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Question:  

I lost one of my twins in the womb.  My daughter is now 16 months old. I’ve been thinking what would be an appropriate age to tell her about her twin?

Suggestions:  

Hello,  I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your baby.  Nothing about losing a much-wanted child is easy.  I suggest to parents that they talk about the sibling as early as possible.  It is easier to begin with a young child then to try and break the news to a say, 14-year old who may be shocked to hear the information for the first time.  Teenagers have growing up issues to deal with and learning the truth about their origins later in life can be mind-boggling.  With a young child, the words are less important than with an older child and the parent gets chances to work through the way to deliver the news. When the truth is shared early on, the lost sibling is part of the fabric of who the survivor is vs them facing a completely different scenario at an older age and realizing that they are not who they thought they were.  Even starting now is not to soon.  “There should have been two of you.  Your Dad and I miss your little brother/sister very much and wish whole-heartedly s/he could be here, with us.” And such.  Short sentences, a few words as you also feel the ground for sharing.  It will no doubt be difficult for you as well.  

When your daughter begins to speak, she will eventually ask you questions.  Use age-appropriate language when answering, be honest, try not to avoid the topic – it may come up when you don’t feel like talking about the subject, and expect the same questions over and over.  This is how small children incorporate the idea of death.  It is hard for them to understand what it means to die.  Repetition helps.  “S/he was too sick to stay with us and be a family on earth”  is a gentle way to help her understand until she is older and better equipped for as much detail as you feel you can share.  Be prepared to cry sometimes and that is OK.  You can tell her you are glad to have her but not to have her brother/sister makes you feel sad.  You are helping her learn that life is not always fair, there are loving people around her nevertheless and she is not to blame because he/she died.  She may ask you at some point if the loss was her fault.  It is not her fault, nor yours or her Dad’s.  It was something sad that happened and you would change it if you could, but you can’t.

I hope these are some helpful ideas.  Please accept my sincere condolences on your loss. Lynda

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While there is a lot of literature available to support bereaved parents, there is less so for the survivors of multiple-birth and/or who lose their co-multiple later in life.  Multiples come into the world at the same time, but there is no guarantee they will leave it at the same time. What challenges do survivors face?  Below I have shared some of the existing books which I think are very supportive.  If I have missed any that you think should be added to this list, please let me know.

Twin Loss: A Book for Survivor Twins, by Raymond William Brandt.  Dr. Brandt lost his twin brother when they were 20 years old.  Dr. Brandt began the American organization, Twinless Twins, to support surviving co-multiples, parents, grandparents, healthcare professionals, bereavement counsellors and anyone else needing to learn about the unique twin relationship and the challenges when one dies.  Twinless Twins can be reached at http://www.twinlesstwins.org

The End of The Twins:  A Memoir of Losing a Brother, by Saul Diskin.  Saul lost his twin brother to cancer later in their lives.

Who Moved the Sun?:  A Twin Remembers, by Ron McKenzie.  Ron lost his twin brother, Don when they were 62 years old.

The Lone Twin: Understanding Twin Bereavement and Loss, by Joan Woodward.  Joan lost her twin sister when they were three years old.  In this book, Joan explores not only what her loss means to her, but after working in the multiple-birth field for several years and learning about multiples’ connections, Joan prepared this important and eye-opening book.  This is a must-read book for understanding and comprehension of what it means to lose a co-multiple at any point in life and what the survivor has to face moving on alone.

Living Without Your Twin, by Betty Jean Case.  Betty is a twin, had twin brothers and twin grandchildren.  In this book, Betty explores loss of a twin through death, suicide, murder, adoption and estrangement.  She discusses what it means to lose a twin, separation and reuniting and its challenges.

The Survivor, by Lynne Schulz.  Lynne’s first book was The Diary.  Lynne had boy/girl twins and her daughter, Meghan, did not survive.  Lynne addresses the challenges of raising a survivor of multiple-birth plus some of the challenges that parents can expect to have to face as their survivor navigates their lives without their womb-mate.  Lynne also discusses the challenges for her, as a parent, of loving and bringing up her son while knowing there should have been two children throughout the same journey.

 

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Question:  I had no idea about twinless twins. I lost one of mine [twins] in the womb. My daughter is now 16 months [old].  I’ve been thinking what would be an appropriate age to tell her about her twin.

Suggestions:  Hello,  I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your baby.  Nothing about losing a much-wanted child is easy.  I suggest to parents that they talk about the sibling as early as possible.  The conversation is much easier to begin with a young child then to try and break the news to a say, 14-year old.  With a young child, the words are less important than with an older child and parents can “practice” to get the words out as they perhaps also struggle with their own feelings about losing their child.

When the loss is shared early on it becomes part of the fabric of who the survivor is vs them facing a completely different scenario at an older age and realizing that they are not who they thought they were.  Even starting now is not to soon, in my opinion.  “There should have been two of you.  Your Dad and I miss your little brother/sister very much.”  And such.  Short sentences, a few words as you also feel the ground for sharing.  It will no doubt be difficult for you as well.

When your daughter begins to speak, she will eventually ask you questions.  Use age-appropriate language when answering, be honest, try not to avoid the topic – it may come up when you don’t feel like talking about the subject, and do expect the same questions over and over.  This is how small children incorporate the idea of death.  It is hard for them to understand.  Repetition helps.  “S/he was too sick to stay with us and be a family on earth”  is a gentle way to help her understand until she is older and better equipped for as much detail as you feel you can share.  Be prepared to cry sometimes and that is OK.  You can tell her you are glad to have her but not to have her brother/sister makes you feel sad. You are helping her learn that life is not always fair, there are loving people around her nevertheless and she is not to blame because he/she died.  She will no doubt ask you at some point if the loss was her fault.  It is not her fault, not your fault, nor her Dad’s. It was something sad that happened and you would change it if you could, but you can’t.

I hope these are some helpful ideas.  Please accept my sincere condolences on your loss. 

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There is a wonderful support organization in the United States called Twinless Twins who offers support and resources for multiples of all ages who have lost their co-multiple at any point in their lives.  They can be reached at http://www.twinlesstwins.org    They have support Chapters all over the United States and an annual convention, sometimes in Southern Canada as well.

There are also several books about being a twinless twins (a term used even for loss within a higher order multiple set of multiples):  Living Without Your Twin by Betty Jean Case;  The Survivor, by Lynne Schulz;  Who Moved the Sun? a tribute to the loss of a twin brother; and Twin Loss by Raymond William Brandt.  As well, my Site at http://www.jumelle.ca has articles and resources for survivors who might appreciate them.

I am so sorry for your loss.

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~”4 years (ago) I l lost my brother.  I still want to take my life. Why should I struggle through life? It’s so hard ..”

I receive a lot of messages such as the above and each one puts a lump in my chest.  The sadness, unhappiness, loneliness, and inability to see any future that so many survivors feel is astounding – understandable, but also astounding.

It is an enormous challenge to go from We to I.  There is no proper preparation for such a state.  From the very beginning two or more souls have been together, aware of each other, caring and “checking in” with each, sharing a birthday, sharing so much.  When the connection is cut, forever, what now?  Who is watching my back?  I have lost my best friend (some survivors say the feeling is worse than losing a spouse).  How can I possibly be anything or move forward without my special partner?  There may be survivor’s guilt. So many messages indicate that the survivor wants to die and join their co-multiple.

How do we help and support these very vulnerable folks at the worst point in their lives? How do we assist them in recognizing what they are feeling but encourage them to continue on to be the best they can be, without guilt: get an education, meet someone, perhaps have a family, travel, share their experience and still remember their true roots?

~I think understanding professional help is a good start.  Speaking with someone who is aware of the unique bonds between multiples and who won’t pooh-pooh a survivor’s deep-seated feelings is essential.  We know that multiples are aware of each other in the womb and these intense connections survive beyond the womb and remain throughout their lives.  A professional who is aware of the unique bonds and honours them when counselling a survivor, is a gem indeed.

~I feel quite strongly that the deceased co-multiple would not wish their survivor to join them in death.  What they would want is for their co-multiple to mourn and move on to live a healthy, happy life and enjoy what they can from life, free of guilt, while remembering and keeping a small part of their heart to remember their deceased.  I do not think for a moment that a deceased co-multiple would choose death for their co-sibling.  It just does not make sense that this would be the case.

~Suicide is, in my opinion, something that a desperate person chooses.  One who feels this is the only recourse left open to them.  They have convinced themselves that no one would miss them and the world would be a better place without them.  They cannot take the pain any longer of living.  Living is not an easy thing to do day in, day out.  We need tools in our toolbox to handle a lot of what is handed to us over a life time:  house burns down and we lose our things, crash our car, didn’t get the job we wanted, our best friend moved away, have trouble losing weight, to name a few – or we lose our co-multiple.  This can be a monumental challenge, but seeking the right support and resources can get us through and tomorrow can be a little brighter, promise.  The world would NOT be a better place without you and so many family members, friends and colleagues would miss you beyond belief.  Please, please, please don’t choose suicide as an option.  Life is not bleak every minute of every day and with the right support, you can get through.  You are not alone.  Plus who better to remember your co-multiple than yourself?  Only you know the details of your lives and are in the best position to remember and honour your special sibling.

~Don’t be shy about reaching out to speak with others.  The Internet is full of Web Sites, books, resources, grief information to help you help yourself get through.  Speak to your doctor, clergy person, or someone who feel safe with.  Every one of these resources is ready and waiting to support and assist you.

~Some surviving co-multiples have written books sharing their experiences of being with and being without their co-multiple.  Maybe writing such a book would also be good for you. Or simply keeping a journal for your own eyes can be very cathartic.  I will list some of the books written below.  I have read them all and each and every one of them is worth their weight in gold.

I sincerely hope you can find some solace in this world until your own time is decided and live a full and happy life, while honouring your unique birth experience and partner.

Sincerely,                                                                                                                                                      Lynda  (July, 2016)

Support For Survivors

Books

Living Without Your Twin, by Betty Jean Case
Who Moved the Sun?  A Twin Remembers, by Ron McKenzie                                            

The End of The Twins: A Memoir of Losing a Brother, by Saul Diskin                                

The Lone Twin, by Joan Woodward
The Survivor, by Lynne Schulz

On the Internet

Lynda’s Site

http://www.jumelle.ca

Multiple Births Canada

Loss Support Network

http://www.multiplebirthscanada.org

Twinless Twins Organization   (US)

http://www.twinlesstwins.org

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So many of you are contacting me and wanting in depth discussion about losing your co-multiple(s).  While I have had some experience with this type of loss, I am not qualified to address the issue. Please contact Twinless Twins (www.twinlesstwins.org) in the United States and they will be able to help you.  There are chapters all across the US and they have an annual meeting where survivors can sign up, attend, hear speakers, meet other twinless twins and gather resources.

I am so sorry for your loss(es).  Twins, triplets and more come into the world together, research has shown that they are connected within the womb, but they usually do not leave the world at the same time.  It can be a devastating situation for the survivor(s).  You deserve proper support and connection and Twinless Twins is the place to find that support and connection.  They can be reached at http://www.twinlesstwins.org

 

Very best wishes.

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