for when… a twin sibling dies

To lose a spouse is a tragedy, to lose a child perhaps the greatest tragedy most of us could imagine; but everyone had an identity before becoming a spouse or a parent. A twin is never anything but a twin until separation by death, and there is no way of untwining except by death. In the most intimate of bereavements, the surviving twin finds the foundation of his or her own identity undermined because twinhood bestows the singular oddity of a plural identity.

Rosemary Stark, twin of  Sheila

Firstly, we would like to say how deeply sorry we are for the loss you have suffered, the loss of a precious companion and wombmate. Your loss may have been recently, or some time may have passed since the loss of your twin. The loss may have happened around or before birth or during your childhood together or perhaps later in life. In all these situations we hope that by having contact with us you will feel the support and comfort of other lone twins who are part of this group and also have feelings similar to your own. As one of our members once said to us “I am fortunate to have a loving, supportive family around me and I felt supported and understood for the loss of a brother, for the way my brother took his own life and for all the details surrounding his death but nobody seemed to really understand the loss of my brother as my twin.” Only another lone twin can fully understand the feelings for when someone loses their twin.

Twin loss is different to other losses for a few reasons. Twins begin to bond long before their birth, from the time of conception. It has bee said that this bond may in fact be stronger than the bond formed between the mother and baby before birth. Raymond Brandt, founder of Twinless Twins in the USA writes in his book Twin Loss, about identical twins coming from one seed “What has happened miraculously is to split a person in halves, yet each of the halves is a whole person not one a shadow.” Perhaps, in the beginning there was one soul which divided into two. Like a candle lighting another candle, the same flame yet nothing is lost by either in the process.

Fraternal twins also begin bonding as they share the same womb and this bonding continues and grows as much as the environment of the womb allows. Twin lives are so innately blended that moving from “me” to “we” is devastating. Surviving twins long for that perfect confidant they once had in their twin. Someone who understands them like no other. A woman, whose identical twin died at birth wrote, “I don’t think you ever get over the loss of a twin, even if you lost him or her at birth. There is always a feeling that you are searching for someone close enough to replace your twin but of course you never can and it is always a disappointment when you face the fact that you can’t.” Another who lost her identical twin at birth writes, “The effects have been deep and intense, at the very core of my soul. Perhaps the main result is that is that I have always felt very isolated and alone. I have had many friends throughout my life, many of them close, but I’ve always felt an intense loneliness which nothing quenches.” And another, “When your twin dies you’ve got to be an individual all of a sudden. You feel completely lost about what direction to go in life, and there’s a great feeling of loneliness even though you have heaps of family and friends around you…”

For those who lose their twin as a child, it is so important that the parents of the surviving twin, while caught up in their own grief for the loss of a precious child, understand and allow for the unique grieving process of a lone twin. As an adult, with a long period of attachment and life together and with much of their sense of self held within the twinship, the process of living life without their twin is a very difficult and long lasting journey. The surviving twin has never known what it is like to not be a twin. Because their primary perception of themselves is inextricably linked to their twin, the loss invades their deepest sense of self. We encourage lone twins to seek out others who understand the intense feelings associated with your loss. Many go on for years without meeting another twinless twin (after all, once their twin has gone, a lone twin is hard to identify in the community) and thus miss the opportunity of being with others who understand their grief. Gather strength and healing from meeting or reading in Hearts & Wings about others who have journeyed this same path and receive comfort in knowing you are not alone.

For virtually all my life I have been without him and yet I haven’t really. Once a twin, always a twin.