Simon Thomas – How struggling single dad overcame 'brutal emptiness' of wife’s death by finding love with Derrina Jebb

SIMON Thomas thought he’d never smile again when he tragically lost his first wife, Gemma, to leukaemia in 2017.

“There were at least two moments where I nearly did end it,” the Sky Sports presenter once said.


But Simon looked overjoyed to be marrying Derrina Jebb at Norwich Cathedral at the weekend.

Taking his followers by surprise, Simon, who is dad to Ethan, 10, from his previous marriage, confirmed that he and Derrina are newlyweds.

Posting the wedding picture to his Instagram page, Simon simply wrote alongside a white heart emoji: "Love. Wins."


Bride Derrina beamed as she clutched a beautiful bouquet of pink and white flowers.

But such joy is a long way from where Simon was just a few years ago.

Brutal loneliness

In November 2017, Simon and Ethan were left heartbroken when his first wife Gemma suddenly died of acute myeloid leukaemia aged 40 – just three days after being diagnosed.

Less than a year later, and adapting to life as a single parent, the former Blue Peter presenter opened up about how he was struggling.

"The loneliness is brutal,” he said, on ITV’s Lorraine. "Suddenly in no time at all you've gone from happily married, content as the three of us, suddenly, on those evenings…

"I keep myself busy in the day but I have to be there for him at night, I can't always draft in a babysitter.”

He continued: “You have a lot of time on your own with your thoughts.

"You look to the sofa where, for all those years, we sat doing the mundane things and she's not there any more and it hurts.

"It's a brutal jump from that to very much emptiness.

"When Ethan's gone to bed, the house is quiet."

A surprise romance

Just months after talking about his loneliness, Simon started dating a church minister’s daughter Derrina, having met her through his church.

He didn’t name her at first, but revealed he was drawn to her “empathy,” as well as the fact she reminded him of his late wife.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live in November 2018, he said: "Right from the early stages, she had this empathy towards me. She’s Christian as well and that’s important to me as a man of faith.

"She’s been an incredible support for me. She was the only person who would always pick up the phone.

"What I saw in her, I saw in Gemma. 

“When she said my phone is always on, she meant it."

The Sun on Sunday exclusively revealed how his and Derrina’s relationship even came as a surprise to Simon – as he hadn’t been looking for romance.

A source said: “The relationship came as a shock because it was not something Simon was looking for at all. 

“But as soon as he met Derrina the pair had a connection.

“She is a Christian and the daughter of a well-respected minister.

“Their connection has gone from strength to strength and Derrina really has been a huge support for him through this awful time.”

Simon admitted that he felt “guilty” starting a romance with someone else, wondering if it was “too early."

Taking on Ethan

Ethan is obviously a huge part of Simon’s life, and would be a huge part ofwhoever was going to join them.

Simon even confessed Ethan was the main reason he stopped himself from killing himself, when Gemma died.

“I had a decision to make and there were at least two moments where I nearly did end it, " he said at Marie Curie’s annual Great Daffodil Appeal launch. 

“My boy has been the single biggest reason I kept going.”

And Derrina really stepped up to the plate and took on step-mum duties – especially during lockdown.

Earlier this year, Simon sold the house he shared with Gemma to move in with Derrina – and he revealed how she'd been helping him and Ethan out a lot.

The presenter wrote a sweet tribute to his then-girlfriend, calling her "incredible" for being "such a joy" in hard times.

He added: "Yes at times it’s been really hard; but she has been selfless – dealing with her own struggles of feeling like she’s living in Gemma’s shadow, whilst investing so much time and energy into homeschooling Ethan and being such a joy to be around".

The family celebrated Derrina's birthday together in May, building an igloo in the back garden for a one-of-a-kind party.

“You’re quite simply the absolute best," he told her. "I’m so very blessed to be able to do life with you."

‘Gemma will never be replaced’

Although he and Ethan have found happiness with Derrina, Simon has insisted she’ll never replace Gemma.

Instead, this is just a new chapter of his life.

"Sometimes I struggle with the phrase ‘moving on’ – I don’t think you ever really do move on from what’s happened," he previously said. "That hole that a loved one leaves doesn’t shrink over time. Life begins to grow around it."

He continued: "There are no shoes left to be filled. There will never be another Gemma. 

“We are unique – we come to the table with our different personalities.

"If you’re embarking on a new relationship, comparing is ultimately a futile task. There is no comparison.

“It’s not my fault what happened to Gemma – it’s nobody’s fault. This person is helping me define life again, helping me to feel happy again."

And although Simon admits, "Sometimes I feel guilty. Is it too early?", he will never stop remembering Gemma, and truly believes she'd approve of his decision to marry Derrina.

Simon added: “Gemma will always be a presence in my life. She will never ever be forgotten. 

“For my son’s sake, and mine as well, there will be a third presence in this relationship. 

“I know Gemma would be happy for me.”

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