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Darren Clarke and Rio Ferdinand share TV heart-to-heart on love, loss and being single dad

Sports stars discuss loss of wives to breast cancer

By Victoria Leonard

Northern Ireland golf ace Darren Clarke has spoken movingly with former footballer Rio Ferdinand about how he coped as a single dad following his wife Heather's death.

The emotional conversation took place at the Europa Hotel as part of new BBC documentary Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum And Dad to be broadcast next week.

Both men lost their wives to breast cancer - Clarke in 2006 and Ferdinand in 2015.

When Clarke's wife Heather died at the age of 39 his sons Tyrone and Conor were aged just eight and five.

He subsequently founded the Darren Clarke Foundation, which helps further the development of junior golf in Ireland and raises money for breast cancer awareness.

Similarly, Ferdinand's three children Lorenz, Tate and Tia were just 10, eight and five when his 34-year-old wife Rebecca Ellison lost her battle with the disease.

In the one-hour programme Ferdinand describes Rebecca as his "soulmate and a wonderful mother", and is heard telling his children that "mummy went straight up into the stars".

Just six weeks after Heather's death Clarke put in an inspirational performance in the Ryder Cup.

"Three days before she passed away she said to me: 'I want you to play in the Ryder Cup if you get picked'," he tells Ferdinand on the programme.

"On Heather's gravestone in Portrush it says: 'Don't be sad for what you've lost, smile for what you had'.

"You can only really appreciate that as time goes by."

Clarke also advises Ferdinand that his late wife wouldn't want to see him in turmoil.

"Do you think Rebecca is up there looking down and she would want to see you suffer? She wouldn't," he states.

"Because if you're not getting on with your life, then it's going to be even more difficult for you to help your kids get on with their life.

"You've got to live your life, because if you don't live your life you're not going to be right for your kids.

"It's a catch-22.

"There is a life there afterwards, there is a life, and I'm an example of that."

Clarke, who is now married to model agency boss Alison Campbell, admits to Ferdinand that he "didn't think I would ever be this happy again". He adds: "I honestly didn't. Life goes on. Life has to go on.

"You're here and she's not. I don't mean that in a bad way.

"The best thing you can do for your kids is to let them see you smile now and again, but not smile because you think you've got to smile.

"Smile because you are smiling and that will transfer to them like you won't believe."

Following the meeting, Ferdinand says that Clarke is the first person to tell him "there's a life after" his wife's death.

"It's refreshing to hear that in a way, he's so adamant that he says listen, you will get to a place where you are comfortable with everything," he reflects.

"I think seeing Darren today has made me realise a lot more that you have got to start thinking about yourself a little bit as well.

"If I'm happy, then the kids are going to be happy, I'll be a better dad, and the house will be a better place."

The programme will air on March 28 at 9pm on BBC One.

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