May 2015 after she was diagnosed for a second time, he has been raising their three children without her. They were aged four, six and nine at the time of her death.
The heartbreaking documentary shows Ferdinand opening up about the struggle to deal with his feelings and sees him meeting other families coping with bereavement. He also mentions the difficulty of trying to console his children while dealing with his own pain.
In one moving clip, Ferdinand reveals he has found it hard to talk about his grief. “At this point I just ain’t into seeing a therapist,” he says. “Feelings and emotions ain’t something that I’m good at speaking about.” Referring to Rebecca, he later says, “She’ll come into my head and I’ll try and put it in a box… and try and get on with something.”
Ferdinand also admitted that he can now understand why people contemplate suicide after loss and has spoken previously about his drinking in the months following Rebecca's death. Considering that suicide is the leading cause of death among young people between 20-34 years in the UK, and is notably higher among men, we cannot underestimate how important it is for a man of Ferdinand's stature to be talking about it so honestly.
Celebrities and public figures rushed to Twitter to commend Ferdinand for his bravery in opening up about his experience.
The powerful programme also left viewers in tears and had many re-evaluating their own lives.
Ferdinand said the three months Rebecca spent in hospital were “incredibly difficult” and that he felt “almost betrayed by the diagnosis… because you think, 'you got it once, you are not going to get it again, surely'”. He added: "You feel like, how can you get that type of luck. You don't think the worst-case scenario can happen."