For all who tuned in to watch last nights BBC One programme ‘Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad’ it was no doubt highly emotional. Rio took us all on a journey to finding solace as opposed to pain in remembering his wife Rebecca who at the age of 34 passed away in 2015 due to cancer. His honesty in admitting his struggle with coming to terms with her sudden death and adjusting to now being a single parent to three young children, who are also coming to terms with the loss of their mother all came to light.
Using his status and own personal experience Rio has sparked a long overdue conversation about men, emotions and how they deal with hard realities of life. Towards the end of the programme we witness a shift in his approach and outlook as a result of seeking advice from other men who were widowed and the children who lost their mothers at a young age.
This idea that boys don’t cry is so ingrained in society that when boys become men they become emotionally unavailable, end up not knowing how to grieve and deal with the realities of life. Being told to “man up” at the slightest hint of human emotion. Suppressing feelings can be detrimental to society on the whole, for many these issues can be traced back to childhood upbringings where children have been brought up in homes where they are never shown affection from male role models, their fathers. It then becomes a cycle as shown in the scene where Rio visits his childhood estate with his father and recalls his father never really being there for emotional support, that’s probably the reason why Rio finds it difficult to speak about his problems. Having to suppress emotions and not talk about traumatic events can not only take a toll on ones mental health but can also be physically damaging. With a life time full of so much pent up anger, sadness, grief and guilt, perhaps this is why men generally die earlier than women?
We should not stop boys and men from expressing their emotions and talking about their feelings. The myth that you are less of a man if you show and speak about feelings continues to be debunked and challenged in our society. With role models like Rio Ferdinand being open about the long healing process we can hope that society overcomes gender stereotypes and allows men to be humans.
The programme only touched on a few aspects of the past and was overall very much forward focused. I have so much respect for Rio and the people who shared their stories. By doing so I’m sure they have helped so many people in similar situations by letting them know they are not alone and encouraging them to seek help as help is available. I wish nothing but the best for Rio and his family, although they have suffered such a great loss and the memory of Rebecca will live on they can be assured that better days are coming ahead.