Loss of a Twin has Huge Impact

 

Susan Heim, a writer for Chicken Soup For The Soul, asked me to write an article for a twin publication on bereavement geared to the parents of twins. At first it seemed unsuitable for twins to hear about the possibility of an untimely death of their twin. This column appeared in Triplets, Moms and More where families of twins can read about our organization:

The unthinkable can happen. One of your twins or triplets could vanish from your life. During a period of deep grief, how would you console each other and provide support for your surviving twin or triplet?

By addressing this uncomfortable subject, a dual purpose will be served. There is a remarkable connection between twins and other multiples. The link that binds twins together from before birth is crucial to understanding what happens when the bond is broken. It sheds light on what constitutes a twinship.

Mourning the loss of one’s twin can threaten the identity of the surviving twin, especially if separate identities have not yet been formed. Multiples can be helped to foster their own identity, along with their dual identity together as twins. As parents of multiples, great strides have been made in recent decades to encourage individuality along with the development of a close twin relationship.

Bereaved families can find value in support groups that exist for the loss of a twin or other multiples. It is important to know you are not alone. Isolation can become counterproductive to healing. Unfortunately, for years, that is how I felt in my grief. I questioned if I would become whole again without my twin. Knowing that I was still a twin was an insight I learned from doing the work of grieving and being involved with http://www.twinlesstwins.org.

A shared approach to life is something I was born into as a twin. This is hardwired into most twin relationships. Compared to a marriage partnership that starts before birth, twins learn to rely on each other in utero and this continues during their lifetime.

A turning point in my journey involved twin support and the validation I received from other twins who had experienced this loss. I grew as a person and learned to explore the depths of my emotions without judging myself. This encourages healing. 

The goal with any loss is to find peace and some form of healing to progress forward in life with renewed meaning and the ability to feel joy again. This can only be achieved if you let yourself feel the pain from the loss. Society does not make it easy to grieve. Showing sorrow is viewed as a weakness. On the contrary – it takes strength and courage to grieve.

One of the biggest issues we face after a major loss is who will be present to support us in our voyage through grief. As parents of multiples you may never have to journey there in your mind, heart, or soul. Some will face this reality and understanding support people will facilitate their journey.

Contemplating life without our twin or child is unbearable. How would you console your surviving twin or triplet? I hope this article sheds value and meaning on your existing twin relationship or informs a bereaved family that support is available.

When I think back on who was remotely present for me as I started to grieve, it was not necessarily a reflection of their open-mindedness. How much a particular friend or family member can adapt is unpredictable.

The people we think possess this capacity, may not. Many elements enter into the picture. Fear of death, fear of change or fear of contamination can enter into the dynamic of who might be present for the journey through grief. Nothing can be taken for granted and people can vacate your world in an instant simply because their comfort zone has been violated. This is to be expected.

As a vulnerable grieving person, we may not be in a forward thinking mode. Anger is a natural part of the grief experience. I felt anger toward people who could not understand. I gave up explaining what I was feeling and it is dangerous to stop talking.

Feeling isolated and alone, my husband encouraged me to reach out to other twinless twins. A pitfall for me early on was that helpful family members encouraged me to “be there” for my parents because they had lost a child. No one acknowledged the feelings of loss welling up inside of me from suddenly having my other half ripped out of my life.

A twin may become frozen in their grief, waiting for someone to urge them to feel, as I was at the age of 21. At this tender age, my identical twin Paula was an innocent victim of a small plane crash.  Shock took over, and then denial of the tragedy. My ability to repress what I was feeling carried me forward in my life. This instinctive protective mechanism saved me from something I was not prepared to face.

When I faced the grief head-on, Dr. Raymond Brandt was there for me, as the founder of Twinless Twins Support Group International. He was a remarkable man whose humility and compassion taught me lessons in life and loss.

From there I researched bereavement and the nature of the twin relationship. Sharing and building relationships with twins contributed to my healing. I have watched countless families come to conferences and meetings with surviving children as young as three years old. Parents share and the twins drink in each other’s stories of hope, learning from each other. In reality it is no different than the sharing you do within this group.

At a time of total upheaval, you may be called upon to keep your mind open to new people and ideas. Individuals possess the desire to help another. These people have traveled the path of loss and feel the strength of their convictions. They come from many walks of life to stand by another in the spirit of support, which validates their own experience. This is an important concept. Healing comes from helping others.

Communication can be frustrating for grieving parents. Staying open to the myriad of feelings that arise with grief is challenging. Accepting or offering support by linking lives with other twin families who have experienced this loss all contribute to healing.

Never deny or diminish the existence of the child who passed, at any age. You will be promoting healthy grieving by communicating and recalling memories to share and by actively listening. The simple gesture of respecting difficult twin birthdays can move mountains of hope. Remember that a surviving lone twin is struggling to define who they are without their twin.

Expanding your support outreach can be a reciprocally positive move. If you choose to rely solely on family, friends, and neighbors, you could be disappointed. I discovered other twins who have survived the loss of their twin to be an unending source of healing and learning. It is a two-way street and parents benefit as well. People can challenge their own fears or awkwardness by opening their hearts to the bereaved and simply speaking honestly. You can make a difference in someone’s life in this way.

 

 

 

 

Linda Pountney 2011

 

Linda Pountney

More Articles Written by Linda

Linda Pountney is the past Vice President of Twinless Twins Support Group International http://twinlesstwins.org, offering support for twins and other multiples who have lost their twin due to death or estrangement. At the age of twenty-one, Linda’s identical twin sister Paula died in a small plane crash. The effects of this trauma contributed to a delayed onset of Linda’s grief for her twin. Support resources were not available at that time. Without the tools to move forward in her life without her twin, Linda’s grieving process was delayed for years. A mother of two sons, Linda lives in Connecticut with her husband and youngest son. She has been published in national and international craft magazines, most recently on the healing power of scrapbooking. Linda has been a workshop facilitator on sudden traumatic loss, and using scrapbooking as a healing tool to process the emotions associated with grief. Memorializing her twin using the creative process has become a healing ritual for her. She has been a guest on “Healing the Grieving Heart” syndicated Internet radio show. Linda was featured on the television show “Inside Edition,” interviewed for “Good Morning America,” and “Good Housekeeping Magazine” about the effects of losing your twin. She has contributed to several bereavement books. Linda was published in “We Need Not Walk Alone,” the national magazine of The Compassionate Friends; “The Twinless Times Magazine,” “Scrapbook Retailer,” “Craft Trends Magazine,” and numerous trade publications. She is the Twinless Twins Public Awareness Coordinator, editor of “Twin Links” e-newsletter, and the founder of a Yahoo Discussion Group for Twinless Twins. Currently twin loss discussions take place on the facebook group Twinless Twins Support Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/8156469513/

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  • Sofiah joosab says:

    Hi there,
    My name is sofiah,I am 28 and have,or rather had 3 brothers.one brother is 25 and the babies of the family are twins (23).this January one of the twins passed away in a car crash..and since then his twin has had a terrible time trying to survive,I was hoping to get some help from you and email seems the easiest route as we are based in South Africa. My mom just does not know what else to do for her surviving son and feels helpless as she lost her husband (our dad) just over a year before my brother passed on..any help would be greatly appreciated

    • Hello Sofiah-
      First off, I am sorry for the multiple losses your family has endured, at too young of ages. My twin was 21 when she died in a crash (plane crash) and my brother died in a car crash 8 years later. This type of sudden loss is difficult to process. Of course a parent, in this case your mother, is the person most of the focus is on. It is important not to deny the loss magnitude for the surviving twin. Also it is vital for everyone in the family to be there for him, to listen, but not try to tell him to just get over it. This is where it gets tricky. As a twin we spend time with our twin in utero before birth and as we share almost the same history, we see life as a “We” more often than from an “I” perspective. The bond of twinship is strong and I feel it does not just abruptly end with death.

      We call twins who have lost their twin “twinless twins” (tt), because we are still twins. A tt is in turmoil from the death of their co-twin, but along with this unique grief, he/she faces a threat to who they are in this world. They can get unsure of their identity and it can feel impossible to go on without their twin. Do not deny this different form of grief. Support your tt brother, let him know you are grieving, but do not assume it is the same grief as he is experiencing.

      Education on grief is important, and on twin loss!! – books are available and articles on the Twinless Twins Support Group website (www.twinlesstwins.org). When your brother is ready there is a Facebook group dedicated to twinless twins who talk about their experiences. It is fine to just join and read what others say – there is no push to communicate. Dawn Barnett can help get your brother connected in this way if he wants to.

      Try to help your twin brother keep his twinship alive by acknowledging it; he first needs to grieve and face the pain with support (family & other twinless twins)… it can be a long journey. Please email me if I can help and also to get you in touch with Dawn. Your brother can also email me personally – I have sent your an email to reply to. A wonderful book on twin loss is “When Grief Calls Forth the Healing: A Memoir of Losing a Twin” by Mary Rockefeller Morgan. It can be found on Amazon.com Best, Linda

  • Zoë says:

    Hello Linda Pountney. I am Zoë and I am 17 years old going on 18 in July. I just lost my twin sister, she was all I ever knew. She passed on 2 weeks and 2 days ago. I am broken, but I find it hard to accept what has happened, I am in denial. I don’t cry much. I am in the lost years oh high school and I have exams coming up. I need your help. Please help me if you can. Somehow. I don’t know how but Please. Thank you.

    • HI Zoe- You are not alone. It is important for you to hold onto this. There are many twins out there to help you. It is like losing a piece of yourself, I know, but you will go on for the two of you. I have asked a twin to contact you by email. In most states there are regional meetings and also a July national convention. Twinlesstwins.org is the group that puts these on and if you go onto there website you will also learn more. in twinship, with heartfelt sympathy, Linda