Rio Ferdinand: 'I understand why people kill themselves' following documentary about losing his wife to cancer

Rio Ferdinand bravely opened up about his wife’s tragic death in a new BBC documentary last night, admitting he had suicidal thoughts after Rebecca passed away aged 34 from breast cancer.

Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad aired on BBC1 on Tuesday (Photo: richard anset_bbc)

Viewers – including many of his male celebrity friends Piers Morgan, Russell Brand, James Corden and Gary Lineker – flocked to Twitter to praise him and thank the former England footballer for allowing us to see inside his life and his home and how he is coping after the untimely death of his beautiful spouse in 2015.

People at home were brought to tears as they watched the BBC One documentary and witnessed Rio’s journey adjusting to life as a widower and a single parent and taking over what is arguably the hardest role in the family – being mum.

The cameras followed the 38-year-old star and 10-year-old Lorenz, eight-year-old Tate and five-year-old Tia as they went about their daily routine, showing Rio doing the school run, making dinners, arranging uniforms and helping with homework.

He also talked about how he blocked grief out, about his anger, and turning to drink for comfort and even admitted he finally understood why people commit suicide after losing a loved one.

Rebecca and Rio (Instagram)

We were introduced to Rebecca’s mum, who said her daughter knew Rio could do it. Her dying daughter told her: “Rio will be a perfect mummy and daddy, you don’t have to worry.”

A string of male stars praised Rio – who previously said he was brought up to believe showing emotion was a sign of weakness – for opening up.

The soccer star admitted to camera that breaking the news of Rebecca’s death to their kids and dealing with their grief has been the hardest aspect of losing his spouse. So, he introduced a ‘memory jar’ which we saw was, in fact, a coke bottle! And he said it had opened up happier conversations about their mum.

“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 moments, it switched from dark to bright.”

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland told Yahoo Celebrity UK Rio had done the right thing, explaining: “Following a bereavement the best thing that any parent can do is to talk about their loved one and what’s happened, and encourage their children to do the same, in whatever ways work best for those individuals and that family.

“By opening up about difficult thoughts and feelings, Rio Ferdinand has given thousands of others the permission to do so too.”

Rio met other grieving people who he was inspired by to keep going and said he didn’t do the documentary to gain the public’s sympathy.

“I wanted to help myself to open up, to help my children, to then help other people. I didn’t do this for sympathy, I did this to help other people talk, and I learned along the journey that talking is so important, and talking wasn’t really part of my make-up emotionally.

“But my children need to see me talk, to feel my emotion – and I’ve learned that talking doesn’t make the pain go away but it helps.”

Rio’s key message was that people dealing with overwhelming emotion should talk to someone. Whatever you’re going through, call te Samaritans for free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email, or visit to find details of your nearest branch.

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