There's unique and heartbreaking grief that comes with the death of a twin. When one twin dies, a profound sense of loss remains with the survivor — leaving them forever a twinless twin.
The loss of a twin breaks the physical bond between the two, leaving the surviving twin feeling as if they're missing an appendage. The bereavement process for twins is different from mourning another sibling or close family member. Here are some tips that may help you cope with your grief.
1. Be Present in Your Grief
When your twin dies, you may feel as if a part of you died along with them. The feelings of overwhelming grief may leave you confused and at a loss as to what to do next. Some people try and run away from their suffering, or hide from it altogether to temper its effects. Avoiding your grief is not only unhealthy but can lead to other, more complicated grief issues later.
Being present in your grief means recognizing your loss’s reality and allowing the resulting emotions to flow naturally. Attempting to repress the feelings of distress associated with your twin’s death will cause you to pull back into isolation.
Loneliness is one of the most painful parts of surviving this type of loss. It can likely lead to a deeper depression far more complicated than the depression associated with ordinary grief.
2. Actively Engage in the Grieving Process
A typical survival mechanism that goes into effect when you suffer a significant loss is to hold off on dealing with your grief. Running away from your grief sometimes seems like the ideal solution to help you get through your pain and sorrow.
When you do this, it stops the natural grieving process from taking place, leading to the more severe effect of delayed grief that may show up years later.
Delayed grief is a form of complicated grief that will take longer for you to work through, sometimes needing the intervention of a professional grief counselor or extended grief therapy to get you back on track.
To actively engage in your grief process means to:
- Acknowledge your grief
- Accept that you’re grieving
- Talk about your loss
- Feel your emotions
- Allow for mourning
3. Understand the Grief Process
There are different types of grief that can affect individuals differently according to their experience and grief reactions. There’ll be times when your grief journey will take you from sheer agony and despair to moments of joy and happiness as you recall memories of your beloved twin. Even the beautiful memories will hold pain and loss.
To better understand your grief, consider picking up a few books on grief to learn from others’ experiences. One of those books specifically aimed at those who’ve suffered their twin’s death is When Grief Calls Forth the Healing: A Memoir of Losing a Twin, by Mary Rockefeller Morgan.
4. Share the Memory of Your Twin
During your grief process, you may find it challenging to work out who you are anymore, take a moment to share your twin’s memory with others.
Telling your story is a loving reminder of the gift of being a twin and the role you played in each other’s lives. It will help you bring closure to your life as a twin and open you to a new life afterward.
Talking about your loss is part of the healing process. You can share your memories with your family, friends, support group, or others who understand your unique needs.
5. Have Courage
You may never have known what it felt like to be alone before the death of your twin. Continuing to live your life without your twin may seem at times like an impossibility. You now have to face life alone in a sense, even when you’re in a relationship or a close-knit family.
Having the courage to move forward in life may not come easy. Eventually, you’ll learn to adjust to the changes stemming from your loss. It may be scary at first to do things on your own, make your own decisions, and not have your twin there to support you in general.
Gradually you’ll adjust to the need to tackle things on your own from this point forward.
6. Trust the Process
Trust the natural healing process to take place. You’ll see that you’ll find a new way of living and existing without your twin in time. The emptiness left behind by their death will be there for the rest of your life, but your pain and grief doesn’t have to be.
There are stages of grief that you can expect as the weeks turn into months. Every step has a purpose, but you may not experience all of them, and likely not in the order outlined in the handbooks on dealing with grief.
The way you grieve is your unique process. No two people alive will have the same grief experience. The five stages of grief are:
7. Have Faith
Having faith in the grieving process means, in part, trusting that you’ll heal from your pain. It may seem as if the pain and grief will never end when you first experience your twin’s death. Survivor’s guilt, extreme pain, and loneliness are examples of complicated feelings and emotions you’ll face.
Moving past what you’re currently feeling may seem unimaginable at the time, but time does lessen the hurt and pain of losing your twin. Having faith will see you through even some of the most challenging times in this process.
8. Ask for Help
If you’re used to taking care of others, it may be difficult for you to ask for help. Not asking for help is standard for most caregivers for several reasons — one of those is that a caregiver doesn’t want to burden others.
Sometimes a caregiver has misplaced pride in taking care of their loved one. They want to fall in good graces with other family members by taking on more than what’s a healthy amount for them.
An effect of not asking for help is pulling back into isolation and loneliness. Not wanting to burden anyone else with your grief can have long-term adverse effects on your overall physical and emotional well-being. Know that your support system wants to be there for you as well.
Your support system is just a text or phone call away. Reach out to those closest to you who’ll understand that you need a little extra help and support to see you through this excruciating time in your life.
9. Seek Support
There are many online therapy or counseling choices to be found online. There are also support groups to help you when you need it most, and even some made up of bereaved twins who understand your unique grief and special bereavement process.
For example, the Twinless Twins Support Group is one such online support group unique to those who have lost a twin. Its members understand when you express that you feel as if half of you has died along with your twin, or that sometimes it’s difficult for you to work out who you are anymore.
Keeping a grief journal will help you accept the feelings and emotions associated with your twin’s death. Journaling is a form of grief therapy often employed by therapists as one of their healing modalities.
Your grief journey will always be special and unique. Your journal can help you make sense of your loss, keep you focused on the present, and guide your thoughts as you try to make sense of your identity now that it’s just you without your twin.
When you write about your grief, it helps you in the following ways:
- Become aware of how your feeling
- Think about what you’re feeling and why
- Remember your twin
- Create a narrative of your relationship
- Release your thoughts and emotions
11. Take One Day at a Time
The future for you without your twin will present itself with confusing and difficult challenges ahead as you move forward with your life. Things will seem overwhelming, and you may not know what to do next or even what’s expected of you.
Now that you’ve become a twinless twin, take things as they come. Each passing day represents renewed hope and is one step closer to healing. You don’t have to have everything figured out, and no one expects you to.
12. Acknowledge the Bond
Acknowledging the special bond you had with your twin is another step toward healing from the pain of this immense loss. Whether you were fraternal or identical twins, your bond started in the womb and will never break entirely.
Even if your twin died in the womb or shortly after birth, you may still be reeling from their loss though you may not actively remember them. There’s always a strong dynamic of togetherness shared with your twin that started before birth. When you honor it, you allow for your healing to begin.
A Twin’s Bond is Never Broken
Once a twin, always a twin. Your twin’s death does not erase them from your identity, your existence, and the very core of your being. You’ll always be a twin even though death has physically separated you.
Grieving your twin’s death is a process that’s essential to your healing and in moving forward without them. When you miss them more than you can bear, just look within yourself to find a piece of them.
For more resources on grief, read our guides on how to deal with sibling grief and how to create a living memorial.