After losing Jade Goody, the mother of his two children, to cervical cancer in 2009 at just 27 years of age, Jeff Brazier has experienced a huge amount of grief.
Their sons Bobby and Freddy were aged just five and four at the time of their mother’s death. However, 11 years on, not only does Jeff, 41, continue to do a remarkable job of raising the two boys, he’s also become a bereavement coach in the hope of helping others.
Here, the presenter reveals how the family keeps Jade’s legacy alive at home, and why it’s important to honour the lives of those we’ve loved and lost, especially at Christmas.
Merry Christmas, Jeff! Is this time of year bittersweet for you?
Yes, it does sober it up a little bit. Anyone who is bereaved will empathise with the fact that all the once-special and joyous occasions are often tinged with sadness. Those anniversaries can hit hard.
How do you remember Jade at Christmas?
We make the day about her, ultimately. After a couple of years, I recognised that if we didn’t speak about Mum and do something for Mum at the beginning of the day, then the day didn’t really go as well as a result. So we always visit her grave first thing on Christmas morning.
You are a fantastic dad. Do you ever feel extra pressure because Jade is no longer around?
The only pressure you feel is the pressure you put on yourself, and up until the last year or so, I was absolutely dreadful at that. My two sons are now 17 and 16, so for me to continue to really impose myself on what they do… It isn’t teaching them that vital component to adult life. I now actively encourage them to make decisions for themselves.
When do you miss Jade’s presence the most?
I didn’t share pictures of the kids for several years, and now they’re older and using social media, I feel proud to share certain images. Yet it’s when I do that I feel there is always some sadness that she’s not here to witness the incredible prospects they have in front of them, and the wonderful traits that they’ve developed as they’ve grown.
That must be hard…
There’s so much for me to celebrate, and it’s a shame that she’s not here to enjoy it. She made these kids, and she should be having that same sense of pride and satisfaction here with me.
How much do the boys remind you of Jade?
There are lots of ways in which they remind me of her – the energy and vibrancy, the cheek, strong will and determination.
How are Bobby and Freddy doing?
I’ve had spells of getting up at the crack of dawn to exercise and meditate, and these are now things that I’m starting to see Bobby do of his own will, and
it’s so satisfying. Freddy isn’t doing
that because he’s still at school,
but Bobby is such a hero to him because he’s his big brother who’s had lots of achievements with his modelling career, so Freddy really does look up to him.
How do you keep Jade’s legacy alive?
If memories are unfortunately lacking, then we borrow other people’s. We’ll speak to their godparents, who are their mum’s best friends, and there’ll always be a story of ‘Mum did this’ or ‘Mum said that’. That’s our way of topping up that level of knowledge of the person we’ve lost. And while those experiences weren’t witnessed first-hand, it’s still really warming for the boys to know who and what their mum was. There’s a big part of her that very much lives on through them.
Jeff and other celebrities share their experiences of bereavement in a special free exhibition, Lost for Words, presented by Royal London in collaboration with Rankin. See royallondon.com for details