West Sussex volunteer praises brave footballer Rio Ferdinand

A bereavement volunteer from West Sussex has praised footballer Rio Ferdinand for opening up about the death of his wife.

Rio Ferdinand back in the day playing for Manchester United. PICTURE:STEVE REID
Rio Ferdinand back in the day playing for Manchester United. PICTURE:STEVE REID

Joanna Desborough-Brown, a volunteer with the Cruse Bereavement Care charity, has, like millions of others, watched a video promoting the documentary, Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad, which is being shown on BBC One tonight at 9pm.

In the clip, former England and Manchester United footballer Rio tells how he has struggled with the loss of his ‘soulmate’ Rebecca and breaks down in tears when explaining he could not ‘get anything out’ of his two sons about how they were feeling.

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Joanna, who is a trained counsellor, said after watching the clip on Facebook: “It’s heartbreaking but good on him that he has had the courage to talk about it because he will be a fantastic role model for others.

“To actually see him cry is wonderful because he is such an icon and if he can cry, it is saying it is something not to be ashamed of. Even in this day and age, men have this misconception they have to be the strong one.”

Joanna, who covers the Arun and Chichester area for the charity, said she and her colleagues often refer to two expressions when helping grieiving people.

She said: “There are two things we say, ‘have a good cry’ and ’get it off your chest’ – they are our words of wisdom. If you bottle up your emotions, tears and grief they are trapped inside your body. People need to let it out and express it.”

Joanna said she felt pleased Rio appears to have started to talk about his grief and said it is not unusual for people to have a delay in really letting their emotions out.

She said: “People are thrown into coping with the practicalities. It is so painful. People try to stay positive and try to avoid the pain. But it seems Rio is just coming up for air. I take my hat off to him. He will live with that grief forever but in time it softens. As a society we don’t talk about grief and we need to do that more.”

Joanna said going to groups and speaking to other families who have lost loved ones, like Rio has been doing, can really help. She also recommends online forums and books on grief for people who do not feel they can talk openly.

There is more information on www.cruse.org.uk or people can call 0808 8081677.