From Princess Charlotte’s impossibly cute wave to a gospel choir rendition of “Stand by Me,” there were many moments at the royal wedding that gave viewers’ awe-inspired goosebumps. But perhaps the most emotional moment came when Prince Harry wiped away tears while listening to a hymn that was also played at the funeral of his mother, Princess Diana.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 19, 2018
Prince Harry was just 12 in 1997 when his mother died in a car crash in a tunnel in Paris. More than 20 years later, the 33-year-old prince appeared to tear up during the tribute to his mother. The moment was inarguably moving, but what the nearly 30 million people watching (in America alone) may not have realized was that it was one of the few times Prince Harry has actually shed tears over his mom’s death.
— People (@people) May 19, 2018
In the 2017 HBO documentary Diana, Our Mother, Prince William and Harry opened up abut the days and years following her tragic death. But while William appears on the verge of tears during it, Harry does not. “The first time I cried was at the funeral on the island. And only since then maybe once,” says Harry. “So there’s a lot of grief that still needs to be let out.”
The discrepancy between Harry and his brother is one he addressed in the film. “I was so young that I grew up thinking not having a mom was normal. I think it was a classic case of ‘don’t let yourself think about your mom and the grief and hurt that comes with it, because it’s never going to bring her back and it’s only going to make you more sad,’” he says in the film. “People deal with grief in different ways, and my way of dealing with it was basically shutting it out, locking it out.”
Given his lack of tears over her death throughout the years, it was especially significant that he appeared emotional at the wedding. But although the infrequent showing of emotion may seem like a dangerous repression of grief or emotions, an expert on the topic and founder of grief.com David Kessler says it’s the opposite. “That’s what I call a ‘practical griever,’” Kessler tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Those of us who feel highly often look at those people and think they’re delayed or diminished, that they’re not grieving right. But they’re actually grieving perfectly for them.”
As someone who also lost his mother as a young boy, and went on to speak as a grief expert in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death, Kessler is uniquely equipped to weigh in on Prince Harry’s trauma. He says that the tears on Saturday during her tribute were likely driven by a variety of factors. “Our first connection is with our mother, that is always — and often — our deepest connection,” Kessler says. “So when your mother is not at your wedding, her absence is very loud.”
On top of the innate connection we feel to mothers, Kessler — who has written five books on grief —says milestones like a wedding can trigger emotions that are usually kept at bay. “We do have a sense that, if there’s ever moment our mother can show up and watch in on us, it would be our wedding,” he says. “So the mixture of her not being there, but having the feeling that she’s still a part of that moment, how could it not melt that heart?”
While it’s healthy to shed tears for the loss of a loved one, Kessler validates Prince Harry’s process. “That’s how he deals with it, in his time. I think he’s grieving perfectly,” says Kessler. “There will be more milestones. When he first has his own child, for example, I’m sure that’s another moment he’ll feel the absence of his mother again.”
Kessler says that emotional moments will likely crop up again in the coming years. “We often think grief has an ending, but we will forever miss that person,” Kessler tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Hopefully as you grieve you begin to grieve with more love than pain. But it’s not like there will be a day where he’s going to quit missing his mother.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle release first official wedding photos
- Celebrity guests react to ‘sublime and emotional’ royal wedding
- The story behind that viral royal wedding photo