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Prince Harry lost his mother Princess Diana when he was just 12

Celebrities Coping with Loss

by Legacy Staff

Fame and fortune can buy many things, but they don’t exempt you from loss and grief. Many celebrities have been through the pain that comes with losing a family member or close friend, and in some cases, they’ve spoken out about what they went through in the wake of their loved one’s death. From words of advice for others who are grieving to memories of raw grief, these are the words of celebrities who have experienced loss.

Sheryl Sandberg: “I want to choose life and meaning”

Getty Images / Scott Olson

After Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg (1967–2015), she did what any Facebook executive would do: she shared her grief online. In a poignant Facebook post that went viral, Sandberg wrote:

“I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well. But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning…”

The Facebook COO then wrote a book, “Option B,” and started a campaign to help people be resilient in the face of adversity.


View Dave Goldberg’s obituary

Queen Latifah: “live your life to the maximum”

Getty Images / WireImage / Johnny Nunez

When her mother, Rita Owens, died March 21, 2018, Queen Latifah posted this touching tribute: “Anyone that has ever met her knows what a bright light she was on this earth. She was gentle, but strong, sweet, but sassy, worldly but pragmatic, a woman of great faith and certainly the love of my life… I am heartbroken but know she is at peace.” Latifah’s brother Lancelot Jr. was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1992. Afterwards she told More magazine, “If the person who you lost loved you like you loved them, there’s no way they would not want you to live your life to the maximum, to appreciate it, to go for your dreams, go for your goals.”

View Rita Owens’ obituary

Prince Harry: “I intuitively know what my mother would like me to do”

Getty Images / Georges De Keerle

Prince Harry opened up in 2017 about losing his mother, Princess Diana (1961–1997) 20 years earlier, telling Newsweek:

“My mother died when I was very young. I didn’t want to be in the position I was in, but I eventually pulled my head out of the sand, started listening to people and decided to use my role for good… I intuitively know what my mother would like me to do and want to progress with work she couldn’t complete.”

Read more about Princess Diana

Michael Jordan: “I just kept my head high and looked at the good of it”

Jordan was close to his father and was devastated after his 1993 murder. He sat down with Oprah Winfrey a few months later and talked about his dad:

“He saw my last game. That’s the greatest gratification I could have.”

According to Glamour UK, Jordan said of his father’s passing:

“It was a very difficult moment for me and somehow I just kept my head high and looked at the good of it — the time that we used to spent [together] and the education that he gave me. I thought about all the things that he used to say to me like turn a negative into a positive, and here I was dealing with him in that way. It was tough.”

Liam Neeson: “You just get this profound feeling of instability”

Getty Images / AFP / Max Nash

Neeson talked with Anderson Cooper in 2014 about losing his wife Natasha Richardson (1963–2009):

“It hits you. It’s like a wave. You just get this profound feeling of instability. The Earth isn’t stable anymore and then it passes and it becomes more infrequent, but I still get it sometimes.”

Read more about Natasha Richarson

Mary Tyler Moore: “‘You take care of him,’ I screamed at the sky”

Everett Collection

Moore (1936–2017) wrote in her autobiography, “After All,” about scattering the ashes of her son Richard:

“It was a sunny day. The water was clear and high as I knelt over it. I opened the container and emptied it into the rushing water. What was meant to be a prayer became an outraged demand. ‘You take care of him,’ I screamed at the sky.”

Read more about Mary Tyler Moore

Keanu Reeves: “Grief changes shape, but it never ends”

Getty Images / NBC / Peter Kramer

After Reeves lost his infant daughter Ava, who was stillborn, and 18 months later Ava’s mother, Jennifer Syme, who was killed in an accident, Reeves told Parade magazine:

“Grief changes shape, but it never ends.… All you can do is hope that grief will be transformed and, instead of feeling pain and confusion you will be together again in memory, that there will be solace and pleasure there, not just loss.”

Joe Biden: “Folks, it can and will get better”

AP Photo

Biden (second from right) spoke to the families of fallen U.S. troops about the experience of losing his wife, Neilia (center), and daughter, Naomi:

“Folks, it can and will get better. There will come a day — I promise you, and your parents as well — when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen.”

In 2015, Biden shared his grief journey with the public once again when his son Beau Biden (1967–2015) died of brain cancer.

View Beau Biden’s obituary

Michelle Williams: “She will be brought up in the best memories of him”

Heath Ledger (1979–2008) and Michelle Williams were separated at the time of his death, but that didn’t make her grief any less real.

“My heart is broken. I am the mother of the most tender-hearted, high-spirited, beautiful little girl who is the spitting image of her father. All that I can cling to is his presence inside her that reveals itself every day. His family and I watch Matilda as she whispers to trees, hugs animals, and takes steps two at a time, and we know that he is with us still. She will be brought up in the best memories of him.”

Read more about Heath Ledger

Katie Couric: “Be as honest as you can with your children”

Couric told the New York Post how she helped her children cope with their father, Jay Monahan:

“Talk about [the loved one who has died]. Tell the children how proud that person would be of them. Be as honest as you can with your children: Listen and talk to them about their fears and concerns.”

Patrick Swayze: “honor their spirit for as long as you live”

Getty Images / Nancy R. Schiff

In his autobiography, “The Time of My Life,” Swayze (1952–2009) wrote about how he honored his father and sister after their deaths:

“When those you love die, the best you can do is honor their spirit for as long as you live. You make a commitment that you’re going to take whatever lesson that person or animal was trying to teach you, and you make it true in your own life. … It’s a positive way to keep their spirit alive in the world, by keeping it alive in yourself.”

Read more about Patrick Swayze

Jennifer Hudson:

Getty Images / AFP / Gerard Burkhart

In 2009 Hudson tragically lost her mother Darnell Donerson, brother Jason Hudson, and nephew Julian King. She talked in a 2014 interview with The Guardian about grief, healing, and honoring her family:

“I was thinking how could I find something in all this that would make my mother proud of me. My sister and I lost three family members and we both wanted to find a way that we would not dread every birthday and holiday and family occasion again. I wanted my sister to celebrate Julian’s birthday again, so we created Hatch Day, where we go around together giving local schools supplies that they need. And she looks forward to shopping for that, like she used to look forward to shopping for his birthday presents. My nephew was super into education — he used to call himself Dr King. She can pour his blessings on to these kids and keep his memory alive.”

View the Hudson family obituary

Robert Downey Jr.: “Call your mother”

Getty Images / FilmMagic / Michael Tran

Downey poured his heart out to Facebook followers after his mother’s death, writing a tribute far beyond what her newspaper obituary said. He spoke to the reality of his relationship with his mom:

“If anyone out there has a mother, and she’s not perfect, please call her and say you love her anyway.”

Ryan O’Neal: “It’s harder than I thought”

Getty Images / Express Newspapers

O’Neal talked about partner Farrah Fawcett (1947–2009) on “The Today Show” after her passing:

“I hear her voice, I see her silhouette. I miss her cooking. I haven’t had a good meal since she left me. It’s harder than I thought.”

Read more about Farrah Fawcett

Kelsey Grammer: I “cherish this presence in my life that is still my sister”

Getty Images / Jemal Countess

Oprah Winfrey interviewed Grammer and the subject turned to his sister Karen, who was murdered in 1975. Winfrey asked, “Do you ever get over it?” Grammer’s reply:

“No. But you put it in context of your life. I’ve tried since to … just cherish this presence in my life that is still my sister, that is still around.”

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