Prince Harry has been quite open about the intense trauma that he endured from the death of his mother. He has admitted to undergoing therapy after struggling with debilitating feelings in the aftermath of his loss. He was twelve when Diana died, so he vividly remembers the shock of that moment, but also treasures his recollections of the wonderful mother that she was. Her influence on him is quite apparent and his feelings for her are as strong as ever. Her spirit permeates his life and the choices that he has made.
The death of a parent is difficult regardless of whether it happens when we are adults or children. A sense of being without the very essence of who we are lingers long after the beloved is gone. For a child the suffering often goes unnoticed and untreated because young ones have difficulty expressing the hurt they are feeling. The emotions become internalized in so many varying ways that they are not always apparent. Harry acted out by being a goof ball and sometimes bad boy. He appeared to simply be a silly and rebellious young man, but he was actually reacting to the fears and hurt that he was enduring. Luckily he eventually found the help that he needed and channeled his angst into purposeful pursuits by emulating his mother’s example.
I find myself feeling a kind of spiritual connection with Harry because of our shared experience of losing a parent at a young age. There are many parallels between our stories. His mother died, and for me it was my father. Both of our parents were in car accidents. Both events occurred around the time of a holiday. Harry was twelve and I was eight. We both endured emotions that we didn’t quite understand after the tragedies. Harry became rowdy, and I became shy and withdrawn. Eventually we managed to come to grips with the what had happened and to better understand ourselves and the frightening feelings that had plagued us. Ours were successful journeys that ultimately lead to happiness and dedication to causes that help people, but for so many things do not turn out so well.
I think of my father quite often, and particularly on the anniversary of his death, May 31. I find myself wanting to know him and talk with him as an adult. Instead I have to rely on tidbits of childish conversations that I had with him. I borrow stories from adults who knew him as well. I have painted a picture of him that is admittedly idealized. I know that he had many flaws and I have wondered about them and how they might have impacted me without my ever realizing. I also recall the wonder of him, and know without a doubt that I am very much his daughter. He lives in me, and I see him in my brothers, and children, and grandchildren as well. Through him my ancestry reaches far back into the history of Great Britain just as Harry’s does, although mine is not quite as illustrious. I am an amalgam of many genes and influences, but his reign over me as much as if he had lived to walk me down the aisle and celebrate all of my milestones. I was old enough when he died to know with certainty how he might have reacted to the continuation of my history.
It is the knowledge of my father’s goodness and his love for me that has sustained me whenever I have felt a bit shaky. I suspect that Harry would say the same about his mother. We made it in spite of the horror of losing our parents because they had already undeniably imprinted their undying devotion on us. Once the love of a parent is imparted it becomes a fountain of strength whose healing waters stay with us. It is our shield from all of the terrors of the world. Like Simba in The Lion King we grow to understand that our parent never truly leaves us. Through some cosmic force they become our spiritual guides. We feel their presence, not in a supernatural way, but in our hearts.
The remaining parent and family members also play a critical role in raising a healthy and happy child. My mother filled our home with a strong sense of safety and comfortable routine. She went out of her way to surround us with caring family and friends. She religiously kept us in touch with our paternal grandparents. She often told us tales of our father and remarked whenever we did something that reminded her of him. She kept him very much alive in our minds, so that it sometimes felt as though he had merely gone on a very long journey from which he would soon return. Of course we understood that he was gone forever, but it helped to be able to speak openly of him and sometimes even to cry about him.
A child instinctively responds in a vigorous and healthy way when surrounded by the unselfish love of good parents. While losing one of them leaves a ghastly scar that hurts from time to time, with good memories and the care of those who remain things will ultimately turn out fine. Harry and I are both happy people because we were lucky enough to have a beautiful start in life that did not end with our horrific losses. His mom and my dad had already given us tools and examples that were ours to keep for all time. Theirs was love for all time.