After Meghan and Harry’s mind boggling interview with Oprah last week, the chatter about whether people agree or disagree with what was discussed in the interview has blown up social media and the news media at large. I am a big fan of Princess Diana and see how closely Harry’s soul is to hers; in his compassion, in his service to others, and in his dire dedication to his family. I believe she would be proud of him for taking a dip out of royal life to be his own person and to provide a life for his family that she wanted so desperately for hers.
While watching the interview, I couldn’t help but feel empathy for Meghan as some of the situations described felt all too familiar to me as a military spouse. The loneliness, the loss of identity and struggle with it, the culture shock, the loss of certain freedoms, the suicidal ideation, and even the mentioning of discrimination.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and this is mine. I am not condoning nor endorsing all of the issues that came to light from Meghan and Harry’s interview. However, from one mom to another and from one female to another, I cannot help but offer compassion to Meghan and speak to some of the things she is feeling and has been through.
Here are six ways military spouses can empathize with Meghan Markle:
1-Identity– When Meghan described her loneliness in the castle and in her role as the Duchess of Sussex, my heart could not help but to truly understand that feeling. Military spouses join military life with absolutely no guide, no book showing us etiquette, and we are relocated far away from family, friends, and support systems. Oftentimes we have left our careers due to relocation and military life too. A very similar song to the one that Meghan is singing. Loss of identity is so hard and many of us struggle with it constantly. It makes us feel so lonely and alone in military life.
2-You Knew What You Were Getting Into-This is a phrase I loathe and one that I have heard many times as a military spouse and people often use it to refer to Meghan and her hard time adapting to royal life. Does anyone know what they are truly getting into? The answer to that is NO (purposely in all caps). When you start a new job, do you truly know what you are getting into? Do you know the culture right away of the people you will be working with? Do you know how your boss is going to treat you in times of stress? Do you know how life will be as a first time mom? Do you know what you’re getting yourself into when you have a kid? You imagine this perfect baby that sleeps and coos and smiles, but what if you had a baby that was colicky? Did you know motherhood would be so hard? You may have had some idea but the fact is, you truly do not know what life will be like in any capacity until you are in the thick of it and living it. The people who use this terrible phrase as a means of justifying life in a certain way are plain cruel and have no compassion whatsoever.
3-Culture Shock-The pure shock that Meghan felt living in a royal monarchy is very similar to the culture shock military spouses feel upon entering military life. It’s a huge adjustment. Then, moving every 2-3 years adds another whammy of culture shock into the mix. Adjusting can be hard, especially depending on where your family is stationed and how vastly different the place may be from what you are used to.
4-Loss of Freedom-Meghan lost an insurmountable amount of freedoms after marrying Prince Harry. She was stripped of her passport, keys, drivers license, and was not allowed to make her own decisions. Can you imagine what that must have felt like to an independent woman like her? Military spouses feel very similar and isolated during military life too. With the addition of the pandemic in 2020 continuing into this year, the loss of everyday freedoms and loneliness, the isolation military spouses have felt is overwhelming. In addition, adding a child into your family, while so joyful, can also increase the feelings of isolation. This takes a huge toll on a person, royal or not. As a woman and a mother, I can completely understand how Meghan feels.
5-Discrimination-It is hard to fathom that anyone would every question the color of a child’s skin and relate that to their worthiness as an individual and a member of a family. This has absolutely broken my heart as I know it has shattered Harry and Meghan’s for their son Archie. Discrimination is not an easy subject to speak about but it happens in all circles. In addition, military spouses have also faced decades of discrimination in the workforce. While there are plenty of initiatives out there today to help military spouses gain meaningful employment in their fields, many are still underemployed, paid below their education level, and passed up for opportunities by others without a military affiliation.
6-Suicidal Ideation-All of the above mentioned items have a way of negatively impacting the mental health and well being of military spouses. The loss of identity, isolation, lack of compassion, culture shock, and loss of freedom can severely affect the self worth and self esteem of military spouses as I am sure it impacted Meghan in the same way. When your life changes so drastically that you do not even recognize yourself anymore, it can put you in a very dark place and push you to suicidal thoughts. If you or a military spouse you know is having suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately to Military One Source, Cohen Veterans Network, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
While I cannot justify the claims that Meghan and Harry made in their latest interview with Oprah Winfrey, I can offer my utmost compassion. None of us will ever know what truly happened behind the scenes, but kindness and compassion to a woman in clear distress is what we should all be offering up. Meghan, if you’re reading this and looking for that compassionate ear, I can guarantee you that military spouses are your people. We know exactly what you are feeling and going through. We get it and we can empathize with all that you have endured as: an independent woman giving up your life and career for love, as a new mother, and as a woman of color. We can understand the depths of darkness you have been though because we have been right there with you. Thank you for speaking up for yourself, your family, and for all women who have been where you are and couldn’t find the courage or words to speak out about it.
In a world full of harsh judgement, we should all remember that kindness and compassion can go far to another in need. That is what I wish everyone will consider for Harry, Meghan, Archie, and their daughter on the way. If there is anything the world can learn from all of this, it is that strength is developed through some of the most terrible circumstances, but perseverance is possible. If a woman cries out for help with her mental health, answer the call or lead her to resources that can help her now and not later.
© Strength 4 Spouses LLC, 2021.