Suffering the death of a twin is one of the most devastating types of losses siblings can go through. The pain can be profound, with a seemingly enduring grief process due to the remarkable bond shared by twins even before birth. This significant loss can lead to apprehension and incompleteness in the surviving sibling, and they may continue living for years, sensing that a part of them has died along with their other twin.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What Might It Feel Like to Be a Twinless Twin on Your Birthday?
- How You Can Deal With Your Emotions on Your Birthday
- How You Can Support a Twinless Twin on Their Birthday
- How to Honor, Remember, or Celebrate Your Deceased Twin on Your Birthday
The regret and sorrow a survivor can experience is magnified by their new role as a twinless twin, where they now have to forge a different identity and learn to live life without their other half. Milestones celebrated, such as birthdays, become painful reminders of what once was, making coping on this special day all the more challenging.
What Might It Feel Like to Be a Twinless Twin on Your Birthday?
Twins who’ve lost their twin siblings report feeling like a part of them is missing, especially when celebrating their birthdays. Their twin’s absence is not only felt but this particular date can be a searing reminder of the unbearable loss suffered.
Thoughts of abandonment, being left alone, and sensing that a part of themselves is missing are due to identical twins sharing some of the same DNA. This leads surviving twins to experience feeling fragmented in having lost their other half. Fraternal or semi-identical twins can also experience these same reactions because of the close bond shared starting in the womb at gestation.
The mourning process is prolonged for many twinless twins and can last a lifetime, even with years of grief therapy and counseling. Many twins who have lost their co-twin report that the depth of their sorrow and sense of loss is indescribable compared to other types of setbacks they've suffered. No birthday or special occasion is ever the same without their twin, and any desire to celebrate vanishes for many struggling to cope with this type of grief.
How You Can Deal With Your Emotions on Your Birthday
The grief process when birthdays come around is different for every survivor. Journeying through a healthy grieving process for someone dealing with the loss of a twin can seem fraught with heartbreak and setbacks.
However, as with other types of grief, differences in age and gender play a significant role in how a surviving twin copes with their sorrow on their birthday. If you are unsure on how to manage your feelings, here are a few ideas on how to get through your special day without your twin.
Acknowledge your pain
Persons dealing with profound sorrow often mask their pain and hide their emotions instead of dealing with them, and this behavior can harm and delay the healing process. A more healthy way of coping with your grief is to recognize how your twin’s death affects your emotions, the attachment you had to them, and what their loss means to you.
Arriving at these answers may not come easy, and you may benefit from setting time aside for self-reflection and contemplation. When it comes to admitting sorrow, men and women tend to shift in how they grieve, with some men being generally more stoic while some women may tend to suffer publicly.
Confront your twin’s absence
Every person copes with the death of their twin uniquely. Fully coming to terms with the loss of your twin is a deeply personal process that will undoubtedly take many years for most survivors to get through.
Birthdays bring heightened emotions that may lead you to want to hide out from the world instead of facing the fact that your twin has died and is no longer there. Acknowledging their absence might mean having to accept the reality of their death, something you may not yet be ready to do. Instead of ignoring your birthday, think about a creative way to honor your deceased loved one that adds joy back into this special day.
Digest the day in small chunks
Celebrating your birthday without your twin may cause you stress and anxiety, leading you to withdraw from your friends and other loved ones socially. Most people can’t understand the excruciating pain you’re suffering, even when you try and explain why you may not want to celebrate your special day.
Many will insist on moving forward with a celebration for you despite your best efforts to skip out on the festivities. To help you get through, try breaking up this day into small, manageable segments of time. Give yourself specific things to do or accomplish throughout the day to distract yourself from your grief and any upcoming celebrations.
How You Can Support a Twinless Twin on Their Birthday
The unique bond and sense of loss experienced by twinless twins are incomparable to any other type of loss. Twins usually share a closer bond than their other siblings or parents. They are central to one another’s existence, and when one dies, the other suffers for a lifetime. Lending comfort and support to someone who’s lost their twin may prove challenging, but you can still manage it. The following ideas are great starting points when you’re unsure how to help.
Reach out to them
The simplest thing you can do for someone grieving a significant loss is to reach out to them in person when appropriate or by telephone. Twins who’ve lost their co-twin will need guidance and direction in developing a new routine on their birthday and a positive sense of self to get their spirits high. You can expect their birthday to be filled with sadness and grief, and there typically isn’t anything you can say or do to fix it for them.
With that said, you can also add some joy to their special day by showing up and reminding them that they’re not alone in their grief.
Encourage them to share stories
A unique phenomenon occurring after the death of a twin is that the survivor tends to take on characteristics of the deceased. They do this so that they can hold onto a piece of them for as long as possible.
An example of this is when an introverted twin takes on their deceased twin's extroverted personality and tries to become them as much as possible. It helps the survivors heal from their grief when they talk about their twin that died and what they were like when they were still living. Talking about them helps them remember their twin and slowly release their pain.
Validate their loneliness
A twinless twin may suffer from loneliness and depression associated with their loss. When a twin dies, the survivor loses a huge chunk of their identity. Their literal other half has disappeared, leading them to feel abandoned and alone on top of the subsequent loss of social support.
Many twins may be unfamiliar with alienation and loneliness, as they've always had their twin to rely on. When that support person dies, their feelings of abandonment are genuine. Acknowledging the immensity of their loss, especially on their birthday, helps support someone grieving their twin's death.
How to Honor, Remember, or Celebrate Your Deceased Twin on Your Birthday
Honoring a deceased loved one on their birthday can be both sad and joyful, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming for you if you prepare ahead of time how you'll celebrate the day. The anticipation of this special occasion often leads to feelings of emotional overload.
You can effectively eliminate all the unknowns that lead to apprehension on your birthday with proper planning. The tips below will help you celebrate this day in a way that honors both you and your deceased twin without making you feel shame or guilt.
Plant a seed in their memory
Depending on the time of year your birthday falls, consider planting a tree or a flower garden as a living memorial in honor of your twin’s memory. You can dedicate this memorial to the life and legacy of your loved one while creating a dedicated space for you to contemplate your loss and process your grief.
A garden or tree planted offers grief support throughout the years, a place to go to maintain the bond with your twin, and a place to grieve. Consider mixing your loved one’s cremated ashes into the soil so you can incorporate their essence into this sacred area.
Have fun for the both of you
Most people will never understand the pain of celebrating birthdays without a twin, and you may never allow yourself to experience the joy of another birthday without yours. Your grief is valid, and it’s understandable not to want to celebrate it after your twin has died. However, there’s nothing wrong with carving out a new way of adding meaning to the day the two of you were born.
Think back to what brought the two of you joy, the things that made you laugh, and the places you liked to visit. Go back to relive these moments in your twin’s honor by dedicating an outing to their memory while enjoying it for the both of you.
Spend the day alone
Permit yourself to have the day all to yourself on your birthday. It's OK if you don't want to celebrate your birthday without your twin. To avoid having any awkward conversations about how you'll spend your birthday, make plans to be alone on your birthday, and let everyone know how you'll be spending your special day.
Ask your friends and family to honor your wishes by not forcing a celebration on you. After a few years, they'll get used to not celebrating, and they'll grow to accept your choice. Your general unavailability should discourage them from planning anything for you on that day.
Celebrating Without Your Twin
The depths of pain suffered after losing your twin are unimaginable for anyone who isn’t a twin. Only you know the unique and profound despair accompanying this type of loss. Celebrations no longer feel as such, and your desire to commemorate the special day without your twin may forever leave you. Time will ease some of your sufferings, opening the way for other ways of celebrating life and its milestones without your twin.