By Linda Pountney
As a twin myself, the death of actor and identical twin Jon Hager this month was especially fascinating. Jon and Jim Hager co-starred in the old TV show, “Hee-Haw,” back in the 1970s. Jim died of a heart attack last year at just 66 years of age; Jon died at 67 on Jan. 9. It had been reported that Jon was depressed after his brother’s death; the cause of Jon’s death has not yet been determined.
These nearly back-to-back deaths don’t surprise me. When the twin bond is broken, it leaves a bereft and broken twin. The surviving twin does not feel whole. He feels like a part of him is missing.
In the case of the Hagers, their success came in part because they were twins. Singers and comedians, they were a popular act on “Hee Haw.” Watching twins, especially identical twins, interact intrigues us. It captivates our imagination. There was a pattern in the way the two of them came together artistically. They took pleasure in their seemingly choreographed satire.
Sam Lovullo, the producer of “Hee-Haw” and a close friend of the Hagers, said of the twins, “They had a fun personality.” He describes them as having one personality, as if they were a single person.
So what is it like to survive your twin After Jim’s death, for the first time in his existence, Jon Hager was alone. A fierce aloneness comes with losing your twin that is difficult to cope with. Jon was without his twin Jim for support and comfort. Ordinarily a twin reaches out to his biggest ally, his twin partner, during life’s upsets. Removal of this relationship poses a hazard to survival. Jon was grieving for his brother, his twin and his best friend.
I believe twins are blessed to have this ultimate relationship, full of trust and oneness. No one can know a twin to the same degree as his or her co-twin. By most standards this connection is unmatchable and unforgettable.
Unfortunately, after a twin has died, the loss can be devastating. Many of the surviving twins express a wish to join their twin in death. The suicide rate for twins is higher than the average. This can be addressed. It is vital to connect with other twins who have walked the path. Twinless Twins Support Group International offers this type of support.
When my twin was alive, I had an identity with her, as part of a twin pair, with a joint approach to life. Twin psychologist Dr. Barbara Klein states that twins have two identities – one as an individual, and the other within the twinship, as a co-twin. Who I knew myself to be was altered when my twin died. It took feeling the pain, doing the grief work, and exploring my twin relationship to emerge whole.
As identical twins, the Hager twins grew up in unison. They passed through the developmental stages of childhood together, contributing to each other’s well being. It is said that many twins can finish each other’s sentences, feel the same pain or emotion at the same time as their twin.
In death, as in life, the Hager twins ran a close parallel. They were united in life. One was not far behind the other in life, and in death.
Linda Pountney is vice president of Twinless Twins Support Group: http://twinlesstwins.org/