Focusing on men in grief

A few weeks ago, BBC ONE aired a one-off 60 minute film, Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum And Dad. It focused on grief in men who had lost their partners. 

Rio Ferdinand is an English former professional footballer who lost his wife, Rebecca, to cancer in May 2015.

“I don’t think I’ve grieved properly. I’ve not given myself that time to sit down and really flush everything out and go through it.” – Rio Ferdinand.

This film introduced other men in a similar situation who shared their feelings on camera. They showed strength, compassion and humour. 

Mo’s advice for counselling men in bereavement is this:

– It is important to normalise things when you become the sole care giver. Even though your client is falling apart inside, they have to show a bold upfront “I am coping” face. Children need to feel that it is safe to show their own grief, without feeling confused and concerned about their dad’s state of mind. 

– Help your client to acknowledge what he is angry about and where he is worried. Get them out of his mind and onto paper where they can be right-sized. (The CBT downward arrow or similar tool can help to anchor these thoughts).

– Identify the sources of support in his life. It can be easy to forget just how many people are still important for the children and who still care deeply for your client. It can be easy to sink into “I am utterly alone”. 

– Offer support, encouragement and a listening ear – regardless of how repetitious your sessions can become. Set yourself to achieving only a small amount of progress in each session – the client has to set the pace. 

– Encourage the client to set aside “me time” regularly. This might be time to go to the gym or walk or go to places that help them reflect. 

– I would also encourage the children to make memory boxes of their mum.

– Acknowledge the passing and make sure everyone in the family knows that it’s ok to feel. 

Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum And Dad is available to watch for 12 more days on iplayer

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