How Prince Harry Coped with Princess Diana’s Death

Although the people lost their princess on Aug. 31, 1997, Prince Harry lost his mother.

Prince HarryPhoto: Everett Collection/Shutterstock

Prince Harry on Princess Diana’s Death

Princess Diana’s tragic death on Aug. 31, 1997 stunned the world—but few were affected like her youngest son, Prince Harry. Two decades after her fatal accident, he opened up about the mental health issues he struggled with as he came to terms with the loss of his mother.

Prince Harry was just 12 when his mother died in a car crash. During the painful years that followed, he stifled his emotions, forcing himself not to think about her as a teenager and into his 20s, he revealed in a candid interview with The Telegraph‘s podcast Mad World. When he finally allowed the grief to finally come to surface, he admits that he came “very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions.”

At 28, Prince Harry’s life felt like “total chaos,” he says. “I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I just didn’t know what was wrong with me.” So in 2014, he finally listened to Prince William’s pleas for him to seek help.

He started by taking up boxing to let out his frustrations. “Everyone was saying boxing is good for you and it’s a really good way of letting out aggression,” he says. “And that really saved me because I was on the verge of punching someone, so being able to punch someone who had pads was certainly easier.”

To be clear, Prince Harry stresses his mental health issues stemmed from his mother’s death, not his time serving in Afghanistan. However, working with a personnel recovery unit in 2015 actually helped him work through his own struggles. As he listened to stories of wounded or sick soldiers’ serious mental health problems, he began to understand his own issues better.

Eventually, he learned to follow their lead and talk about his emotions instead of just beating them out boxing. Coming clean to counsellors and loved ones, he finally addressed those stifled feelings. “[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,” Prince Harry says, “and I was like, there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with.”

Once he started opening up, he realized just how common mental health issues are. In fact, he spearheaded the Heads Together campaign with his brother and sister-in-law, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, to empower people to discuss mental health. “Once you start talking about it, you realize that you’re part of quite a big club…and everybody’s gagging to talk about it,” he says. “I can’t encourage people enough to just have that conversation, because you will be surprised firstly, how much support you get and secondly, how many people literally are longing for you to come out.”

Here’s why William and Harry’s final phone call with Princess Diana still haunts them.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest