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Resources Centre / Twins Tips Introduction / Twins Tips / Surviving the Loss of a Twin or Co-Multiple
Surviving the Loss of a Twin or Co-Multiple
"Twinless Twin", Lone Twin, Surviving Twin - all of these terms have been used to describe a co-twin or co-multiple(s) who has survived his or her multiple birth siblings. The death of a co-multiple could have occurred in utero, through a stillbirth, in early infancy, by an accident, illness, traumatic event or natural causes. The effect of a multiple birth sibling loss on the survivor(s) has only recently been researched and acknowledgement made that this type of loss may be more difficult for the survivor than the loss of a spouse. After all, twins and multiples have been together since conception and share a unique bond and lifestyle journey that the majority of us do not share. Changing "we" into "I" is not an easy transition for survivors. It is important to not only recognize that this loss is unique but that it also requires unique skills for supporting and assisting survivors.

An understudied area of multiple births is the area of the loss of one's co-multiple. i.e. multiple birth individuals whom have survived while their co-multiple(s) has not. Studies have shown that multiple birth babies begin their unique relationship in utero. The special bond that they have with each other does not terminate with the death of one (or more) of them. Multiples see more of each other than they do of either parent or anyone else. Turning "we" into "I" is not a simple task for a surviving co-multiple(s). While death may end the life of one or more co-multiple. death does not end the multiples" relationship.

Surviving co-multiples who lost their sibling(s) in utero or shortly after birth have reported "feeling incomplete". "missing something from my life" and "being haunted by a sense of loss that defied explanation."

Monozygotic multiples often feel as "one" and may feel each other"s pain. share each other"s thoughts and feel incomplete when they are apart. They are reminded of their sibling each time they look in the mirror. It must be a shock therefore to look into the mirror and realize. once again. that your co-multiple is dead. One monozygotic woman who lost her twin sister in a car accident reported being traumatized when she looked in her sister"s casket and thought she saw herself. dead. Another grew a beard because each time he needed to shave. his own reflection was a reminder of his brother. These types of blurring of the boundaries are particularly difficult.

This does not mean that dizygotic multiples do not feel an intense bond between them. because many of them do. One adult woman who lost her co-multiple (a brother) from measles they had had as 6-year olds noted that all of her life she had felt "lonely and alone." in spite of a successful marriage. career and 4 beautiful children. "There is no one to watch my back." she advised. Not only was she dealing with the loss of a special brother. but she also reported feeling guilty about surviving the disease that terminated her brother"s life.

It is not uncommon for surviving multiples to be very driven, often trying to live their lives for two. one for themselves and one for their deceased co-multiple(s). They may also feel a need to succeed in order to try to make their parents feel better about the loss of their child(ren).

Or the opposite - a surviving triplet recounted that one sister died shortly after their births. A phone call to the family from the hospital indicating a second triplet had also died halted the funeral service so that the two babies could be buried together. The wee survivor fought valiantly in hospital and had had 4 open heart surgeries before she was 5 years old. At the age of 22 years she was "stuck" in her life. Although she had managed to finish high school, she had done little else and felt she was drifting. She also reported feeling melancholy, sad. guilty for putting her parents through the worries of her precarious health when they had already lost two babies and very guilty that she had lived while her co-multiples had not.

It is difficult to believe that a deceased co-multiple would want their surviving co- multiple(s) to change places with them. It is more likely that they would want their surviving co-multiple(s) to live his or her life to the fullest, to succeed, to prosper and be happy. I would also suspect that they would want to be remembered and have a little place in their sibling's heart set aside to remember them. Some concrete ways to remember your sibling(s) is to do some volunteer work in their memory. or make a donation to a special charity (perhaps on a regular basis - say your Birthday. or choose a date that is either meaningful to you or your deceased co-multiple). or have a tree planted in their memory. You might even find that when you have a child of your own. you may use your sibling's name. even as a second name. All of these ways celebrate your sibling and his or her life, no matter how short.

If you feel that you simply cannot get over losing your co-multiple(s). please ask your doctor to refer you to a counsellor who specialises in grief and whom can offer you some support with your feelings of grief. This doesn't mean forgetting your co-multiple but it does mean addressing your sorrow and pain and handling it constructively so that you can indeed live your life to the fullest.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is a little studied area of the effect of multiple birth loss on co-multiples. Below are a few other resources I have found.

Resources : Lynda P Haddon - Multiple Births Families

Living Without Your Twin. by Betty Jean Case. 2001. Tibbutt Publishing
Twin and Triplet Psychology. Edited by Audrey C. Sandbank. 1999. Routledge

Reading Resources
The Lone Twin: Understanding Twin Bereavement and Loss. by Joan Woodward. 1998. Free Association Books
Entwined Lives. Nancy L. Segal. Ph.D.. 2000. Penguin Books
Men & Grief. by Carol Staudacher. 1991. New Harbinger Publications
On Children and Death. by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. 1983. Collier Books
A Child's View of Grief. by Alan D. Wolfelt. Ph.D.. 1991. Center for Life and Transition

Twins and Multiple Births Association (Tamba)
2 The Willows
Gardner Road
T: 0870-770-3305

Twinless Twins
P.O. Box 980481
Ypsilanti. Michigan 48198

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