Ahead of Rio Ferdinand’s BBC1 documentary Being Mum and
Dad airing March 28 at 9pm, the footballer has spoken
very movingly about talking to his children after his wife
Rebecca Ellison was 34 when she died of breast cancer in May
2015 and it blew Ferdinand’s world apart. He then had to
grapple with his grief, as well as raising his three
children, now aged 10, eight and five.
He spoke on BBC Five Live to Emma Barnett saying: “I’d been
starting conversations with them to try and get how they were
feeling out, and they would just shut me down, walk away,
close the conversation down completely.
“I didn’t know any techniques to speak to the children. I
didn’t know what buttons to push.”
Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Eventually, Ferdinand says, he managed to “switch it from
dark to bright”. He started a memory jar that acts as a
conduit for the kids and himself to talk about Rebecca.
He said: “It kind of opened everything up and it was a
beautiful moment just seeing them talk happily and being
joyful about their mum rather than it being sad and negative
He also spoke honestly about understanding how people
consider suicide after the death of a spouse. But also said
that his children helped him to find the will to live.
“When you come into this situation you understand suicide,
you understand people who do that and have those thoughts.
“I didn’t think about it myself but I understand now how
people get to that situation.
“I can’t judge people like that now, whereas before I’d be
sitting there, probably with Rebecca, saying that guy is so
ignorant and selfish how has he just done that – left three
He also spoke about how grief is so complicated and can
switch so quickly from happiness to sadness.
“At the beginning I’d sit and think how am I ever going to be
“I can’t see a point where I’m ever going to be able to
smile, because I can get happy over here, but then I look at
my children – and that brings you right back into sadness
again because they haven’t got a mum.”