Prince Harry has a message for children grieving the loss of their parents during a deadly year: “I know how you feel.”
In an emotional introduction for a new British children’s book about a child whose mother, an essential worker, dies of COVID-19, Harry opens up about his own grief and experience losing his mother at 12 years old.
“When I was a young boy I lost my mum. At the time, I didn’t want to believe it or accept it, and it left a huge hole inside of me,” Harry wrote, according to excerpts from “Hospital by the Hill” published in the Times of London. “I know how you feel, and I want to assure you that over time that hole will be filled with so much love and support.”
Harry’s mother Diana, the princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being chased by a swarm of paparazzi.
The book will be made free in Britain for children whose parents died as essential workers in the pandemic.
“We all cope with loss in a different way, but when a parent goes to heaven, I was told their spirit, their love and the memories of them do not,” Harry wrote. ” … I find this to be true.”
The prince has previously discussed the death of his mother. He has lamented the way the media treated Diana, who was widely beloved by the general public but hounded by reporters and photographers, and said she was treated as an outsider by the royal family.
In 2017, Harry revealed that he’d gone to therapy to deal with grief. He said he’d come “very close to a complete breakdown” because he’d blocked out his emotions.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired this month, Harry and his wife, Meghan Markel, criticized how Markel has been treated by the royal family and Britain’s tabloid press. Harry told Winfrey his “biggest concern was history repeating itself.”
“I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for (Diana) going through this process by herself all those years ago,” he said. “Because it’s been unbelievably tough for the two of us.”
He said the death of his mother played a role in the couple’s decision to leave England and step back as members of the royal family.
“I certainly felt her presence throughout this whole process,” he told Winfrey.
Chris Connaughton, the author of “Hospital by the Hill,” said he hoped the “story helps make some of the hard and horrible stuff a bit easier.”
“Writing about death is hard. Talking about it can be even harder,” he said on the book’s website.
Britain has one of the highest coronavirus death tolls in the world. The country has lost more than 126,000 people to COVID-19. More than 850 of those deaths have been of health and social workers.
Worldwide, workers on the front lines of fighting the pandemic have contracted the virus at a disproportionate rate. In September the World Health Organization said health care professionals made up 1 in 7 of the world’s coronavirus cases.