Rio Ferdinand has opened up about the heartbreaking moment he had to tell his three young children that their mother, his late wife Rebecca, had passed away. The footballer lost his wife to breast cancer in March 2015, just weeks after she was told the disease had returned. Speaking in a new interview with The Times, Rio, who played for the England national football team more than 80 times, said: “You realise playing football was a 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.”
For the past two years, Rio has raised his children Lorenz, ten, Tate, eight, and five-year-old daughter Tia as a single parent. He admitted that his daughter has been finding it easier to talk about losing their mum, while his sons have been less vocal. Rio said: “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 them.”
Rio Ferdinand's wife Rebecca sadly passed away in 2015
The retired sportsman, 38, also revealed that he turned to alcohol after his wife’s death. “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,” he said. “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.”
Rebecca, a former fitness trainer and accountant, met Rio in the late 1990s before they married in the Caribbean in 2009. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and after getting the all-clear, a scan nearly a year later revealed the disease had returned and spread to her bones. The mother-of-three died just five weeks later.
Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad airs on Tuesday 28th March at 9pm on BBC One.