Prince Harry and Prince William Open Up About Mother’s Death

“I’ve spent most of my life saying I’m fine,” said Prince Harry in a candid interview with The Telegraph. To him, just saying he’s fine was much easier than going into the dark details.

After admitting his nervousness for the conversation with Bryony Gordon, the 32-year-old proceeded to dive into the long 20 years of his life during which he pretended he was OK.

Prince Harry lost his mother, Princess Diana, in a car crash in 1997. At the age of 12, he grew up in the public eye while pushing his inner unrest aside.

Being so young when the incident occurred, he said, led to a period of “total chaos.”

In the podcast interview published Sunday, he spoke honestly about mental health issues and about the journey, including the two years of his life when everything came crashing down.

As a typical person in his 20s, Prince Harry said he went around convincing himself that life was great.

“My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to give up my mom because why would that help? It’s only going to make you sad. It’s not going to bring her back,” he said.

After a few conversations down the road, however, grief that he had never processed before came to the forefront.

“I was like, there’s actually a lot of stuff here I need to deal with,” he said.

He mentioned being stuck in certain situations that would generate a fight-or-flight response. He also talked about aggression and how turning to boxing helped manifest it elsewhere.

The prince finally decided to seek professional help at the age of 28. In the interview, Prince Harry described how the painful process of grief and loss only came to rest after he sought help.

“I can safely say that losing my mum 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 also my work as well,” he said.

He admitted he was on the verge of a total mental breakdown multiple times, but it was his brother, the Duke of Cambridge, who stepped in.

“He kept saying this is not right, this is not normal, you need to talk to someone about stuff, it’s OK.”

Now the prince believes he is “in a good place.”

“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.

Prince Harry met with Gordon for her new podcast, Mad World, to promote Heads Together, a mental health charity that he launched with his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It strives to help people admit they need help and get past the fear of judgement from peers.

Update (April 19, 2017): Prince Harry’s brother, Prince William, is also opening up about the loss of his mother. In a new BBC documentary, Mind Over Marathon, the Duke of Cambridge revealed he is still in “shock” following Princess Diana’s death.

“I still have shock within me—people say it can’t last that long but it does,” he said in the documentary, which airs on Thursday. “The shock is the biggest thing [which] I still feel 20 years later, about my mother.”

He added, “You never get over it, it’s such an unbelievably big moment in your life that it never leaves you. You just learn to deal with it.”