Why Prince Harry’s book ‘Spare’ is Symptomatic of his Grief
Experiencing significant sudden loss in childhood
The public response to Prince Harry’s launch of his ‘tell-all’ book, Spare has been varied, with some praising Prince Harry for his honesty and vulnerability, while others have criticised him for what they see as an attempt to shift blame onto the establishment and the press for their role in Princess Diana's death.
It’s not unusual for people who have experienced significant sudden loss in childhood to feel ongoing anger and blame towards those they perceive as responsible for the loss. Prince Harry's book is a reflection of years of carrying the weight of his loss, as he expresses anger towards the establishment and the press for their role in his mother's death, and how that death was handled in the aftermath.
Moreover, people who have experienced loss might also experience feelings of guilt and isolation as part of their grief, which can be compounded by the feeling of not being believed, or not having a safe space to express their emotions. Prince Harry's book provides an insight into these feelings.
Prince Harry has openly admitted to receiving therapy for many years. From the outside, it might appear that therapy hasn’t worked. He’s continued to make seemingly strange,or irrational decisions, he hasn’t taken responsibility for his actions, he’s angry, sad, punishing his family, and he certainly hasn’t forgiven ‘the establishment’ or the media. He’s married a woman who he has then alienated from the press, set themselves up as victims of the media, and then used the media to slate the media and the establishment.
The death of a parent can be a profound and life-altering experience for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for pre-teens and teenagers. Adolescence is a time when individuals are already navigating significant changes and developing their own identities, and the loss of a parent can have a significant impact on their emotional and psychological well-being.
Some have compared Prince Harry’s behaviour to his brother, Prince William, who appears to have coped far better with his grief. Siblings do grieve differently in the aftermath of such loss, with some appearing to take it in stride, while others display acting out behaviours such as risk-taking or substance use.
Grief is very individual. It’s as individual as the relationship with the person who has died, and it shouldn’t be compared. Personality traits of the individual is also a factor in their reaction to parental loss. Adolescents who are naturally resilient, optimistic, and have good coping skills tend to deal with grief better than their peers. They are more likely to be able to find meaning in their loss and have the capacity to continue to find joy in life. Adolescents who are prone to anxiety or have pre-existing mental health problems may have more difficulties dealing with their grief.
Another factor that might contribute to the different ways they’ve grieved is the level of support and understanding they received from their family and community. Individuals who receive emotional support from their loved ones tend to cope better with the loss, while those who do not may experience more intense grief and may be more likely to engage in risky behaviours. Furthermore, family dynamics also play a role. Siblings may feel that they need to put on a strong front for their remaining parent, and may hide their true feelings as a way of coping. They also might not have the vocabulary to express their feelings, or may not understand why they’re feeling or acting/reacting the way they are.
It's also important to note that grief can manifest in many ways and it's not uncommon for an individual to change how they cope over time, or to experience multiple grief reactions at the same time.
In a lot of ways, it appears that Prince Harry is stuck at age 12. He can appear childlike, and has been unable to move beyond his pain.
If these behaviours sound familiar or you were bereaved of a parent as a child, and you would like support to find purpose in your life going forward, we are here to help. You will be met with empathy and practical strategies to resolve pain that don’t require months of therapy to implement.
Carole has been helping people with significant emotional loss for over 12 years. Having been drawn to her work after the death of her 41 year old husband - and discovering a lack of anything truly helpful for addressing her profound loss. Find out more about Carole here.