'I promised Jade I wouldn't let the boys forget her' Jeff Brazier on how his late wife's boys are coping
22:26 GMT, 20 July 2012
A few months ago Jeff Brazier’s youngest son Freddie, seven, had a nightmare. ‘I was in Barbados working for This Morning. He woke up screaming, “My daddy’s dead,”’ says Jeff. ‘I’m glad it doesn’t happen too often but you can imagine why their minds would wander off in that direction.’
You can indeed.
Freddie and his older brother Bobby, nine, are Jeff’s two sons from his relationship with reality star Jade Goody, who died of cancer three years ago at the age of 27.
Jade's sons Bobby, five, (left) and Freddie, four, with their father Jeff Brazier
The boys were just five and three at the time. ‘After Jade died there was a lot of spite – a lot of anger. Now I would describe their grief as a wave.
'It builds up over a period then all of a sudden they’re engulfed by it. You’ll have two weeks and it’ll be terrible then, all of a sudden, they pop out the other end. It’s almost like it never happened to them.’
Thankfully the ‘waves’ are becoming less frequent and both boys are thriving at school. ‘They’ve got lots of friends and are just happy,’ says Jeff with wholly justified pride.
‘Freddie is the one who, lately, has started to be a little scared of losing me. I do a lot of reassuring – telling them how much I love them and that I’m going to live to over 100 because I believe that so much.’
Jeff is an indefatigably upbeat man. At 33, with his boyish blond looks, he doesn’t seem old enough to shave, let alone bring up two young children on his own. ‘I’ve had little dips,’ he says. ‘But I’m very good at getting myself out of them.
Jade and Jeff met and their relationship began as a friendship but then developed into more when she fell pregnant
I’ll just say “Thank you” to myself. If you’re thankful for something you can’t be feeling negative.’
And Jeff has a lot to be thankful for. Both his sons are healthy, his TV career is flourishing, with regular presenting stints on ITV’s This Morning and a Channel 5 quiz show in the pipeline, and he’s happily settled with girlfriend of six months Nicola Tappenden, a former model with a three-year-old daughter Poppy with footballer Simon Walton.
But what’s striking about Jeff is his likeability. He’s here in London’s Belgravia Hotel to promote the leisure website GoSeeDo.com.
Type in where you’re going and what you’d like to see or do and you’ll be offered an array of choices. ‘As a parent of two boys, I’m forever looking for suggestions of things I can do with them,’ he says.
‘When I looked on the website I found a few ideas I’d never considered, like a medieval banquet. There’s a place you can go and have one of those with your kids. They’re learning about that period in history at school.’
‘After Jade died there was a lot of spite – a lot of anger. Now I would describe their grief as a wave'
Jeff looks as excited as a seven-year-old on Christmas morning when he talks about the website. Indeed, I suspect this astonishingly optimistic man would find joy on a soggy beach in Devon, which is all the more extraordinary given his own far from blissful childhood.
His mother Jeanette was 15 when she became pregnant with him. He spent his early years in foster care and, later, a spell in a women’s refuge in Yarmouth where his mother had taken him and his half-brother Spencer, who has cerebral palsy, when her relationship with his stepfather broke down.
The only time Jeff met his biological father was when he was a newborn baby. As a teenager he learned his father was Stephen Faldo, the captain of the pleasure boat The Marchioness, who had died in the accident that claimed 51 lives after a collision with the dredger The Bowbelle on the Thames in 1989.
‘I’d just turned ten when he died,’ says Jeff. ‘It would have been great to be close to my own dad. I’m giving Bob and Fred what I wish I could have had.’
Jenny Frost and Jeff Brazier arrive at the Big Brother 5 Launch Party
Jeff met Jade when he was an aspiring TV presenter, and she’d just exploded into the public consciousness after appearing in Channel 4’s Big Brother in 2002.
They’d been dating for just three months when she became pregnant with Bobby. ‘It started as a friendship but we seemed to find our way into a relationship.
It got serious because she was pregnant,’ he says. ‘From that point onwards I remember it being very difficult. Jade was a difficult person to love. Anger was her way of communicating. I was dealing with the monster that had been built up over her childhood. I thought I could take it all away from her, but I couldn’t.’
Bobby was nine months old when they separated but, unbeknown to the pair of them, Jade was already pregnant with Freddie. ‘He kind of caught the last train,’ Jeff says. ‘We were both very surprised, but all I could do was put my career and wishes to one side in order to do what I considered to be right.’
His relationship with Jade continued to be strained until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in August 2008. ‘As soon as she found out she had cancer the issues that made her act the way she did were just dropped,’ he says. ‘I was left with the natural her that I’d seen in those first three months.’
When, six months after diagnosis, the cancer spread to her liver, bowel and groin he was beside himself. ‘I thought she’d beat it easily,’ he says. ‘When she knew she was terminal I just remember feeling how ridiculously unfair life was that she was going to miss out on seeing the kids grow up. When it came to being a parent she was a very natural, very loving mum.
'I didn’t have a clue what to do. How do you help children of that age overcome the loss of their mum’
Firstly, Jeff decided to persuade a very poorly Jade to tell the children the truth. ‘She really didn’t want to tell the kids,’ he says. ‘You can imagine why. Once you say those words to your kids it’s basically over. I remember saying, “You need to do it. Now’s the right time.”
'I came out of the room and let her do it on her own. She’d told them she was ill. She’d told them she was getting worse. She’d told them God potentially had a job for her and he might want her to go to heaven. So then she told them, “I definitely have to go and help God do things.”
‘When they came out I remember thinking, “I need to make sure they understand.” I sat down and said to them, “Do you understand what Mummy’s just said to you Do you understand that she’s going to heaven
'That she’s not going to be here any more” Freddie was playing with toys like nothing had happened because he wasn’t willing to accept it. Bobby said, “I hate God. Why does God want to take my mummy”’
Bobby said, “I hate God. Why does God want to take my mummy”’
Jeff was in Glasgow working on The X Factor tour and trying to maintain as normal a life as possible for the boys when he woke up to receive a voicemail telling him Jade had died.
‘We got on a plane and went home but I didn’t tell the kids until that evening when it was dark and the stars were out,’ he says. ‘It was a beautiful night and there was one star that was brighter than the others. It was exactly the story she’d told them. That seemed like the perfect moment to complete that story for them. I’m glad it was done like that.’
Jeff’s approached what he calls ‘the after’ with textbook saintliness. Both boys have received counselling and Jeff ensures those who were dear to Jade remain in the boys’ lives, including Jade’s mother Jackiey – although he draws the line at Jack Tweed, Jade’s 25-year-old husband who was imprisoned for ABH.
‘After Jade died I gave him a chance but when the violent stuff started happening that was obviously the last thing I wanted my kids to be around.
Jeff ensures those who were dear to Jade remain in the boys' lives, including Jade's mother Jackiey, although he draws the line at Jack Tweed, Jade's 25-year-old husband who was imprisoned for ABH
‘The thing that really worried Jade is the kids would forget her, so I promised I’d keep her memory alive. I don’t want them to grow up each year remembering less and less. I talk about her all the time with the boys. She’s a huge part of where they came from. She’s their mum.’
Our meeting is reaching an end. Jeff must dash to pick up the boys from his mother, who helps with childcare. There’s just one more thing he wants to say.
‘The toughest thing is knowing when they’re being naughty because they’re acting their age or when it’s them showing you they’re hurting. When you know they’re feeling down you give them a cuddle.’ Something I’m sure these boys are never short of from this truly remarkable dad.
Visit www.goseedo.com or tel: 0800 980 5551.