A DAD whose life was hit by a double tragedy has described how his story helped former Manchester United Rio Ferdinand face up to his own grief.
Dan Naylor, from Newton-le-Willows, told his heartbreaking story on the BBC documentary Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad. The immense tragedy really “struck a chord” with the ex-England defender.
Dan, whose wife Helen died after being hit by a car days before Christmas in 2012 leaving behind a two-year-old son, met up with dad-of-three Ferdinand twice, to talk to him about moving forward after the loss of his wife Rebecca, who died in 2015.
Rio called the 38-year-old “superman” after also learning Dan and fiancée Anna Davenport had lost their baby daughter Scarlet at five-months-old.
Dan said: “We started filming in October and Rio met up with me and other members of the Gentleman’s Club, an online support group for male widowers.
“His eyes were sunken and dark and we all said, ‘we know that look’. He hadn’t grieved when we started filming, but by the end he had hope in his eyes.
“My wife was killed, I had to tell my son and more importantly we both had to learn how to move forward. I took my vows seriously, to love and cherish in sickness and in health but also till death do us part.
“It took a long time but eventually I decided to open myself up, Jamie (Helen and Dan’s son, now six) deserved to have a happy dad and then I met Anna and was honest from the start.
“Rio has been strong for his kids but now I hope he realises that working all the time isn’t the answer, he has to grieve and move forward.”
Anna, 40, said: “Rio needed someone to tell him off, tell him to not bury himself in work and let him know that life has to carry on for the kids and for himself.
“He came here a broken man, but still found time to play football with Jamie in our back garden, which was crazy. Rio and I cried together in our kitchen, he said our story had made him think, I hope it helps him and others to know they are not alone in their grief.
“So many people have said Dan’s story has touched them.”
“Hopefully more men realise there is support out there.
“People ask me if it has been easy coming into the family after what happened, but Helen is very much still part of our life.
“After we lost Scarlet I understood a bit of what Dan had gone through and felt comforted by the thought that she is up in heaven with Helen and Jamie is here with me.”
Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum and Dad is available to view on BBC iPlayer