Rio Ferdinand discusses raising his children after his wife’s death: “I’d think, ‘Whatever I do isn’t going to be good enough'”

The former England footballer speaks about learning to grieve for his wife Rebecca, who died aged 34 from breast cancer in 2015

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Rio Ferdinand admitted that he didn’t think he would ever be able to look after his three children alone following the death of his wife Rebecca – but says that he and his family have come together after he sought help to deal with his grief.

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In a candid interview for this week’s Radio Times, the former England and Manchester United footballer says that he and his three children – Lorenz, Tate and Lia – have found ways of talking about the loss of Rebecca after she passed away from breast cancer in 2015 aged just 34.

“Rebecca would fill in all the blanks that I wasn’t involved with, but now it’s a totally different scenario,” Ferdinand said, explaining that all he used to have to worry about was how to get to training while his wife looked after their children.

“She used to fix their beds a certain way, and when they’d tell me it almost felt like a slight. I’d think, ‘Whatever I do isn’t going to be good enough.'”

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Read the full interview with Rio Ferdinand in this week’s Radio Times

Ferdinand allowed filmmakers to follow his experience as he sought advice from professionals and charities about how to cope with Rebecca’s death. The resulting documentary, Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad, will be shown on BBC1 later this month.

The documentary shows how Ferdinand went from thinking that asking for help was “weak” to seeing the benefits of speaking about his family’s loss with others. He also sees how other families have learned to cope with the loss of a parent. 

The pundit explains that the turning point for him and his three young children came when he hit on the idea of a “memory jar”, a pot where his children could keep memories of their mother written on pieces of paper.

“When the memory jar came it triggered so much,” he says. “I could hear the joy in their voices, I could hear they wanted to speak about it. So off the back of that there’s been more conversations. We can talk about Rebecca now. That memory jar has changed absolutely everything.”

Read the full interview with Rio Ferdinand in the new issue of Radio Times magazine, in shops and on the Apple Newsstand from Tuesday 21 March.

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Rio Ferdinand: being Mum and Dad will be shown on BBC1 at 9pm on Tuesday 28 March.