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  • Rachel Burchfield

Finally, my (brutally honest, hard to read) thoughts on Harry and Meghan’s documentary

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

CREDIT: GETTY Harry and Meghan at a roundtable discussion Meghan hosted on gender equality last week.

Maybe it is because I am in the middle of a transitional moment in my life. Maybe it is because I am watching so many of my friends in the middle of one, as well. Maybe it is because, though I don’t have children of my own yet, I have watched nearly all of my closest girlfriends become mothers and have seen the toll that takes, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Maybe it is because I am a human being that believes in unrestricted, uninhibited kindness. Whatever it is, Meghan (and Harry) in the ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey really struck a chord with me. So much so that it has taken me over a week after first seeing the documentary on October 20 to put words down on paper, and even the words I am putting down aren’t likely going to do what’s in my heart justice.

If you know one thing about me, it’s that I believe in love. And, as a byproduct of that, I believe that sometimes we have to sacrifice for what we want most in our lives. Meghan, who obviously also believes in love, has made so many sacrifices for her “H” – the nickname we learned she calls Harry in the documentary – that it is staggering. Moving from her home country of the United States. Giving up a lucrative acting career and a blog that brought her joy. Leaving behind her family and friends. But, most damaging, giving up her privacy and the right to be seen as a human being, not an object that is an open invitation for daily public beatdowns – especially from the media.

Look, obviously I love the British Royal Family. I think about this Family every single day and I report on them nearly as much. I grew up with this Family and have followed their goings ons since I was a little girl. But I have got to tell you – the “stiff upper lip” culture of this Family is extremely unhealthy, bordering on toxic. As the daughter of two mental health professionals and as a proud therapy attendee myself, I can tell you confidently that this Family’s emotional makeup is extremely skewed. I revere the Queen just as much as the next person, but the pattern she has set for her Family is simply not sustainable. Her stuff emotions down, ignore emotions, push emotions to the side, refuse to be seen as a human being patterns are, quite frankly, impossible. After the death of Diana – whom the upper eschelons of the Royal Family despised because she went against the “never complain, never explain” mantra the Firm holds so dear and dared to be the vibrant human being that she was, both good and bad – both William and Harry suffered exponentially more than they should have because, in addition to the trauma of losing their mother so suddenly and so violently at such a young age, there were no means afforded to them within the Family to deal with their grief. Stuff it down. Ignore it. Push it to the side. You are (at the time) second and third in line to the throne. You’re not human. You’re Royalty. And, never being given the proper tools to handle the very human emotion of grief, they both dealt with the loss in different ways, but both unhealthily so. It’s why both William and Harry are such proponents today of mental health awareness. I am still so completely devastated it took the loss of Diana to perpetuate this change in the younger generations of the Family, but so thankful that the next generation of Royal children will not be raised in that toxic “stiff upper lip” culture. Even had she lived, I believe Diana’s influence would have caused this shift in her sons, but especially because she died, it was brought even more to the fore.

One would think we all would have learned something from Diana’s death; to allow these human beings to be human beings and not objects. We as a public and as a media did pretty well with Kate in letting her be a Royal yet have her space; we have terribly failed Meghan and the inevitable cracks are beginning to show. I have written about this so many times on the blog that it seems mundane to keep repeating it, but what we are doing to Meghan is untenable, not sustainable, and, as she said in the documentary, unfair. And Harry and Meghan are so in love that, before they let this wreck their marriage – which it very well could if left untended – they will simply bow out of public life altogether, as they soon will be for the rest of 2019. Harry, as the spare, is expected but not expressly required (as William is as the heir) to participate in Royal life. All of the Queen’s four children are active, working Royals, but none of them face even a portion of the scrutiny that Meghan has in just under 18 months of being in the Family. I mean, my God, no one is talking about Andrew’s alleged dalliances with Jeffrey Epstein, but people can’t stop talking about how Meghan hasn’t lost the baby weight. I’m sorry, but give me a fucking break. Meghan has done nothing to deserve the vitriol and hatred that has been spewed her way by the public, most especially the British press, and I still don’t believe she is being supported as fully as she can be by the Family. It’s no wonder her friends warned her about marrying Harry. Even if he is the love of her life (which he obviously is), it’s almost too much of a burden to bear for her, or for anyone.

And that’s not even adding in the fact that Meghan is just shy of six months postpartum. That takes this – as I call it – barrage of bullshit from annoying to cruel. Again, I am not yet a mother so I can’t fully empathize, but I have been with my friends in their first days of motherhood, where they haven’t slept more than 45 minutes at a time – if they’re lucky – in weeks and where their lives have been so turned upside down by the birth of their child (albeit beautifully) that they have no time to eat, go to the bathroom, or shower, and they are especially sensitive – 1,000 times more so than normal. Some women sink into a depression that, outside of being postpartum, would not occur. Every mother – I don’t care who you are – struggles to a degree. Some struggle even more. And in this sensitive time for Meghan – who is Royalty, yes, but who is a human being, lest we all forget – the hammer comes down even more. Criticism. Every. Single. Day. And, per the documentary, no one apparently asking her if she is okay.

Royal Family, you can do better than this. Beyond that, you should do better than this.

Because at the end of the day, yes, you are “The Firm” and a business, but you are a family. And Meghan is a part of it now. And she needs more than Harry to help her transition not only into this new role of being a Royal but into this new role of being a mother. And she deserves respect, and respect begins in the palace walls.

I walked into writing this blog with no outline. No plan. And it shows. But my final thoughts are this – the Royal Family must do better. The media must do better. The public must do better. We all must do better. In how we treat Meghan (and everyone), in what our expectations are of her as a person (she’s human), and in how we handle trauma, grief, stress, and mental illness. I have said many times on The Duchess Commentary that the Sussexes are capable of doing such good work, but will never be able to realize their full potential as long as they are being treated the way they currently are. Case in point, the southern Africa trip documented in Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, which was good, but could have been great had this monkey not been on their backs.

We all must heed the words of Harry and Meghan in this documentary and respect their mental health, privacy, and boundaries and allow them to be not just Royalty but human beings, or I can almost promise you that they will leave London for Canada, Africa, or the United States and we’ll be very sorry that we didn’t afford them the opportunity to be living, breathing human beings instead of punching bags for the entire world.

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