Tuesday 23 October 2018

Zoe Ball says she is getting stronger after ‘heartbreak’ of partner’s death

The Strictly: It Takes Two host has spoken of her personal struggle since the loss of her partner 10 months ago.

Zoe Ball
Zoe Ball

By Lucy Mapstone, Press Association Deputy Entertainment Editor

Zoe Ball has said she is “getting stronger” after her partner Billy Yates’s suicide last year, but that she still struggles with moments of grief.

Cameraman Mr Yates was found dead at his home in May at the age of 40, and TV presenter Ball last week cycled more than 350 miles over five days, from Blackpool to Brighton, raising more than £500,000 for Sport Relief in a fundraiser inspired by him.

Ball told the Radio Times that, while she still struggles with unsuspected moments of heartache, she is gradually feeling better.

“I’m getting stronger,” she said.

“I’m a tough old cookie. My family have been through a lot.

“There are moments when you least expect it when grief catches you. But the main thing for me is I’ve found people who have been through this and are doing better. They’ve found some hope.

“That’s the biggest thing for me, that there is hope. Otherwise what are we doing this for?”

Ball, 47, said that she has moments “when I can’t believe any of this happened”.

“I’m in the middle of this challenge and Billy’s gone,” she said, adding: “That never leaves you.

“That and the heartbreak, and the fact you couldn’t save them.

“It’s true for Billy’s mum and dad and his sisters and friends, too. They are all in pain.

“Especially his male friends. The ripple effect is dangerous. It can happen again. It’s scary.”

Ball said she knew Mr Yates had lived with depression for a long time and that she “didn’t know how to help”.

Ball said that she sometimes wonders how she was not able to save him.

She said: “And then I have to stop and say, ‘Everyone who loved him knew. None of us found an answer, none of us saved him’.

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Zoe Ball

“To move forward you have to accept that. Which is very difficult. But I take comfort from the fact he is no longer in pain.

“He struggled every day and now he is at peace. The pain has stopped for him.”

Her efforts in the challenge, which she completed to raise awareness of mental illness, will be shown in BBC One documentary Zoe’s Hardest Road Home on Wednesday March 21.

Statistics from charity Samaritans show more than 6,600 people took their own lives in 2015.

Radio Times is on sale now.

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