Today the New York Times published in its opinion page a piece written by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. To call it a story about her miscarriage is to dramatically limit the scope of her piece. It’s about grief, compassion, and the dangerous assumption that someone else can always do the caring. It’s also great writing.
Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few. In the pain of our loss, my husband and I discovered that in a room of 100 women, 10 to 20 of them will have suffered from miscarriage. Yet despite the staggering commonality of this pain, the conversation remains taboo, riddled with (unwarranted) shame, and perpetuating a cycle of solitary mourning.
Some have bravely shared their stories; they have opened the door, knowing that when one person speaks truth, it gives license for all of us to do the same. We have learned that when people ask how any of us are doing, and when they really listen to the answer, with an open heart and mind, the load of grief often becomes lighter — for all of us. In being invited to share our pain, together we take the first steps toward healing.
At its heights, grief often feels unconquerable. It feels as if it will never go away—and it rarely does, not entirely. To experience such grief and find in it an opportunity to connect with others, to make them feel less alone, is an act of generosity and bravery in the very best of circumstances. The woman once known as Meghan Markle does not experience grief in the very best of circumstances. For all Meghan’s incredible privilege (and she’s married to Prince Charming, so yeah, privilege) she’s also a woman who’s had abuse endlessly shoveled at her by both certain, deeply shitty segments of both the press and the public. Racism, check. Misogyny, check. Classist garbage, check.
Meghan’s piece is an illustration of the power of empathy. Rather than grieve in isolation, she chooses to share, in hopes that others will feel less alone. That’s a choice that Chrissy Teigen also made last month, in a piece she published to Medium on her own miscarriage. But Meghan connects this loss to other losses people all over the world are experiencing every day. She shares a memory from when she was a teenager and saw a woman weeping on a New York sidewalk, as well as a memorable interview she gave (which went viral) in which the journalist simply asked her if she was okay.
It’s obviously a moment that lingered. Not only does she recount the experience in the story, but it’s also essentially the cornerstone of the argument she makes here. The piece is absolutely worth reading in full, but here’s the moving (and seasonally appropriate!) conclusion:
So this Thanksgiving, as we plan for a holiday unlike any before — many of us separated from our loved ones, alone, sick, scared, divided and perhaps struggling to find something, anything, to be grateful for — let us commit to asking others, “Are you OK?” As much as we may disagree, as physically distanced as we may be, the truth is that we are more connected than ever because of all we have individually and collectively endured this year.
We are adjusting to a new normal where faces are concealed by masks, but it’s forcing us to look into one another’s eyes — sometimes filled with warmth, other times with tears. For the first time, in a long time, as human beings, we are really seeing one another.
Are we OK?
We will be.
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