Meghan Markle has penned down a much necessary ode to this extraordinary year, which has resonated with women and men world over that are struggling to make sense of the collective grief that is upon us today. Her essay for the New York Times to mark this year’s Thanksgiving is as deeply personal, as it is abjectly universal. The tragedies we have witnessed this year are unprecedented – exacerbated by not just the Covid, but also by the racial strife and purposeless political leadership.
It is as though to imagine we might be losing hope, the biggest tool at our disposal to heal ourselves. And yet, Meghan, within and outside of her role as member of a royal family, has risen to the occasion with an essay that has recorded the gists of this much despised year, and also has provided a way to look forward to, built upon the year’s biggest lessons themselves. She uses anecdotes of her own failings, and of her own realizations; she offers clues into resolving the existential crisis of our times – are we going to be OK? And she builds a narrative to forcefully imply, we shall.
It is not an easy answer, and certainly not a scientific one. But she says it emphatically, nonetheless. Below are a few paragraphs to help us grasp the source of her optimism, which hopefully rest of us share, at least in some degrees.
This year has brought so many of us to our breaking points. Loss and pain have plagued every one of us in 2020, in moments both fraught and debilitating. We’ve heard all the stories: A woman starts her day, as normal as any other, but then receives a call that she’s lost her elderly mother to Covid-19. A man wakes feeling fine, maybe a little sluggish, but nothing out of the ordinary. He tests positive for the coronavirus and within weeks, he — like hundreds of thousands of others — has died.
A young woman named Breonna Taylor goes to sleep, just as she’s done every night before, but she doesn’t live to see the morning because a police raid turns horribly wrong. George Floyd leaves a convenience store, not realizing he will take his last breath under the weight of someone’s knee, and in his final moments, calls out for his mom. Peaceful protests become violent. Health rapidly shifts to sickness. In places where there was once community, there is now division.
On top of all of this, it seems we no longer agree on what is true. We aren’t just fighting over our opinions of facts; we are polarized over whether the fact is, in fact, a fact. We are at odds over whether science is real. We are at odds over whether an election has been won or lost. We are at odds over the value of compromise.
That polarization, coupled with the social isolation required to fight this pandemic, has left us feeling more alone than ever.
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.
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.