When we think of footballers we think of arrogant men who believe the world revolves around them. As a Manchester United fan I knew that Rio Ferdinand was a very private person, so I knew that he was not your typical, big-headed, self-obsessed sports celebrity. When I heard that his wife had died I felt a wave of sympathy wash over me for him and their three children, and for their families, but then I didn’t really give it much thought after that. Reviewing his book brought me back to that time in his life and I tried to recall what I’d read about Rebecca’s death at the time. All I could recall was that she was in her early thirties, and that she’d lost her fight with breast cancer.
This account of how Rio struggled to come to terms with the death of his wife and how he felt like he was failing his children gives an insight into a very private time in his life. Some people may not appreciate that he talks so candidly about his grief, his inability to cope, but his message is a powerful one; what support is out there for grieving widowers?
Rio Ferdinand is a self-confessed unemotional person. As a professional footballer he lived a very sheltered life in terms of how a household runs, and how to bring children up – in other words, he had no clue. Both of those tasks had been the domain of his wife Rebecca, but in the wake of her death he felt useless and unable to cope.
The book gives a little background information on Rio and Rebecca’s private lives, which I think is crucial in gaining the perspective that was intended when this book was written. The picture that is painted by Rio is one of a dedicated wife and mother who proudly keeps her home and children’s lives running like clockwork so that Rio can concentrate on his footballing career. He talks about how they had bought a property out in Portugal, a property that they had planned to spend many years enjoying once Rio had retired from professional football. Rebecca never got to enjoy that holiday home, her life was cut short before Rio had retired, leaving him crippled by his grief and having no clue where to turn to.
Asking for help was not in Rio’s nature, but this was something he had to learn to do for the sake of his children. All that Rio knew was how to be a professional footballer, The tools he had learnt to be at the top of his game were useless when it came to caring for his children, and this added to the struggle he was facing.
Talking about his grief, how he was almost consumed by it, how he eventually sought the help he needed, and how he began to move forward without Rebecca makes this a raw and often emotional read. This is not a feel good book, nor is it a self help book, it is one man’s account of how he struggled through the sea of grief that losing his wife caused. The important message within this book is that noting will ever prepare you for losing a loved one, grief is very personal, no two people grieve the same and this is important to remember. The book also offers information on where you can find help if you need to.
I don’t think this is the type of book you can say you have enjoyed, reading how one man almost drowned under the sea of grief that had engulfed him does not make for pleasant reading. The emotions are raw, the struggles are real, Rio’s experience is heartbreaking, but the aim of the book is to highlight all of the above and try to point other grief stricken people, particularly me, in the right direction. The book was written after a television documentary had been broadcast about the exact same subject. It is a very honest account of how Rio sunk into the abyss after Rebecca died.