The dad of two opens up to Now about how he really coped when tragedy struck
Reality star turned TV presenter Jeff Brazier is also a superdad. After his sons, Bobby, now 14, and Freddie, 12, sadly lost their mum, Big Brother star Jade Goody, to cervical cancer in 2009, Jeff earned tons of praise from the public for removing the boys from the celebrity spotlight to give them a normal childhood. Retraining as a life coach and grief counsellor, Jeff is now a bereavement spokesperson and presents regular spots on ITV’s This Morning. When we meet 38-year-old Jeff to chat about his first book, The Grief Survival Guide, he’s thoughtful and intelligent and absolutely loves talking about his boys. But the down-to-earth dad is the first to admit that he’s made lots of parenting mistakes along the way…
Hi Jeff! What made you decide to write a book about grief?
I’ve done a lot of blogging and writing and found it cathartic – by the time I’m done writing about something, it’s not a problem but a solution. I became a life coach about three years ago and most of my clients have been bereaved. They’ve gravitated towards me because they’re aware of my experience with Jade and the boys. I realised it would be wasteful for me not to compile all these experiences that my clients have been good enough to share with me.
How do you remember Jade with your sons?
On the 15th of every month we have a dedicated Mum’s Day for Jade. We’ll go out to eat or do something fun and talk about our memories of Jade. And day-to-day I do things like leave old magazines on the coffee table that have stories about Jade in them, so the boys can have a little look if they’re curious. The internet’s also great, because the boys can look for their mum online and find memories of her there.
The boys were very much in the spotlight during Jade’s life and
at her 2009 wedding to Jack Tweed. Did that bother you?
No, I didn’t see it as my decision. I just thought: ‘Why change it?’ at that point, with only a few months of her life left. I don’t even think I felt like that anyway. I was focusing on what my actions would be when all the responsibility for the boys would become mine.
Would she have supported you taking the boys out
of the spotlight?
Jade would have been happy about it. I went to the Press Complaints Commission and said: ‘Can you help me to stop photographers taking pictures of the boys?’ The PCC absolutely honoured it because of the way I’d conducted myself in the previous six months. I hadn’t done any interviews or photo shoots that would have conflicted with my request for privacy.
It looks like you’ve done a brilliant job bringing them up. Do you have any regrets about
If you got it perfect, I want to know what book you’ve read! I regret that we never got a pet. It would have been so useful for the boys to have been able to express their grief to something that wasn’t going to give them advice or anything – that gave them unconditional love and just laid with them and was just there in the moment. So I do regret that. Also that we’ve moved house four times since Jade died, for various reasons – the boys really needed roots.
They’re both nearly teens. If they go on social media, the privacy you’ve cultivated will be gone…
It’s not realistic to keep them off social media and that’s something I’ll be encountering soon. Their accounts are private now, but as they get older people are going to be interested in what the boys are doing.
They’ll soon be dating. How will you feel when they do?
I’ll feel very proud of them. It’ll be interesting to see how they are in love and how they treat women and what they look for. But it won’t do for me to be too involved – you can’t choose who your children fall in love with.
What do the boys want to do when they grow up?
Freddie has such an emotional depth – he’d be really good as a life coach. He has so much empathy. He’s a natural entertainer; he loves making people happy. And I think Bobby’s going to end up in front of some camera or audience. It’s likely that one of them’s going to emulate their mum’s path, or maybe a mixture of what mum and dad have done.
Would you worry about them going in front of the camera?
I fear that completely. Bobby has worked out that it niggles me and he threatens me with going on Big Brother. People might find it ironic that I say I don’t want him to go on it, but I’ve learned – as did Jade – that these things come at a cost. There are other routes to achieving your goal and it’s not really good enough to just want to be famous so people know who you are.
What’s the best thing
Those moments when you feel all the effort you’re putting into these boys’ futures is paying off. Like at parents’ evening, when the teachers say what a pleasure Bobby is to teach.
What’s the worst part?
The loneliness of it. Sometimes you want someone to help with decisions, as the responsibility always lies with you.
Do you feel you lost a bit of your identity?
In the six months before Jade died, I developed a coping strategy of making everything very straightforward: just the boys and work. I was seeing a fantastic girl but I needed not to have that distraction, so I ended the relationship. But after a year I should have thought: ‘How am I coping? I’m doing alright, maybe let’s extend my world a bit.’ Maybe I could have played golf now and then, gone for dinner, gone clubbing. But I didn’t, so for four or five years it stayed as it was.
Your girlfriend of three years, PR girl Kate Dwyer, has talked about being a stepmum
on Twitter, admitting that it can be ‘challenging and overwhelming,’ but that certain moments make
She’s entitled to express herself. I know what she meant – it was about the challenges we face integrating her into the boys’ lives. We’re evaluating when the right time for her to move in is. She spends half the week with us in Essex and half in Brighton, where she’s from.
Do we hear wedding bells?
I hope so. I’d like to get married and have more children. I think we’ll just go all out and have twin girls, because my friend Jenny Frost [of Atomic Kitten] has twin girls and they couldn’t be any cuter.
How do you keep yourself
in tip-top shape?
My friend gave me some face cream yesterday and I put it on – then I realised it was supposed to be for my lips! I’m not great at grooming, but I tend not to eat junk, although I did a lot of comfort eating while writing the book – lots of chocolate.
Do you have any advice for your younger self?
I’d tell myself that I was going to go through something more challenging than I’d ever think possible, but not to put so much pressure on myself and to understand that if I feel content and balanced, the boys will too.
Jeff’s book The Grief Survival Guide: How To Navigate Loss And All That Comes With It (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99) is out now