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Prince William comforts mum who lost her baby and husband



  • Prince, 34, bonded with Rhian Burke, 39, over their shared experience of grief
  • Mrs Burke's baby son died from pneumonia and her husband died five days later
  • She has two surviving children and asked the prince whether they would be OK 
  • In a touching moment, he replied: 'With a mum like you they'll be absolutely fine'

By Steph Cockroft and Charlie Moore For Mailonline

Published: 10:33 BST, 19 April 2017 | Updated: 13:05 BST, 19 April 2017

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Prince William comforted a bereft mother whose baby son and husband died within days of one other as he opened up about his own grief over Diana's death.

In a touching moment shown on camera, the future king bonded with Rhian Burke over their shared experience of loss, assuring her that her surviving children would be 'absolutely fine' with 'a mum like her'. 

The mother-of-three lost her 12-month-old son - who shared the name George with William's son - in February 2012 after he contracted pneumonia and a form of swine flu.

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Prince William comforted a bereft mother who lost her baby and husband within days of one other while opening up about his own grief following his mother's death
Prince William comforted a bereft mother who lost her baby and husband within days of one other while opening up about his own grief following his mother's death

Prince William comforted a bereft mother who lost her baby and husband within days of one other while opening up about his own grief following his mother's death

Rhian Burke lost her 12-month-old son George February 2012 after he contracted pneumonia and a form of swine flu. Days later, her husband Paul, 33, plunged to his death from a bridge
Rhian Burke lost her 12-month-old son George February 2012 after he contracted pneumonia and a form of swine flu. Days later, her husband Paul, 33, plunged to his death from a bridge

Rhian Burke lost her 12-month-old son George February 2012 after he contracted pneumonia and a form of swine flu. Days later, her husband Paul, 33, plunged to his death from a bridge

Days later, her grief-stricken husband Paul, 33, plunged to his death from a motorway bridge. He had been suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of his son’s death.

In a conversation which was filmed for a BBC1 documentary Mind Over Marathon, Mrs Burke, who has two surviving children Holly, nine, and Isaac, eight, asks the prince: 'You were obviously a little bit older than my children [when Diana passed away], but I obviously worry about them growing up, they'll be OK won't they?'

William then replies: 'With a mum like you they'll be absolutely fine. That's true, they will be. Because you're aware of all this, you're already a step ahead.

'You try and understand your emotions a lot more than probably someone who's lived their life without issues. It's explaining to them what those emotions mean, why they feel like they do.' 

The father-of-two then drew on his own experience as he continued to reassure Mrs Burke.

'Once you start rationalising it, and understand, "I'm really angry and really upset about something," then you can, I think, relativise it and deal with it,' he told her.

'You being there for Holly and Isaac is the most important thing because you'll provide the blanket of stability and understanding they need.

'I can't tell you enough, you doing this is an incredibly big, positive step, and I really hope it brings you what you need.'

Their conversation appears in the two-part documentary Mind Over Marathon, which follows a group of runners preparing for this weekend's London Marathon who have faced mental health problems. 

Yesterday, at a private screening of the documentary - which is due to air tonight at 9pm - it was clear the exchange had had a profound effect on Prince William. 

After the film was shown, he said: 'Wow. I am speechless, actually, and quite emotional. I'm going to take a moment to calm myself down.' 

Mrs Burke's son George died after contracting pneumonia and a form of swine flu. Her grief-strcken husband Paul (pictured with their son) died five days later after falling from a bridge
Mrs Burke's son George died after contracting pneumonia and a form of swine flu. Her grief-strcken husband Paul (pictured with their son) died five days later after falling from a bridge

Mrs Burke's son George died after contracting pneumonia and a form of swine flu. Her grief-strcken husband Paul (pictured with their son) died five days later after falling from a bridge

After the prince left the screening, Mrs Burke, 39, from Miskin, South Wales, told how she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression after her double bereavement.

She set up a child bereavement charity to help others because she says her family were 'completely abandoned' following the deaths.

Mrs Burke has also said she believed Paul would still be alive if he had received 'immediate trauma counselling' after George died. 

‘Paul and I were made to walk the length of the hospital with the nurse carrying our dead child, watching as other mothers went by with their pushchairs,' she said. 

‘Then we were ushered out without any proper help or advice. That’s when I knew there was a major gap in the system, with nobody taking responsibility for bereavement support.

‘The current bereavement system in the NHS fails to offer any aftercare, particularly for grieving fathers.’  

Despite having an ankle injury which has stopped her from training for the last five weeks, Mrs Burke is running the marathon for the Heads Together campaign, which aims to break down the national stigma of mental health.

The campaign is being spearheaded by William, Harry and Kate.  

Princess Diana is pictured with her two sons William and Harry in 1988 - nine years before her death in a car crash
Princess Diana is pictured with her two sons William and Harry in 1988 - nine years before her death in a car crash

Princess Diana is pictured with her two sons William and Harry in 1988 - nine years before her death in a car crash

Prince William (pictured yesterday) has spoken of the moment he was woken up to be told his mother had died in a car crash 20 years ago, saying: 'The shock never leaves you.'
Prince William (pictured yesterday) has spoken of the moment he was woken up to be told his mother had died in a car crash 20 years ago, saying: 'The shock never leaves you.'

Prince William (pictured yesterday) has spoken of the moment he was woken up to be told his mother had died in a car crash 20 years ago, saying: 'The shock never leaves you.'

William also spoke to Mrs Burke about the moment he found out Diana had died.

The prince, 34, who was 15 and staying with the Queen at Balmoral when his mother died in Paris, said: 'The shock is the biggest thing, and I still feel it 20 years later about my mother.

'People think shock can't last that long, but it does. It's such an unbelievably big moment in your life and it never leaves you, you just learn to deal with it.'    

William then called on the nation to end its 'stiff upper lip' mentality and vowed his own children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, would be encouraged to talk about their own feelings. 

He then added: 'I really think this is a pivotal moment in the change to mental health, and that we are on the cusp of something really big.

'As you can see, I have my own reasons for being involved in mental health, after what happened to my mother when I was younger, but equally the charitable work that I do at the moment and the areas I am involved in, it all comes back to mental health.

'We need to make mental health normal, and we need to treat it in the same way we treat physical health. It has to be seen in the same way.'

Princess Diana with Prince William at the Wimbledon Tennis Ladies Final in 1994
Princess Diana with Prince William at the Wimbledon Tennis Ladies Final in 1994

Princess Diana with Prince William at the Wimbledon Tennis Ladies Final in 1994

Diana was killed when the car carrying herself and Dodi Fayed smashed into a pillar inside a Parisian tunnel in the early hours. Pictured: Diana's funeral in 1997
Diana was killed when the car carrying herself and Dodi Fayed smashed into a pillar inside a Parisian tunnel in the early hours. Pictured: Diana's funeral in 1997

Diana was killed when the car carrying herself and Dodi Fayed smashed into a pillar inside a Parisian tunnel in the early hours. Pictured: Diana's funeral in 1997

Their conversation appears in the two-part documentary Mind Over Marathon, which follows a group of runners preparing for this weekend's London Marathon who have faced mental health problems.

William has not confirmed whether he sought professional help like his brother to deal with his grief, but said yesterday that he had a 'good support network' that had helped him cope.

In the documentary, the Duchess of Cambridge was filmed chatting to one runner, a young mother and former X Factor contestant called Shereece Foster, 24, who has suffered from post-natal depression. The Duchess admitted she found it difficult to find time to run while looking after two young children.

Kate said: 'I don't know how you find the time. You're the heroes really because you're standing up there very bravely telling your stories. We hope to shine a light on people like you, because that's what the public need to hear.'  

Prince William and Prince Harry the sons of Diana, Princess of Wales, bowing their heads as their mother's coffin is taken out of Westminster Abbey following her funeral service
Prince William and Prince Harry the sons of Diana, Princess of Wales, bowing their heads as their mother's coffin is taken out of Westminster Abbey following her funeral service

Prince William and Prince Harry the sons of Diana, Princess of Wales, bowing their heads as their mother's coffin is taken out of Westminster Abbey following her funeral service

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