A year ago, a reporter asked Meghan Markle a simple question: “Are you OK?”
“And the answer,” he gently coaxes, “would it be fair to say, ‘Not really OK? It’s been a struggle?'” Meghan, choking up, replies with a yes. It’s a moment that made me — like so many other mothers — feel seen, as the Duchess of Sussex laid bare those painful, delicate first months of new parenthood.
True, while so many of us can’t possibly imagine the pressures of Meghan’s unique (and privileged) situation, her candor and openness, the way her voice breaks, made me, made us, feel like we knew a little bit about the boat she was in. And in some ways, knowing that our pain is so similar made us feel less alone.
Now, in a gorgeous and moving new opinion piece for the New York Times, the 39-year-old returns to that moment. And she brings it around full circle, sensitively and wisely probing at the ways we are all not OK right now. She addresses the difficulties of the pandemic and the challenges of this politically divided moment, and she also opens up about her own personal pain — revealing the miscarriage she experienced in July of this year.
In the essay, Meghan — who along with her husband, Prince Harry, stepped down from her role a senior royal earlier this year — recalls how much that question from Bardby meant to her, and how she thought of it after her miscarriage: “Sitting in a hospital bed,” she recounts, “watching my husband’s heartbreak as he tried to hold the shattered pieces of mine, I realized that the only way to begin to heal is to first ask, ‘Are you OK?'”
And once again, her words make all of us who feel broken by the pandemic, those of us who are not OK, feel seen — reminding us how we all need that question sometimes. We need to ask it, to be asked it, to truly listen, and be listened to when we respond.
Meghan notes the ways the pandemic and the polarized political reality in this country have made us all feel so very alone, and she touches on how both coronavirus and racial injustice have shattered so many lives in this country, including the lives of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
She also breaks down the way a candid answer to that question, “Are you OK?,” can still feel taboo for those of us who have experienced a miscarriage — despite it being an all-too-common phenomenon.
“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,” she writes. “Yet despite the staggering commonality of this pain, the conversation remains taboo, riddled with (unwarranted) shame, and perpetuating a cycle of solitary mourning.”
We are all going through so much right now. And it’s hard to stop and ask another person if they’re OK when you feel like you’re barely holding it together yourself — after all, the stresses of pandemic parenting, of personal and national grief, are just so relentless.
Yet, Meghan rightfully urges us to “commit to asking others, ‘Are you OK?'”
“We are adjusting to a new normal where faces are concealed by masks,” she reminds us, “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.”
Amen to that, Meghan. And thank you for your candor and your bravery — they make us all feel a little bit more OK.
Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Image