We’ve all dreamed of what it would be like to be royalty: To be a king ruling your own kingdom, to be a beautiful princess loved by all, or to be a dashing prince with a heroic soul. Although real royalty doesn’t line up with our childhood ideal, the royals’ lavish lifestyles are still something to behold. However, just because you’re a prince or princess doesn’t mean you’re free from the same demons that everyone else faces.
Consider Britain’s Prince Harry. As the second son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, he’s been in the spotlight since he was born. Whether it was for the fame of his family, his philanthropic activities, or various wild exploits, Harry has lived like a celebrity. Unfortunately, the celebrity spotlight typically only goes skin deep.
In August 1997, Diana lost her life in a traffic collision in Paris. Harry was 12. The royal funeral was a must-watch event, with over 2 billion viewers. Harry remained calm and dignified throughout most of the procession. It wasn’t until nearly 20 years later that the rest of the world began to fully realize what kind of deep, crippling, pain he was suffering. Royalty or not, few things hurt more than losing a parent.
In April 2017, the Daily Telegraph interviewed Harry about the loss of his mother. Harry revealed that for the past two decades, he had completely shut down his emotions toward Diana. This isn’t an unusual response. When facing tragedy, it can be painful to face one’s emotions. Life doesn’t slow down to give you the chance to find the right way to pick yourself up. This is especially true for royalty.“My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand,” Harry said,“refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help?[I thought] it’s only going to make you sad, it’s not going to bring her back.”
Harry chose to not open up or receive counseling until he reached his breaking point. The Prince claimed that during royal engagements, he would often be hit by waves of emotion, even a desire to punch someone. Many people assumed his time fighting in Afghanistan had traumatized him, or that it was the stress of royal life. Yet Harry knew it was neither of these things. Eventually, Harry’s brother, Prince William, suggested that he reach out to therapists.
By talking with professionals, Harry realized that the grief that he failed to process 20 years ago was still inside him, wreaking havoc. “[I] started to have a few conversations and actually all of a sudden, all of this grief that I have never processed started to come to the forefront and I was like, there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with.”
Harry appears to be doing much better since opening up about his emotions. He’s taken up boxing to let out his frustrations, and he has learned to better use friends and family as a support system. Harry and William even held an event this past August to honor their mother on the 20th anniversary of her death. Harry has also shown an admirable urge to spread mental-health awareness. Together with William and Kate, William’s wife, Harry created Heads Together, a mental-health advocacy group that has partnered with various charities and hosted some major events.
I now have the utmost respect for Harry. Over the last few years, he has taken his mental health into his own hands. He’s opened up to friends and family—and to the world!—sought professional help, and has looked for ways to help other people who suffer from mental-health concerns.
Earlier this year, I lost my grandmother. Her death was unexpected, and it dealt a very heavy blow to my family. However with academics and personal obligations piling up, I decided that the best way to deal with my grief was to avoid it. I was afraid to come to terms with reality, so I buried myself in responsibilities, always telling myself, “I’ll grieve when I have time.” Friends began to notice something was wrong with me. But unwilling to face the music, I pushed them away. Thankfully, they were stubborn, and they eventually convinced me to open up. Doing so has helped me tremendously in dealing with my grief constructively.
We all experience deep loss at some point. No matter your background, it always hurts. But even when tragedy strikes, the world doesn’t slow down, and it’s up to you to keep up. It seems like the logical choice, but really it’s just the easier one. It’s easier to pretend you’re being mature by running away from your emotions. Yes, it’s terrifying to open up about these things; it’s also necessary. Whether it’s family, friends, or even a professional counselor, there’s always someone you can turn to.
“I can’t encourage people enough to just have that conversation,” said Harry,“because you will be surprised firstly, how much support you get and secondly, how many people literally are longing for you to come out.” How right he is.