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No Timeline For Grief, Even For Princes

Updated on April 17, 2017

It Doesn't Always Fully Hit Right Away

The world ached on August 31, 1997, when Diana, Princess of Wales and mom to Princes William and Harry, died as the result of injuries sustained in a car crash in a Paris tunnel. I was only 24 at the time, with no thought of children in my immediate future, when I found myself, as so many thousands of others did, thinking about her two kids, William, who would have been 15 and a little bit, and Harry, just shy of his 13th birthday. I couldn't imagine the devastating nature of the loss that those boys faced because their mom was so present in their lives.

Like many around the world, I was riveted during the memorial service for "The People's Princess," and I felt a lump in my throat when I saw the card simply labelled "Mummy" on the coffin. The boys were so incredibly brave that day, and I was sure that their father, Prince Charles, had to have given them a bit of a pep talk before they began the long walk with their uncle, Earl Spencer, grandfather Prince Phillip, and their father.

In the ensuing weeks and months, the media was peppered with reports that the boys were doing all right, and that they seemed to be enjoying the time they were spending with their father, who had made a concerted effort to be there for his sons in the aftermath of their mother's death.

It now seems as though that the proverbial "stiff upper lip" wasn't always in place - at least not for Prince Harry, and he deserves all the credit in the world for speaking of the challenges he's had now.

“I can safely say that losing my mom at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” the prince admitted to Telegraph's Bryony Gordon during a podcast on April 16. His audience was definitely someone who had an understanding about where the young prince was coming from; Gordon has been quite outspoken about her own struggles with depression, bulimia, alcoholism and an obsessive compulsive disorder, and said that Prince Harry spoke for a good half hour over a cup of tea with her.

In the conversation, Prince Harry admitted that it wasn't until he hit his mid to late 20s that he realized that he needed to grieve, in no small part due to his brother William's influence.

Prince Harry said that his brother sat him down and said, "Look, you really need to deal with this. It is not normal to think that nothing has affected you.”

In addition to finding a therapist to discuss what was happening, Prince Harry also said that he'd taken up boxing, since he'd discovered there were days where he'd really felt like punching someone.

This is not unusual for anyone who might be struggling with grief, and with Prince Harry being in the public eye, his ability to process his grief appropriately must have been terribly difficult. He deserves all the credit in the world for being so outspoken about it.

Now if the rest of us realize that we can actually be open about discussing mental health it'd be a great start.

Smiles Are Sincere - More So Than Ever Before


It's A Great Start

Prince Harry's discussion with Bryony Gordon marks the longest interview he's done with any press, with whom he's been somewhat adversarial, in some part due to the press' relationship with his mother over the years. He noted that while it took time for him to begin processing the pain he'd been through as a result of losing his mother at such a young age, he was in a lot better place now than he'd ever been previously.

"Because of the process I have been through over the past two-and-a-half years, I've now been able to take my work seriously, been able to take my private life seriously as well, and been able to put blood, sweat and tears into the things that really make a difference and things that I think will make a difference to everybody else," he said.

We have much to learn from Prince Harry's openness about grief and how to deal with mental health in a forthright manner. If we quit treating mental illnesses as though we had some choice in the matter, or believing that there's a 100 percent method of realizing when we're truly healed from these problems, we'd be a lot further ahead. Mental illnesses are not the same as having a broken limb. There's no set timeline for healing, as Prince Harry fully realized and admitted.

Now if we could only be so gentle with ourselves.

Prince Harry And Bryony Gordon


Prince Harry Speaks


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    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 11 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks for sharing this information. Grief is like stress. The more you repress it, the more it will come out in bazaar ways. And as we've seen written here on HP many times, there is no time limit for grief. It takes as long as it takes - for you. I'm still grieving for my Mom, four years after I lost her. It's not as painful as it was at first, but it is always there. I can remember her now and smile, not cry.