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Duke of Cambridge recalls loss of mother during hospice visit

Published 24/08/2016

The Duke of Cambridge has shared the experiences of losing his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, while comforting a family who had recently experienced loss.

During a visit to Keech Hospice Care in Luton, William sympathetically rested his hand on the shoulder of Ben Hines, 14, who lost his own mother Alexandra in June 2015 at the age of 40.

Recalling dealing with his bereavement on the eve of the 19th anniversary of Diana's death, William advised Ben and his family to stick together through their grief.

The teenager, who was the youngest of the three brothers that met the royal couple and who suffers from autism, explained to the Duke how he was struggling with the loss.

William said: "As four boys, you have to talk a lot better - we're not good sharers. It's a classic example of lots of talking needed."

Ben then told of some treasured memories of his mother before she died, before saying "I miss her so much".

Resting his hand on the boy's shoulder, William said: "Time makes it easier.

"I know how you feel, I still miss my mother every day and it's 20 years after she died.

"The important thing is to talk about it as a family, it's okay to feel sad, it's okay for you to miss her."

Before leaving the family, whom he met as part of a tour of the hospice as it celebrates its 25th anniversary, William said: "Promise me you will talk to each other."

Thomas Hines, the 20-year-old brother to Ben, replied to William: "I promise, sir."

The Duke of Cambridge rested his hand on Ben's arm once more before standing up.

The Hines family had been receiving post-bereavement care at the hospice following Alexandra's death from a rare form of tumour.

Gary Hines, 48, father to the boys and husband to Alexandra, said of William: "He gave Ben his absolute attention and you could see that it struck a chord with him, he put his hand on Ben's shoulder and told him time's a healer and to stick together and talk."

During a meeting with another family who had been cared for at the hospice, the Duchess of Cambridge - who was accompanying William, gave two children a hug.

Jamie and Ethan Coniam, who are 10 and six, lost their brother Kieran when he was 10 after a battle with cerebal palsy, epilepsy and autism.

The pair presented William and Kate with a "memory jar", to which they can add coloured sand to represent individual memories of a person.

Before they parted company, Ethan asked Kate if he could have a hug.

His mother Fiona said the Duchess replied: "Yes, of course, I love cuddles."

She then offered a hug to his brother as well, which he accepted.

Earlier in the day, the Duke and Duchess had praised the courage of girls who have recovered from mental health difficulties and self-harming during a visit to the Youthscape centre in Luton.

The royal couple had been continuing their drive to raise awareness about mental health with a visit to the newly revamped centre for young people.

Over the past year, the Duke and Duchess have focused much of their public work on promoting the emotional and psychological well-being of children, teenagers and adults.

Earlier, the royal visitors met Holly Keany, 18, and Ellis Jones at the Youthscape centre, listening intently to their stories as they described everything they have been through during their lives.

Miss Jones, also 18, emotionally revealed that she began self-harming after her mother was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

She told the couple that Youthscape helped her cope, especially when her mother died when she was just 14.

William told her: "What happened should never have happened to you and you should never have gone through it.

"The fact you have gone through it and got where you are now, you should be really, really proud."

Kate, who was wearing a blue and white LK Bennett dress, told both girls they were "so courageous" and "strong".

Speaking after the meeting, Miss Jones told the Press Association: "I feel so thankful for what he said, especially because he lost his mum at a similar age."

The Youthscape building at Bute Mills in Luton, Bedfordshire, reopened in April after a £3.2 million revamp.

Founded in 1993, the charity specialises in young people's social, emotional and spiritual development.

It has pioneered projects such as SelfharmUK, which is the only dedicated initiative aimed at helping youngsters understand and recover from self-harm.

During the tour William, an avid Aston Villa fan and president of the Football Association, joined Jermaine Hylton, 17, and Youthscape worker Matt Allen, in a game of Fifa on a computer.

Playing his favourite team against Luton Town, who recently beat Villa, William scored a goal during the match, but one of the boys told him it was offside.

William jokingly said after his celebration: "What? Are you kidding me!"

After unveiling a plaque and officially opening the new building, William and Kate also met staff and users from a service called Chums, which specialises in supporting children and teenagers affected by suicide.

The service handed over two Chums-branded blue elephants, with the names Charlotte and George stitched on their stomachs, as a memento of their visit - after the royal couple heard first-hand accounts of those who had lost loved ones.

They also held discussions about mental health issues with Luton Council of Faiths, the OM Group and Our Minds Matter, as they talked about raising awareness and addressing stigmas in the area and communities.

In a day of engagements across Luton, William and Kate were also heading to manufacturing company Hayward Tyler to open its new development and present the firm with the Queen's Award for Enterprise.

For the day of triple engagements in the Bedfordshire town, Kate wore a white dress decorated with blue poppies from LK Bennett - an outfit she has donned before.

The Duchess wore the same attire while visiting the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base Amberley near Brisbane in 2014.

British actor James Corden, 38, praised his sister, Ruth Ayers, who was photographed with the royal couple during their engagement at the Youthscape centre in Luton.

Corden shared a photograph of Ayers sitting with William and Kate, writing: "Check out my sister @Rudimuller here with some friends! So proud of the work she is doing."

She had earlier tweeted the official Kensington Palace account to express her gratitude following the meeting, writing: "W as amazing to get to chat to The Duke and Dutchess! (sic) What an opportunity to talk about all things Mental Health."

Ayers is reported to be Corden's younger sister.

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