Prince Harry and Zak Williams’ candid revelation on grieving a famous parent: ‘Isolated’

Prince Harry spoke to Zak Williams as part of the Apple TV+ series The Me You Can’t See, swapping stories of love, grief and moving forward last year. The legendary actor and comedian Robin Williams would have turned 71 today if not for his tragic death in 2014.

Losing a parent can often be a traumatic experience, with grief that seemingly never fades but the situation is vastly different for those under careful watch of the public eye.

In the conversation between Zak and the Prince, they revealed an additional barrier they both faced when grieving the loss of their parents: the global audience.

Both Robin, Zak’s father, and Princess Diana, Harry’s mother, were widely adored and celebrated across the world during their life, and arguably even more so in their death.

Zak shared he found himself “emotionally dysregulated” and found the grieving process “really challenging” at first.

The actor was 31 when his dad died and he struggled to balance public and private grieving.

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He explained: “I really didn’t get a chance to really focus on the private grieving process until a year and a half after my dad passed away.”

Robin Williams died by suicide in 2014 although it was later found that he had been battling the severe neurological disease Lewy body dementia.

The tragic diagnosis would unfortunately only be made post-mortem but the symptoms had been on display for a while.

Months before his death, the actor reportedly found himself consumed by anxiety, paranoia and insomnia and struggled to remember lines which greatly frustrated him.

Shortly following his father’s death, Zak added that he found himself self-medicating with alcohol which was “damaging my relationship with my family”.

He went on to say: “I felt so broken and so isolated.

“I also had to cut out the self-medicating and experience things in the way that I needed to experience them and just feel despite how painful it all felt.”

Zak shared that the already difficult situation was made worse by being thrust into the spotlight: “I found myself really emotionally dysregulated, feeling vulnerable and exposed when I wasn’t ready to be vulnerable. That created a major challenge for me.”

Prince Harry lost his mother to a car accident when he was just 12, but noted that he related to the feeling Zak was describing.

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He added the “shared experience” of watching other people grieve for someone they loved strangely left them “unable to grieve”.

Diana’s death made headlines around the world, with millions of mourners paying tribute to the People’s Princess.

However, young Harry apparently found this disconcerting, sharing: “How are you showing more, more sort of, how are you grieving more for someone who is my parent and I’m unable to grieve myself?”

The royal had also opened up earlier in the series explaining how he had suppressed the emotions around his mother’s passing for years.

He explained that thinking about her made him sad, adding, “What’s the point in thinking about something sad, what’s the point of thinking about someone that you’ve lost and you’re never going to get back again.”

The heartbreaking situation saw Harry eventually finding himself in therapy where he was able to confront and understand his emotions.

The Duke of Sussex later shared he believed Diana would be “incredibly proud” of him and that he now feels “her presence more”.

Harry would go on to speak about his newfound connection with Zak on Good Morning America.

He shared: “The parallel thread between what happened with him at his age and what happened to me at my age, it’s remarkably similar.” 

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