‘I ignored my mum’s death, just like Prince Harry’ – BBC News

Image copyright AFP

Prince Harry has revealed he sought counselling after coming close to a “complete breakdown” while struggling to deal with the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

His revelation has led others to share their experiences of how they coped with losing a parent at a young age.

Here they tell their stories.


Kathryn Watson, 33, from Newcastle, lost her mum, Heather, to lymphoma cancer when she was 19.

Image copyright Kathryn Watson
Image caption Kathryn (right) struggled with anger after her mum, Heather (left), died from cancer

“My mum was ill for about 18 months and it was really quite sudden. She went from being an outgoing person to simply not being there.

“I dealt with her death badly. I went straight into doing the logistical stuff and, because of my age, there was a lot of pressure from people for it not to affect my life.

“I found I lost quite a few friends because they didn’t know how to cope with me. I was so busy trying to be ‘normal’, you don’t know how to talk to people.

“When I read Prince Harry’s story I thought that’s exactly how I felt. You just keep going and everybody else forgets about it.

“Over the years I completely ignored my mum’s death. Life gets back to normal and no-one talks about it.

Image copyright Kathryn Watson
Image caption Kathryn says counselling helped her deal with the grief of losing her mum

“What really spoke to me was Prince Harry talking about his anger. I felt that a lot. I turned to the gym and exercise and running.

“What also really touched me was that the age at which we dealt with it was the same.

“When I got to 28 and 29 I thought ‘I can’t keep going on with this’. It’s the realisation it’s not going to fade.

“Now, I’m able to open up and work through my grief. I think it is a maturity thing.

“Counselling has brought me to a good place. It’s about finding the right counsellor for you – it’s so important.

“I feel relieved and a lot calmer. I still have bad days but I now know if I’m going into one it will pass and I know who to contact and who to talk to.

“It doesn’t seem so overwhelming or daunting now.”


Andy Savage, 37, from Nantwich, Cheshire, was 12 when his mum, Diane, died from a blood clot in her lung.

Image copyright Andy Savage
Image caption Andy, pictured with his mum, Diane, says he is not the person he would have been if she had stayed alive

“It was completely out of the blue. I was 12 at the time, my younger brother was nine and my sister was six. They were taken into care, our family was split up.

“We had been the typical little family back then. My dad couldn’t cope afterwards, his grief was as big as ours.

“You lose several things when you lose your mum. You lose someone very close to you but you also lose the person who takes care of you. There’s a mixture of emotions.

“I can’t think of anything that decimates someone’s life more as a kid than taking their mum away from them.

“There was a lot of anger for me personally. It messes up your life in a lot of different ways. I dropped out of school, didn’t really get an education and didn’t look after myself too well.

Image copyright Andy Savage
Image caption Andy, pictured with step-daughter Emily, says that, like Prince Harry, he had a chaotic period after losing his mum

“It’s only looking back now, that I realise it was linked to my mum’s death. I know I’m not the person I would’ve been if she had stayed alive.

“Like Prince Harry, I had that chaotic period. I went off the rails in my late teens because I didn’t have any guidance, I did what I wanted to do. I burnt myself out quite quickly.

“I think it’s vital you find something in life that’s your passion, whether it’s sport or a hobby – something to give your life meaning.

“I was lucky that social services were there and they provided counselling sessions. For me it was massively beneficial, but not everyone’s a talker.

“As Harry said, venting at someone, letting it all out has got to be a good thing. It helps you make sense of what’s happened.”


Susan Steel, 55, from Hull, lost her dad, Gerry, who suffered from hypercholesterolemia, at the age of 12.

Image copyright Susan Steel
Image caption Susan’s dad Gerry – pictured with her at the beach in 1963 – died at the family home after a long illness

“My dad had been unwell for quite some time. On the day he died he’d come out of hospital and I remember coming out of school and seeing him in the passenger seat.

“For the first time I thought that’s not my dad. He was shrivelling away.

“That evening my mum was in the kitchen and me and my sister were watching the 9 O’Clock news with my dad.

“We heard a clatter and the table turned over and we turned around and his eyes were rolling. I charged out screaming, I knew what had happened. I never saw him again.

“Now I can’t really remember him. I think a lot of it you block out.

“I saw a child psychiatrist at the time because I wouldn’t go to school. I had separation anxiety from my mum. I didn’t understand it at the time.

“I couldn’t concentrate at school and I didn’t do very well in my A-levels. I couldn’t eat either and lost loads of weight.

Image copyright Susan Steel
Image caption Susan, pictured with her husband Martin, sought counselling for panic attacks in her adult life

“It did affect everything but I didn’t really realise at the time it might be related to losing my dad.

“I avoided relationships and when I met my husband I started to have panic attacks and that’s when I started to see a counsellor. That’s when I understood it.

“I had a mistrust of men, I feared my husband would leave me.

“I had a really good GP who recognised it was connected to my dad and sent me to a counsellor.

“You do bottle it up. You don’t go there. Counselling is not an easy option, it’s very painful.

“But I remember coming home and I would feel really free. It really did help, without a shadow of a doubt.”


National charity Cruse Bereavement Care offers advice and support on dealing with the death of a loved one. For more information visit www.cruse.org.uk.

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