LONDON — Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, revealed in a deeply personal essay in The New York Times Opinion section on Wednesday that she had miscarried her second child with Prince Harry in July, bringing light to an experience shared by many grieving families who often suffer in silence.
The steep challenges of 2020 — the coronavirus pandemic, racial protests, political polarization in a nasty election year in the United States — have “brought so many of us to our breaking points,” she wrote. Her modest step toward healing, she said, was in asking if people are OK, as a journalist famously asked her last year.
Experts who help grieving parents immediately praised her decision to share her story, saying it would help break a persistent cultural taboo over talking about miscarriages and baby loss.
“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,” Meghan wrote. “Yet despite the staggering commonality of this pain, the conversation remains taboo, riddled with (unwarranted) shame, and perpetuating a cycle of solitary mourning.”
The essay went into visceral detail about her painful experience, both physically and emotionally. In July, she felt a sharp cramp and dropped to the floor while holding Archie, the couple’s 1-year-old child, and immediately sensed that “something was not right,” she wrote.
“Hours later, I lay in a hospital bed, holding my husband’s hand,” she wrote. “I felt the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears. Staring at the cold white walls, my eyes glazed over. I tried to imagine how we’d heal.”
She was the latest public figure to speak openly about the grief of miscarriage, a topic that many struggling parents find difficult to talk about.
In October, model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen wrote about her experience on Medium. Meghan McCain, a host of “The View,” shared hers in July 2019. Beyoncé, the superstar pop singer, has spoken about her multiple miscarriages.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, said in 2016 that she had lost a baby in 2011. In the royal family, Zara Tindall, the queen’s granddaughter, said in 2018 she had suffered two miscarriages.
Leaders of three charities that offer support to parents after miscarriages said Wednesday that they see significant spikes in people seeking help whenever a public figure speaks out. Losing a child is often an isolating experience, and the attention public figures bring to the subject makes people feel less alone, they said.
“People suddenly admit to themselves and others that they’re hurting and they’re in pain,” said Zoe Clark-Coates, chief executive of the Mariposa Trust, a London-based charity.
Experts say the taboo is narrowing as more people speak out, but there remains a stigma that halts discussion. Going through the experience alone, or with a small circle of friends and family, tends to increase symptoms of depression and anxiety.
That effect has been magnified during the isolation required in a coronavirus pandemic, said Clea Harmer, chief executive of Sands, a London-based charity. Demand for support services has increased during the pandemic, with people less able to meet up with loved ones for companionship.
“It’s made a really sad and devastating experience even worse and even more difficult,” she said.
Many parents are turning to social media, either publicly or in closed Facebook groups, said Ruth Bender Atik, national director of the Miscarriage Association, which offers support services in the United Kingdom. She said that Meghan was “generous” to share her experience, and that the resulting discussion would help many people.
“It can be very validating for people to hear the kind of feelings they’ve experienced are experienced by other people, too — no matter what their status is,” she said.