Rio Ferdinand has opened up about life as a single parent following the death of his wife Rebecca. The retired footballer admitted that after his wife died in 2015 from cancer, he struggled to cope with raising their three young children. Rio and his brood found it hard talking about their loss, which is why he came up with the idea of creating a memory jar – a pot where his sons Lorenz, ten, Tate, eight, and five-year-old daughter Tia could write down memories of their mum on pieces of paper.
"When the memory jar came it triggered so much," Rio told Radio Times. "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."
Rio Ferdinand lost his wife Rebecca in 2015
Rio stars in new BBC documentary, Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad, which follows his experience of asking family, friends, professionals and therapists for help on dealing with bereavement. The documentary shows how Rio went from thinking that asking for help was "weak", to seeing the benefits of sharing your feelings and not bottling them up. "You don't want people feeling sorry for you," he said of his former views. "In the macho changing room culture that I was in, when someone's felt sorry for, that means they're weak. And you don't want to have people like that in the changing room, because that's a weak link. If I thought someone was looking for a bit of sympathy, I'd be like, 'Get him out. Don't want him in there.' I couldn't be around people like that. I hated it. I didn't respect them at all."
Rio stars in a new documentary about life as a single parent
The sportsman admitted that football left him completely unprepared to deal with life as a single parent. Rio, 38, said: "In football you don't lift a finger until you go over the white line to play. Everything is done for you. When you sit down, your kit's in your locker. When you finish getting changed, you throw your kit on the floor. Someone comes in and picks all that up." He added: "When you get to an airport you don't even look at a sign, you just follow feet. Then at home we'd go on holiday, for instance, and all I had to do was pack my own bag because Rebecca packed. It was even, like, 'How do I go to the doctor's?' I'd only ever seen the club doctor. I didn't have a clue."
Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad airs on Tuesday 28th March at 9pm on BBC One.