It isn’t as if we don’t think about our lost twins almost all the time, especially in those early years, but somehow special days such as birthdays, anniversaries of particular events or the anniversary of their death, can bring to the front those deep emotions we may have been able to hold back on the more ‘normal’ days. There seems to be a resurgence of symptoms we might have thought we had left behind already somewhere on our journey. In the early years we wonder if we can manage to go back to those early painful feelings yet another time.
Sometimes, these special days bring to mind fond and happy memories, sometimes they bring us to a mood of solitude, or they may bring overwhelming sadness, grief, fear, regret or anger. Such powerful feelings. Being distracted, unable to concentrate, agitated seem to come as just par for the course really. There’s no ‘right way’ to feel or any time limit over when you should or shouldn’t feel this way.
So, is there anything we can do to help ourselves during this time? Many of the people I have talked to over the years and through my own experiences of anniversaries… ones that have worked out well and those in which we’ve failed badly to keep it all ‘okay’… have found one interesting fact to begin with. Quite often the weeks or days leading up to the event is actually worse and more stressful than when the actual day arrives. Those weeks before an anniversary can be harder just thinking about how it is all going to feel… will the day be okay, will I be able to do something to honour my loved ones or will I fall apart completely in front of everyone and if I do will that really matter… and also will anyone else even remember what day it is? The especially odd situation… when there has been the loss of one twin, is that the other twin still has a birthday to celebrate even though in many cases that is also the anniversary of the other twin’s death or even if it is not, it holds deep sadness that the other twin is no longer here to celebrate what was always a joint celebration and especially for a very young twin… the party must go on! There’s an excited little person who wants a ‘happy birthday’!
Working out in advance what you’d like to do always seems to help. Thinking about what is going to suit your needs and those others who share your loss. Looking after yourselves and those feelings even if it feels like you might be letting others down by not joining in with the party atmosphere they would prefer. Take care of yourself and try not to put yourself in too many situations where you know it is going to be too hard. A simple small family gathering might be just as okay to a three year old in the end than the fancy party you thought you should put on. Have it on a different day than the death anniversary, or tell yourself you will commemorate the death day on a different day… perhaps the funeral date instead so that you can free your mind for the party without feeling you have missed something or dishonoured someone by doing that.
Sometimes, people think about doing something very different from usual and they immerse themselves in fresh surroundings. Go to the beach, a movie, a place you wouldn’t have normally gone. A family in our coffee group has an ‘Aaron day’ and they take off somewhere special in his honour.
Take time to sit down with some photos, letters or memories if you have them. Maybe you could think about making a ‘memory box’ and start putting together things that help you to remember your twin/s. The items might be things connected with memories together or they may be items you have collected since which have become special or bring to mind special thoughts.
Scrap-booking has become really popular… maybe this is a way to remember for you.
Erect a memorial bench in a special place, perhaps a public place or just somewhere in your own property. What about garden ornaments like a sundial or statue? How about a pretty stained glass window?
Planting a tree is a lovely idea if you have a space for it or creating a memory garden. Then on those special days you can plant a new plant or spend time digging and weeding… and thinking.
Donate to a charity that was special to you or your twin or has become special since.
Fund a prize, cup or award in an organisation you have been involved with. Friends of mine built a Wendy house in the local play group in memory of their daughter who died at ten weeks. Emma’s house is a popular place to be especially if you are under 5!
Just most importantly is taking care or yourself, don’t over do your commitments in any area of your life at that time if it can help you to avoid any ‘avoidable stress’. Look after each other, you are all grieving in some way even if it looks like others aren’t so obviously. Make plans that you feel right about, in advance. Some years that will be more plans than others. Some years you might just want to ‘do nothing’. That’s really so okay too. There are no rules, no guilt to be had over what or what you haven’t done that you think you should compared to others. Just follow your heart…