'Let them see you cry': Rio Ferdinand on how he coped with telling his kids their mum had died

Rio Ferdinand has opened up about the pain of losing his wife to cancer - and how he hopes talking about his experience will help others.

The former footballer, now a single parent to his three children Lorenz, Tate and Tia, shared his story in a heartbreaking documentary Being Mum and Dad.

The 38-year-old was seen breaking down in tears as he came to terms with losing wife Rebecca Ellison, who died at the age of just 34.

He also revealed that although he had never contemplated suicide, he now knew what it was like to be in that place.

Growing up on a council estate and then going into a career in football left the ex-England star unable to speak about his feelings as getting emotional was seen as a sign of weakness.

But when he had to break the news to his children that their mum was never coming home just three months after her diagnosis, he had to force himself to open up.

He told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "For a parent to have to tell their kids that you're going to leave the hospital and you're never going to see your mum again. It's a hard thing to do."

Rio is now a single dad of three. Credit: BBC

Rio said at first he didn't want to speak to a counsellor and was "quite ignorant" about his grief.

But he advised anyone going through a similar situation to "speak to anyone who will listen" - especially those who have been through the same experience.

"There's no denying it's a hard period of time, but what I got from my journey is that talking as soon as possible to anyone, to friends, to anyone who will listen.

"Just talking about the situation, your feelings, talking about the future, working out the pathways for your children and more important, talk to your children.

"Let them see your emotion, let them see you cry, let them see you show times of weakness also times of strength.

"And if you do that, your children will grow enormously."

The picture Rio posted with the caption 'my soul mate passed away last night'. Credit: QPR

The footballer turned pundit said he wasn't speaking out for sympathy, but to help others who found it difficult to talk about their emotions.

"If people see me, as someone who has played sport, been on TV etc.

"People might say, well, if he's going to be emotional and open up and ask for help, then maybe I can.

"That's the biggest thing for me with this."

  • Watch Rio's documentary Being Mum and Dad on BBC iPlayer now