The husband of BBC presenter Rachael Bland has told how their three-year-old son Freddie reassured him in the days after her death from breast cancer.
The 40-year-old BBC Radio 5 Live broadcaster, who co-hosted podcast You, Me and the Big C, died in September.
In his first interview since her death, Steve Bland said on one occasion he started crying because he was upset he had lost his temper with his son.
His son told him: “Daddy, don’t worry, it’s just us two now. It’ll be OK.”
Speaking to Lauren Mahon and Deborah James, the co-presenters of the award-winning podcast about living with cancer, Mr Bland said neither he nor his wife realised “just how tough” her final days would be.
He said the days leading up to, and following her death, had been “nothing like you imagine”, as he had not realised what would happen physically as she “was getting more and more sick”.
“I didn’t feel like anyone really actually explained how hard and how demanding that last four or five days were going to be,” he said.
“I might be wrong but I just feel that if Rachael had known how hard it was going to be she might have wanted to go into a hospice or something else. I just don’t know that either of us understood just how tough those last days were going to be – how demanding on her it was, only having me looking after her, and how demanding it was on me.”
The podcast, released on Wednesday, is the first recorded since her death.
‘Good and bad days’
He said it was difficult reconciling the Rachael being shown in the “media storm” after her death with the person he knew – although it had been comforting too.
“It was very hard because my Rachael wasn’t the Rachael who did the podcast, wasn’t the Rachael on the TV, wasn’t the Rachael on the radio,” he said.
“My Rachael was the one who sat next to me on the sofa watching crappy TV. You know, who shouted to get a glass of wine or whatever.”
He said he found it quite hard in the day or two after his wife died “to remember what she sounded like just normally…,and even what she looked like just sitting next to me on the sofa”.
“It was probably three or four days when it had died down a little bit and the storm had subsided somewhat that those memories started coming back and it was a bit of a crash.”
He admitted there were times he had lost his temper with his son where he wouldn’t have done normally – leading to the conversation with Freddie where he was told it would be OK.
“I shouted at him because he was being a right pain, (I was) trying to get him dressed. I started crying because it really upset me that I’d shouted at him,” he explained.
“And he just turned to me and he said, ‘Daddy, are you crying because of Mummy?’ and I said ‘Yes’. And he said, ‘Daddy, don’t worry, it’s just us two now. It’ll be OK’.”
He said Freddie was “a bit young really to understand even on a very base level what’s happened”, but added: “He’s just full of energy, full of joy, full of life, keeping us busy – he’s fantastic. You can’t look at him without seeing Rachael either so it’s a little bit of her all the time just next to me.”
Asked how he is coping since his wife died, Mr Bland said: “I’m OK. Good days and bad days, as you can imagine. Plenty of challenges. You don’t really know how you’re going to be when something like this happens.”
The podcast can be heard online and on new app BBC Sounds.