0 comments on “Grief, How Can I Help?”

Grief, How Can I Help?

Question: My neighbours lost one of their triplet sons. I feel helpless and don’t know how to help. How can I effectively support the family at this very sad time?

For several reasons grief is very difficult to deal with: Grief has no time line; Grief is very personal and everyone grieves differently; and there is no telling what may trigger sad and painful feelings. Additionally, grief, for the same individual, becomes different as they walk along its rocky and difficult path. The individuality of grief and where a person in his grief journey, makes it difficult to know exactly how to aid and support someone attempting to heal. Another factor which can impede helping someone is our own inhibitions regarding death and in not knowing how to approach a grieving person. It may be easier for some of us to ignore a grieving person, perhaps with a mumbled “Hello”, no eye contact and then to get on with our own lives.

The following has been prepared in order to assist you when you come into contact with someone who has suffered a loss. I hope that you will find it of assistance.

NOTE: “Loss” is defined as any major loss – e.g. loss of employment, house fire, divorce, as well as bereavement. This article deals with loss by death.

  1. Step forward and approach the bereaved individual. Put out your hand or offer them a hug, if the situation is appropriate. Make eye contact and say, “I am so sorry!” Often that will be enough to allow the person to speak of their pain.
  2. Be a good listener. This rule applies in so many different areas of our lives and is extremely important when listening to a bereaved person. Don’t add to their situation by recounting horror stories of your own. It is not a time for one-upmanship of stories. This is their time and a time for you to listen, to perhaps once again say, “I am so sorry.” Or “It just isn’t fair.” Don’t take up this time with yourself but give freely of your listening skills. Don’t be afraid to use the deceased’s name during the conversation. If you don’t know what they name the baby(ies), ask them. They will appreciate the validation of their baby’s existence. Families need to speak of their lost one(s), including using their names.
  3. Be prepared to make yourself available. Make sure you don’t give them the impression of “hurrying” or speeding them along because you need to be elsewhere or because you feel uncomfortable.
  4. Try to accept the words shared with you. A grieving individual may rail against life, G-d, the doctors, the world. Don’t make harsh judgements. Just accept the words as they come. In an effort to get rid of our pain, it is not unusual to make rash and/or harsh statements.
  5. There are many concrete ways in which you can assist – take care of other children for a while, bring over a meal, send a card, make a donation to an appropriate charity, attend the wake, funeral or memorial service, make a cup of tea for the parents. Ask how you can help.
  6. Don’t minimize the loss – “You can have more children.” “It’s better this way. Your baby was sick.” “She has gone to a better place.” “G-d needed her more than you did.” None of these remarks are helpful to a grieving parent. Children are not interchangeable and “having another one” will not replace what should have been and “a better place” is here with her family. Families who have survivors of multiple birth children are often not given the proper space to grieve their loss. In a bereavement counselling group session, parents of a surviving twin where yelled at by a mother who had lost her singleton child, “Why are you here? You have a baby, I have none!” Minimizing anyone’s loss does not help.
  7. Don’t forget to acknowledge the father’s grief too. Too often the Mom is consoled while Dad is expected to “Hang tough.” Some people ask Dad how Mom is doing and don’t even think of asking him how he is. Dad too, has lost a child and experiences feelings of loss and pain. He has the added burden of society’s expectations that he can “cope.” He may be split between a child(ren) at home, a baby in the NICU, his job, planning a funeral, and his wife recovering from a c-section. He will also need your support.
  8. There are no shortcuts through grieving. Any attempt at a shortcut can only make things worse. Try and allow the bereaved person as long or as short a period as they need. Be patient. Avoid tell the person how they “should” feel or act or what they “should” do to make things easier. Also avoid saying “You are handling it so well” as this puts people into a box. Remember that there is no time limit on grief and several months down the road, these families still do not feel “normal”. They are trying to adapt to a new reality. They have still lost their child(ren) and nothing will ever change that.
  9. Encourage the bereaved person to look after themselves. To eat properly (it is not unusual for a bereaved person to stop eating and drinking), to see to their own needs and not to make important decisions right away. They need time first to grieve and heal.
  10. Remember that you are not responsible for this person’s pain. You didn’t cause it and because your children are alive and healthy, try not to feel guilty about it.
  11. Remember that you cannot take away their pain but you can assist them over the rocky path. You can be supportive and caring. You will not have all of the answers and, often there are not any answers at all. Life happens with no apologies or excuses and sometimes, it can be quite unfair. They did nothing wrong to deserve this.
  12. You may find it prudent to recommend some professional counselling, a physician, religious figure, grief counsellor or therapist. The library has books on death and dying and there are workshops, seminars or support groups that can also be of assistance. Your local funeral home will also be able to guide you in this area.
  13. One way a Chapter can be of assistance is to donate Multiple Births Canada’s Loss Booklets to the funeral homes and neonatal hospital units in your Chapter area. Such a donation will assist the professionals in being aware of the family’s unique needs.

Additional Resources:

  • Empty Cradle, Broken Heart, Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D., Fulcrum Publishing
  • The Worst Loss: How Families Heal from the Death of a Child, Barbara D. Rosof, Henry Holt and Company
  • On Children and Death, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Collier Books
  • Life After Loss, Bob Deits, Fisher Books
  • Men & Grief, Carol Staudacher, New Harbinger Publications
Did you do something special by way of support for a bereaved family and would like to share that idea with others? Write and let me know how you helped someone deal with the loss of their precious child(ren).
0 comments on “Grief and Its Impact on a Marriage”

Grief and Its Impact on a Marriage

The loss of a baby or babies can and does have an impact on a marriage as each parent attempts to regain their equilibrium and balance after such a devastating loss. The loss of our child(ren) changes us forever. We lose our innocence and the future is forever changed. Add to this the fact that men and women grieve differently, and the impact on a couple’s relationship is not always a positive one.

Generally speaking, women tend to be more open about what they are feeling than men. Women may have one or two girlfriends, a sister or mother with whom they “open up,” express what is on their minds and how they are feeling. Men, on the other hand, don’t usually have close relationships with other men which would include speaking about their emotions or the sharing of feelings and thoughts. Traditionally men have been inundated with messages such as “suck it up”, “crying is for wimps” and “act like a man”. In such an atmosphere, with no safe place to express their emotions, men have not been dealt a fair blow when it comes to expressing those inner emotions.

It is important to note, however, that things are changing. Thankfully there is more dialogue regarding men’s feelings, not only by the men themselves but also by society as a whole. Parenting magazines are offering support articles for men on how to help a partner with breastfeeding, through the pregnancy, dealing with loss of a baby or babies and more. Internet Sites have sprung up providing ample opportunity for men to write about their feelings, express their pain, joy, feelings of insecurity and fears about parenting. Support groups for men and dads are more readily available in many communities. Book stores now carry books for fathers regarding parenting, relationships and grief. Oprah Winfrey has done a couple of shows regarding men and their inner feelings and fears. All of this is important and hopefully, over time, will help bridge the gap between men and women!

It is acknowledged that not all mothers and fathers experience difficulties in connecting while grieving. Some couples are brought closer together, communicate regularly and feel much closer in their time of greatest need. What I would like to explore in this article, however, is the possible negative impact of the loss of one or more of babies on a couple’s marriage. Further, understanding that men and women grieve differently and what some of those differences can be is helpful. We also need to understand a little bit about Grief itself:

  • Grief is a journey, not a destination;
  • Grief has no timeline;
  • Grief is personal. There is no right or wrong way to grieve;
  • Just when you think that you are feeling OK and doing well, Grief will “rear its head” and you may feel overwhelmed all over again. This is normal;
  • Some of the triggers for Grief could be a sentimental song, a beautiful sunset, a singing bird, a garden of flowers blowing in the wind, watching another child play and laugh, or for no apparent reason at all;
  • Grief can leave individuals with a sense of isolation, loneliness, anger, powerlessness, guilt and/or fear. All of these emotions are normal;
  • Grief has been described as an “open wound” which heals over time, but which also leaves a scar.

When we look at Grief from some of these perspectives, it stands to reason that mother and father will not always be on the same time line as each other and or be grieving in the same manner. Initially a couple may cling together and share their pain with tears, embraces and conversation. It isn’t unusual for the father to be the one in charge of making funeral arrangements, talking to the undertaker, hospital staff, choosing a casket, working through the finances and paperwork. He may also have to deal with other children at home, handle his job and the ramifications of his absence, worry about his wife and answer questions from family and friends. One father indicated after the loss of one of their babies, that he was sick and tired of friends calling and asking him how his wife was doing! “What about me? I lost a baby too!” They had skipped right over him and minimized his pain and grief. Juggling all of this and trying to find time to grieve the loss of his baby or babies is a monumental task for a Dad to face.

Mother probably has family and friends whom she can talk to about her baby or babies. She may need to focus on physically getting better in the case of having had a c-section, and may also need to take care of a surviving co-multiple(s).

After the funeral, it may be harder and harder for Mother and Father to “get together” on an emotional level, to speak about what they are feeling: of their fears for the future or the fears each has for the survivors of their multiple birth – “If I get attached to this baby, will she die too?”. One may “blame” the other for the loss, even inadvertently. It may become necessary to seek some bereavement counseling from: a cleric, grief counselor, social worker or psychologist who specializes in grief issues. Your family doctor can assist you in this regard or refer you to an appropriate support individual.

If, as a couple, you already have a child or children, this may add another difficult component to your grieving journey, or not, as each individual family will decide. Sometimes the need to continue to be available for your other children can be a boon. Having to remain mobile, available and responsive, for one or both parents, can sometimes be helpful in spite of mourning for a lost child or children.

Sometimes one or both parents may find the opposite and find it difficult to continue to be an attentive and available parent. One or both may experience feelings of being overwhelmed, pressured, resentful or of wishing to simply withdraw. All of this is normal and doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. Try your best to keep the lines of communication open with your children. Let them know you are feeling very sad at the moment, need some quiet time, or are thinking of their dead brother or sister. Let the child know that they didn’t cause your sadness but you are sad, nevertheless. It will be helpful for him (or them) to know that feeling sad is a part of grieving and your reactions and feelings were not caused by them. By being honest with your child or children about what you are feeling, you will be helping them and yourself, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

It may be helpful to try to keep in tune with whatever your partner may be feeling and to try and distract your other child or children for a time, in order to give your partner some space to him/herself. A role reversal may occur at another time for the other spouse.

Here are some suggestions to aid a marriage in time of grief. You and your spouse may add some others that will work for you.

  1. Don’t expect your spouse to be a tower of strength when he or she is also experiencing grief.
  2. It is very important to keep the lines of communication open.
  3. Be sensitive to your spouse’s personality style. In general, he or she will approach grief with the same personality habits as they approach life. This may be in a private manner or open and sharing, or some place in between.
  4. Talk about your loved one(s) with your spouse. If necessary, set up a daily time period when you both know that it is time to talk about your loved one(s).
  5. Seek professional help of a counselor if depression, grief or problems in your marriage are getting out of hand.
  6. Deal with things as they occur. Do not overlook or ignore anger-causing situation. It is like adding fuel to a fire. Eventually there will be an explosion.
  7. Remember that you loved each other enough to marry. Try to keep your marriage alive: go out for dinner or an ice cream cone; take a walk; go on a vacation.
  8. Be gentle with yourself and with your mate too.
  9. Join a support group for bereaved persons. Attend as a couple, come by yourself or with a friend. Do not pressure your spouse to attend with you if it is not his or her preference.
  10. Join a mutually agreeable community betterment project.
  11. Do not blame yourself or your mate for what you were powerless to prevent. If you feel personally responsible or blame your spouse for your loss, seek immediate counseling for yourself and your marriage.
  12. Remember that there can be a loss of sexual desire or hypersexuality during the grieving process. You can discuss this with your mate.
  13. Be aware of unrealistic expectations for yourself or your mate. Try to remember that your spouse is doing the best that he/she can.
  14. Marital friction is a normal part of any marriage. Don’t blow it out of proportion at this painful time.
  15. Try not to let everyday irritants become major issues. Talk about them and try to be patient.
  16. Be sensitive to the needs and wishes of your spouse as well as yourself. Sometimes it is important to compromise.
  17. Work on your own grief instead of wishing that your spouse would handle his/her grief differently. You will find that you have enough just handling your own grief. Remember, when you help yourself cope with grief, it indirectly helps your spouse.
  18. As one grieving mother stated: “Value your marriage. You have lost enough!”
  19. Hold on to Hope. With time, work and support you will survive. Life will never be the same, but you can learn again to appreciate it and the people in your life.
  20. Allow yourself and your partner to feel whatever it is you are feeling without judging yourself or each other.

Bibliography

Grief and its Impact on a Marriage, Fact Sheet by Bereaved Families of Ontario – Ottawa.
Men & Grief, by Carol Staudacher, 1991, New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Healing Your Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas, by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., 2001, Companion Press

Other reading resources:

When a Baby Dies: A Handbook for Healing and Helping, by Rana K. Limbo and Sara Rich Wheeler, 1993, RTS Bereavement Services
The Worst Loss: How Families Heal from the Death of a Child, by Barbara D. Rosof, 1995, Henry Holt and Co.
Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy After Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Loss, by Ann Douglas and John R. Sussman, M.D., 2000, Taylor Publishing Co.
Trying Again After Loss, by Ann Douglas and Lynda P. Haddon

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Holidays and Grief

Holidays and grief are often inevitable after losing a baby. There will be several times during the year which are very difficult for bereaved families – birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, to name some but probably the most difficult holiday will be Christmas. Automatically the mind conjures up ‘family’, presents, food, noise and a festive air! For bereaved families, this can be a very difficult time of year.

The following are some ideas that may assist you through stressful milestones and special occasions.

  1. SIMPLIFY! Christmas Holiday stress, even in good years, is from the long list of ‘have-to-do’s’. Reexamine your priorities to begin some new, healthier traditions. Only attend parties you feel are truly important. Ask family members to exchange gifts only for children in the family rather than the adults (or encourage them to make a donation in your child(ren)’s name to a meaningful children’s charity, POMBA Canada or CLIMB, for example. Stop shopping for the adults in the family who probably already have everything they need. Consider not sending cards this year.
  2. Do things differently than your normal routine. Attend your religious service at a time other than you would have normally. Visit your relatives rather than having them visit you. Or, you may take a vacation over this time period.
  3. Begin to build a pleasant time with family and friends. Don’t feel guilty if you do have a good time.
  4. Make sure that there is a balance in your life – eat, sleep, rest, pray, read, work and relax.
  5. Responding to happy greetings can be difficult. To a “Happy Holidays” wish, you may respond, “I’ll try” or “the same to you!”
  6. Do some volunteer work in the name of your child(ren). Visit someone who is unable to get out, make a donation or send flowers in your child’s name.
  7. Light a special candle in remembrance to your lost child(ren).
  8. Donate a new toy or clothing to a children’s shelter.
  9. Try to keep in mind the feelings of your other children and to make it as joyous for them as you possibly can. Speak freely to your family members of what you feel capable of coping with or being involved in.
  10. You may wish to keep a journal of your thoughts at this time, or even as a letter to your lost child(ren).
  11. There is no right or wrong way to handle the day. You may feel ‘safer’ following family traditions or you may wish to begin some new ones or just to deviate for the time being. Your wishes can change year to year.
  12. It is best to try and do what is most helpful for you and your family. If a situation looks especially difficult over the holidays, try not to get involved.
  13. Try not to imagine the future. Take one day or even one hour at a time.
  14. Allow yourself time to cry, both alone and with your loved ones.
  15. Some hospitals may allow you to hang an ornament for your child(ren) on their tree.
  16. SHOP EARLY! Don’t leave it to the last minute and end up feeling overwhelmed.
  17. Holidays and special occasions magnify feelings of loss. It is natural to experience the sadness that these occasions can bring. Try not to block these feelings as it is unhealthy. A good cry to release built-up sorrow can leave you better able to face your day-to-day holiday stress.
  18. Hold onto HOPE! – the anticipation of the holiday is often worse than the actual holiday. Future years will most likely bring some healing and ability to enjoy this time of year again, in ways that are hard to imagine when you are weighted down by sorrow.

Adapted From

  • How to Help Ourselves Through the Holidays; Bereaved Families, Ottawa
  • Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths.
  • With contributions by: Elizabeth A. Pector, M.D.
0 comments on “When a multiple birth parent dies…”

When a multiple birth parent dies…

I’ve been working with bereaved multiple birth families for many years now and the focus of that support has been about the babies and children. However, two other areas have emerged in the past couple of years: the grief of survivors of a multiple birth situation and, more recently, when a multiple birth parent dies. While any pregnancy can present with difficulties for the mother, multiple birth pregnancies can present with additional risks (see my article Possible Risks to the Mother of a Multiple Birth Pregnancy on this site).

The birth of a child is initially disruptive to all families as they (the parents and baby) must achieve a balance and routine. Add twins or triplets (or more) to the situation and both balance and a routine take longer to work out as each family member is in a steep learning curve. Add the loss of a parent and the situation takes one’s breath away!

The surviving parent, whether Mom or Dad, has to attend to the needs of two or more newborns, make funeral arrangements for their beloved spouse, perhaps attend to other children in the family, maybe deal with work outside the home, deal with their spouse’s grieving parents and make some room to grieve the loss of their partner. Talk about trying to find balance!

Some thoughts come to mind when Mom dies as a result of her multiple birth pregnancy…

  • When a planned pregnancy has gone terribly wrong and Mom has died while the children have survived, the initial feelings are of numbness, shock, denial, “this can’t be happening”, “what am I (‘we’) going to do? How will we cope?” are normal. One can expect a roller coaster of emotions. In addition, it is going to be difficult to push aside grief feelings in order to take care of twins or more.
  • What if I feel that my wife has died and it is the babies’ fault? What if I feel that I can’t love them as a result? These are normal feelings and a natural consequence to such a dire situation where children survive while the parent does not. Over time, the surviving parent will come to love their babies, while still mourning for and loving their wife, the babies’ mother. The mother’s death may have occurred because of her pregnancy, but the babies’ aren’t to blame. Her death isn’t anyone’s fault but rather a painful and very unfair occurrence.
  • Fathers don’t always feel terribly comfortable sitting in a bereavment support circle if they are the only males present. It may be more prudent to connect with another widowed father. Check out a religious affiliation, ask your doctor, or your local Bereaved Families Chapter. Some bereaved fathers have reported that time spent in a social setting rather than a bereaved setting worked better for them and made it easier for them to talk about their feelings. Some social settings to consider are on the golf course, breakfast out, perhaps a picnic with the kids. Use your immagination for what might work for you…and for when either parent dies…
  • Babies need to nurtured, cooed at, smiled at, held, cradled, rocked, fed, bathed and changed. Through these actions, babies learn to trust those who are looking after them and bonding occurs. None of these things may initially be possible as the surviving parent is working through their grief. The surviving parent may experience a need to ask someone else to provide some of the nurturing care of the children for at least a part of the time. The surviving parent may ask the grandparents, other family members or friends to help out. It is important in this circumstance for the parent to stay involved in some part of the babies’ daily care. Sometimes holding a wee baby enables us to grieve, as their small bodies are cradled in our arms or we hold them during a feed. For some, knowing that we are needed can be helpful.
  • Grieving parents need to be kind to themselves. They have received an enormous shock. It will take time, gentleness, support from family and friends to even begin to feel normal again. Expect setbacks. Grief is a journey, not a destination.
  • Grieving parents should not set huge goals for themselves. One step at a time is the best approach: “I just need to feed them this meal; I just need to eat; I just need to rest; I just need to sleep.”
  • The surviving parent should accept all the help they can get. They need reliable, comforting people around them. They may need to defer some elements of the funeral arrangements or babies’ care to someone else.
  • The grieving parent should not be afraid to speak up if they need something. People want to help but they may not know how or what to offer. The parent might ask someone to bathe a baby, take them for a walk, play with them or make the parent a cup of tea, if that is what will help. Asking someone to do the grass cutting or snow shoveling can mean a great deal to a parent faced with the duress of grieving and caring for their children at the same time.
  • If feelings of grief are overwhelming, it is appropriate to seek professional help and grieving parents may benefit enormously from an appropriate professional. Their doctor can either assist directly or provide a referral to a professional grief counselor. Grief is not the same as clinical depression, however, even if it feels incredibly painful. It is a normal human emotion and the goal is to mourn rather than stifle feelings. Surviving parents faced with the demands of grieving and simultaneous child care may really only grieve when all the work is done and the children are asleep. In other words, grieving may occur in spurts rather than continuously because of the unique life situation in which the loss has occurred.
  • The grieving parent may find it very helpful to have a safe place to speak about their feelings. They may wish to join a bereavement support group in their community. Sometimes, however, grieving people do best when they mourn on their own in a private space. Indeed, there is no formula for mourning that fits everyone.
  • The surviving parent should go forward slowly. They should expect setbacks and realize that adjustment will resemble a roller coaster more than a steady incline. Bursts of sorrow will occur, sometimes at very unexpected moments. That’s normal. The surviving parent must take it one day or hour at a time.Over time, there are other things to consider for the surviving spouse ..
  • It is advisable not to clear out their partner’s clothing or personal items in a hurry. Doing so will not relieve the pain and may, in the long run, cause more grief as cherished memorabilia is donated or given away in haste.
  • Leaving out photos of the lost parent and speaking to the children about them is very important for helping children process the grief of a parent they did not know. Relating how much both parents looked forward to the children’s births, how each considered names for them, how much the parents both looked forward to being a family is important for the children to hear. Such communication and openness about the lost parent helps children fill in gaps in their own identity and promotes self development. It will make it less likely that they will feel guilty for their parent’s death.
  • Expect your children to ask all sorts of questions regarding the death of their parent. If the surviving parent doesn’t feel capable of answering them (example: Why did Mommy die?), the parent can respond that they will think about it and answer the child later. Counselors or bereavement groups can provide assistance on how to answer difficult, pointed questions from children. A medically accurate answer, using appropriate words for the age of the child, could also be a good approach. Even when there are more than one survivor of the multiple birth, such questions are usually posed by one child at a time. Of course, the same question may be posed by another in the future or by the same child who has a need to hear the same answer once again.
  • The goal of mourning is to find our way back to life with its joys and challenges. Children who have lost parents in infancy need to laugh and enjoy life as much as any child. It is the surviving parent who must lead the way. It is OK to laugh and to have new possibilities, new experiences.

Organizations

 

By Lynda P. Haddon and Arthur S. Leonoff Psychologist/Psychoanalyst/Training Analyst

1 comment on “Growing Up Twinless”

Growing Up Twinless

Hi, I wanted to take the opportunity to share my story of what it’s like to grow up twinless. The few accounts I’ve read of before echo thoughts and feelings I have had and have helped me to replace some of the confusion with understanding. I hope that my sharing is able to help someone in some small way such as I’ve been helped.

My story begins around my sixteenth birthday when, for some unknown reason, I seemed to have hit a crisis point. I think it was the thoughts of suicide that really brought me to a point that things were as bad as they seemed. All I knew was what I told my mother on those many evenings when I would seek her out in the hopes that she might help me out of my pain. She would usually be ironing or doing some other household chore when I would enter the room and make my presence known. That’s about all I seemed able to achieve because when I tried to say something, the words wouldn’t come out. There were a couple of times though when in between the tears, I’d say “Mom, I don’t think I was made for this world.” I hadn’t found out yet that I had been one of twins and that my brother had died while still inutero. I could feel that I was creating an awkward situation for my mother. She told me later that she felt deeply for me, but just didn’t know of anything to say or do to make me better. Often, I would become angry with her.

For years, when I seemed to reach bottom, I would seek her out or someone else I thought that might be able to help me. I saw ministers, counselors and even tried to talk to a few friends, but I often walked away feeling more frustrated than anything. I did have this Sunday School teacher named Carol, who incidentally was a twin, whom I really bonded with. My own mother oftentimes became jealous and said many painful things that would keep me home in my room, alone, rather than with Carol. Though, as with the others, I couldn’t talk to Carol, I did feel something akin to a soothing effect around here.

The series of events that led up to me learning about my twinship began when a friend of mine suggested that I go to see this lady who was a psychic. Having come from a very religious home, I at first felt like this wasn’t an option for me, but I was desperate for someone to help me and so any hesitation I had soon melted away. I took my friend’s offer up and copied the lady’s phone number down. From a pay phone, I called her up to schedule a sitting and she gave me the day, time and place. I hung up, not placing very much hope in what I might encounter, but then a little hope was better than none.

I showed up at designated place and time and have to say that my first impression of things wasn’t a very good one. I could’ve just left, but I thought ‘I have nothing to lose’ so I stayed. And just in case she
might actually be psychic, I told her on our way back to her kitchen that I didn’t want to know anything about my future.

After I sat down opposite her at the kitchen table, she took out a set of regular playing cards with alot of marks on them. I didn’t know what the marks meant, but wondered for a minute where I could get a set 🙂 She had me separate them and then she shuffled them and laid them out into groups. She asked if I was going to become a minister, to which I replied “My parents would like me to.” She moved on to describe my parents and did a pretty good job, but still, I felt that she could have gathered all this from my demeanor and what had transpired from the moment I walked through the door.

Then… She told me that I had died near the beginning of my life. I was shocked! How could she know this? I knew that 8 hours after I was born my lungs collapsed and I had a near death experience that lasted 4 1/2 minutes. I confirmed her claim and listened on. She then stated that my mother was in labor for almost two weeks after I was born. I never heard of this and so I couldn’t confirm or deny it so she asked that I check with my mother and get back to her. Next, she asked if I had a twin. Again, I told her that my mother never said anything about a twin and again, she asked me to check with my mother and get back to her. She said that she was going to continue despite my uncertainty. What follows was her telling me that I did have a twin and that originally, I had been the one that had died and he the one that lived to be born and then undergo that near death experience I mentioned earlier. She told me that we were both there when the doctor was resuscitating him and that he had let me come into the body. Everything she said seemed to turn my world topsy turvy, but yet it was a world [which] resonated with me.

That night, I had dream. I was lying in my bed and feeling so alone as I usually did when I felt this brush against my arm. I didn’t need to look over because I could feel him. The only way to describe the experience was of everything that moved in me, all my feelings of lonliness and confusion, came to rest. This image came to my mind of this necklace with two pieces that had been broken into shards had come back together.

I rolled over and used my arm to raise my head as I looked at him. I asked “Who are you?” He replied “You know who I am.” I laughed. “yeah, I know who you are.” I said. I asked “How long have you been here?” He said “I’ve always been here.” I responded “Yes, I think I knew that.” Just then I yawned and he said “you’re tired. you should get some sleep.” I said “oh no, if I close my eyes, you’ll go away.” He said “No, I’ll always be here.” I did end up falling asleep by his side and then while still dreaming, time had passed so that it had become morning. My mother came into to wake me up, but in the course of the night I had fallen off of the bed leaving him to be the one she woke up. When I had heard her come in, I had stayed low so she couldn’t see me. After she left, we laughed that she had confused him for me and then the scene changed again and it was getting dark suddenly. I found myself out on our front porch looking down at my watch. The dream scene began to fade and I heard his voice saying “I’ll be back.”

While I was afraid during the first day to ask my mother about the things the psychic lady wanted me to, after the dream, I just had to know the truth and so, during a car ride to my grandmother’s house, I asked her.

I began with the question “Mom, were you in labor after I was born?” She jerked the staring wheel sending us off onto the birm as she turned to look at me in the back seat. “Who told you?” she asked me. I said “This lady.” She said “Yes, I was in labor, for almost 2 1/2 weeks.” “After you were born, the doctor had left the afterbirth in me,” I spoke over what she had said next as I then asked “Did I have a twin?”

She answered in the affirmative telling me that after being rushed to the emergency room because she couldn’t walk anymore, the doctors had removed the afterbirth and later reported to her that there had been a second baby, fully formed, but [whom] had stopped growing.” She told me that she never told anyone, not even my father about my twin. I came clean then about having visited this psychic lady who told me this and rather than getting chastized, was meant with a response that was more like awe and wonder about who this lady was.

Over the next 18 years (I’m now 34) I would have my mother repeat the story of my and my brother’s birth because it all still feels so unreal. Yet, I can feel its truth in my heart and over the years have come to make sense of much of my feelings and thoughts that seemed alien to me before. For instance, since I first encountered a black rose and its significance (age 11), I had alway requested one for my birthday. It was just one more thing that confirmed my grandmother’s statement that I was a strange child. I also had/have the habit of buying two pairs of shoes, two shirts, all two of the same. Even knowing what I know today still isn’t enough to squelch it. There’s also my odd habit of oftentimes referring to “we” rather than to me. I don’t really seem to be aware of this until it is brought to my attention by others. When I was around 12 years old, I remember reading this book called “Sybil” about a woman with multiple personalities and I would then go around telling people I had multiple personalities. Actually, I didn’t bear any of the symptoms of the disorder, but there was this one thing that Sybil reported and that was that she felt double. It was the only way I knew then to express how I felt. Of course, this too would startle my parents and relatives who just thought I was overly imaginative and had odd interests. Fast forward to when I turned 32. Since finding out at 16 years old that I had a twin brother, I found some measure of peace and understanding say for instance, of why I was always seeking out some other guy to bond with (an attempt to find a surrogate) or spending my last dime to buy a second pair of something that I didn’t need a second pair of.

It was at 32 though, that a lot of unrest came back to me. I could see that over the previous 10 years I had been struggling with issues of identity and career. And then there was this feeling, a pulling that was always present and would intensify whenever I wasn’t doing anything. So I would keep busy, but I could still feel it there dimly in the background. I knew what it was and it brought up all these thoughts and feelings. On one hand, I would ask myself if my twin were here, would he approve of me and what I did? What would it be like if he were here now or if he had been here instead of me? On the other hand, I wanted to deny him. How could someone I never knew have so much of an impact on me? I get angry and I don’t understand this. Yet I still have my mother recount the words she spoke so many times before “the doctor said there
had been a twin but..”

Last year, after a particularly difficult weekend, my mother had returned from a trip so excited to see me because of something she had wanted to share. She had been unaware of my depression the night before, of wondering what life would have been like if he had survived. She told me that in a dream she had the night before, that she and my father were returning from the casino when she was entering into the restaurant at the hotel when she was told that a table was being held for her. As she walked over to where it was at, she saw this guy from behind and when she got nearer he turned. She gasped she said because here was this guy who looked exactly like me, yet sheknew that I was not there because I had to work. She asked him “who are you?” and he smiled (she said she has my smile). He said his name was Nathaniel. She told him to wait right there while she went to get me, but as she walked away she woke up. Upon hearing this, I got this strong sense, as if he is somewhere living his life and though we are apart, we are each living out our lives to their completion until the day we won’t be separated again ever.

Today, I live day by day. With the help of Twinless Twins and opportunities to share my story I find some quieting of the pulling within me. It’s a compulsion I have to share with others, my twinship, not letting people miss this very important part of who I am despite the fact they might not be able to see otherwise. Sometimes, I feel as if I am leading two separate lives. Currently, I work as a dorm parent at a boarding school, but during the summers, spend an inordinate amount of time in Quebec volunteering.

There is the “French” me and then there is the “English” me. Though it can be exhausting at times, it feels natural and right. Yet there is still something that doesn’t seem quite right. When I come to think of a wife and children, which I feel my life incomplete without with, I can’t imagine any other person in my life meaning as much to me as my twin.

Because of this, I seem to be frozen in the feelings I come to have for others.

What the future [will] hold for me, I’m not sure. But despite my many struggles, including my struggle to believe in an afterworld and an existence beyond physical death. I hold onto the last words I heard in that dream before I awoke. “I’ll be back.”

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Co-Multiple story of loss and unanswered concerns

As a co-multiple who has lost his twin, I’m looking at your site and have decided to attempt to connect, although I’m getting very frustrated in my efforts to learn about my own loss and how it has affected me. My identical twin was killed in a car wreck 40 years ago when we were 18.

Rather than grieving, I just went forward with the momentum of my life. I was smart, athletic, engaged. Life went on. My two remaining brothers and my parents did not share our grief and our family began to drift apart.

In my 20s, I dropped out of college, protested the draft and the war in Vietnam, found a passionate interest in woodworking (it runs in the family). I was willing to live on nothing for several years while I learned on my own. Was this struggle to do it on my own a sign of trouble? I also began to become very frustrated at my difficulty forming a good intimate, long lasting love relationship. I was experiencing more and more loneliness as my crowd slowly drifted into their careers and families.

I finally fell in love, got married at 40, bought a home, had a child, and spent the last 18 years fighting to do my craft, build the home and garden, be a very involved dad, and support my wife at home. It’s been an exhausting struggle, but I felt happy and fulfilled. Until my wife announced that she was leaving, last January, siting “my abusive anger”.

This has rocked my whole world. I was not very aware of my anger. I figured we had normal marital conflicts and thought we’d eventually work it out. Except that my wife was getting more and more distant and unwilling to have serious talk about our issues. So now I’m alone, working very hard to understand what has happened, and always coming back to all the grief and loneliness I feel in missing my twin.

My woodworking seems to be at a dead end, my family is still in conflict and can’t be relied upon, and I feel distant from my community no matter how hard I try to engage. I’ve slowly lost all the good Buddies I had to share my interests with, although I have many good friends, they just don’t seem to be there for the closeness I crave.

I’ve been trying to look into the twinless groups, but have been unable to find anyone who can share knowledge or experience about how being twinless may be causing me to loose all those I feel close to and to always end up feeling so desperately alone. I am looking for answers more than just sympathetic support.

Yours, Richard

1 comment on “It Should Have Been Her – A Surviving Co-Multiple’s Story”

It Should Have Been Her – A Surviving Co-Multiple’s Story

The cold words were a sharp slap across my face. This wasn’t what I needed or wanted to hear. I craved the warm, welcoming softness of a mother’s embrace – not these cruel words of betrayal.

Hiding in the garden within the shadows of the trees, I reminded myself that I had always walked in my twin brother’s shadow, trying to siphon off some scraps of the love that Mother showered him with. Why had I expected it to be different now?

Mother had never seen us as pair. My brother had always been her shining glory – I was just an unwanted extra that tagged along in the shadows. To the World, we had been two. But knowing that we were really one had given me the strength to stand firm.

But now he was gone. My mother had lost her favoured son, the one through whose eyes God smiled for her, and I had lost a part of my very self.

I tried hard to be quiet as I crept back into the house and upstairs. I didn’t want anyone to see “The One” as she had put it – the cursed one who had lived.

The events of the last few days swirled before my eyes. My brother was ill. I’d crept into his room and squeezed his hand.

“Let me share. We can fight it together,” I had chanted over and over trying to absorb his pain, trying to get him to wake up. He had tried to squeeze back, I know he had. Deep in my heart in the golden chamber that belonged to both of us – I knew!

But as I sat beside him, in walked our mother and she shoved me out of the bedroom. Her jealousy of me I had never understood. There was a constant wall between us and I had grown weary of trying to climb it. Mother resented the fact that my brother and I were a part of each other, co-multiple. She had always wanted him all to herself.,

He had hated her cloying love. His eyes mirrored his pain, when she pushed me aside. But we were children, powerless the way children are at that age.

Snorting and hiccuping, I crept into my twin’s room, which Mother had always shared with him. She had never allowed us to share a room in all of our ten years together. She had always tried to come between us. And now someone else had won. He had gone and I had no one with whom to share my hour of grief.

There on his bed lay his favourite green sweater. I picked it up and held it close. But is was just a piece of clothing – no warmth, not unconditional reassurance in its fibers. It was then that I knew that I was alone, so very alone and that my mother hated me.

The years have gone by and now I am fully grown and my mother his still never acknowledged my grief, as if to punish me for somehow being responsible for his death.

Mother had sent me away during the funeral. I never got to say goodbye. Never again got to squeeze his hand and let him know that I was there and that I loved him.

At sixteen, I ran away from home and have been alone ever since. I have no wish to put down roots and sometimes, when the loneliness is particularly overwhelming, I take out my most precious possession – a faded green sweater. A reminder that I, too, once belonged.

Vinda (pen name), survivor of a childhood disease which claimed her twin brother, British Columbia, Canada

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You and I – Poem about loss

God sent you with me
To enter this world.
As I sputtered and gasped for breath I know you were marking
time behind me.
Together we had plotted our escape – from the all encompassing bubble.

Did I push and you shove?
Or did I shove and you push?
Maybe it was a greater force that propelled us head first into life.

Would we have always been close?
Would you always have watched my back?
For the stark bitter truth of reality separated us
Before life had a chance to mould the two of us.
Instead of both of us, I learned and bore the brunt of life’s lessons alone.

With a permanent chill along my spine
Moving on I found warmth and love.
But still the feeling of being unprotected haunts me.
No one watches my back any more.
But life teaches us to fight and survive
All the while knowing
God in his heaven
Knows where, what and why.

Poem by Vinda, who lost her twin brother at aged 5 years, when he succumbed to a childhood disease which they both had contracted.

0 comments on “Twin loss story”

Twin loss story

Was just messing around on my computer and found your site. I am a 51 yr. old male who lost my identical twin brother due to a car wreck 30 yrs. ago. The years that followed the loss were hell.

I turned to alcohol and drugs. I did not grieve, but tried to prove that I could be both of us. I caved in! 17 yrs after Joe’s death I knew I couldn’t go on. I joined A.A.and have been sober for 12 years using the 12 steps and meeting other twins in the program who had gone through the exact same experiences.

I have allowed myself to go through the grieving process, and turn the whole experience into helping others. I now have a wonderful full life. It took some time, growth, and a lot of understanding friends. Hope my story of loss can be of help to someone.

Thanks, Gene Gallagher