Twin loss whether it happens during the twin pregnancy, during labor and delivery, as a newborn baby or when the children are older, is heartbreaking.
The risks of losing one baby is higher with a twin pregnancy , possibly due to the risks surrounding prematurity, sometimes a spontaneous miscarriage of one twin, and sometimes a decision made to save at least one of the babies.
Twin loss at any stage is the loss of a child and can be devastating in the intensity of grief and mourning. Grief and loss are powerful emotions. When there is a surviving twin, then these feelings are compounded and complicated because of the mix of emotions – grief, sorrow, joy, emptiness, guilt. It can be truly difficult to celebrate the birth of one baby while at the same time, mourning the loss of the other twin.
Twin loss later in life
If the loss of a twin happens later in life, when the children are older the grief is compounded for the family and for the surviving twin. Many twins who have lost their twin feel that a part of them is forever missing – empty. Counseling is usually needed for them to cope and move on , but the emptiness may remain. The closeness felt by twins, especially in monozygotic pairs is powerful.
The parents have to deal with their own grief, as well and help the surviving child to cope with their loss. In monozygotic twin pairs this can be especially difficult, as the appearance of the living child is identical to the lost one.
Sometimes well meaning but ignorant comments from others can increase the sense of guilt and loss as people say things like ‘well , at least you have the one child left’. Finding support from other parents in similar situations can help families through this tragic time. A Roadmap for Grieving Loss of Multiple
Twin Loss – coping with the grief
Give yourselves permission to grieve for as long as it takes. There is no time-line for healing. Everyone grieves differently – some people need to talk, to remember, others need to get back to their daily lives, others need to be alone. Both parents will need to mourn the loss in their own way and support each other at the same time.
Twin Loss – the surviving twin
Trying to help your living twin cope with the loss while you yourself are grieving is intensely emotional. If your twin were babies when the loss occurred you may find the need for more cuddling to replace the closeness that had existed. If the loss happened later, help to keep the memory alive with pictures and stories. Try not to become over-protective of your surviving twin – while hard, you still need to create a normal life for them. This will become easier as time starts to lessen the pain and worry somewhat. Time is the only way to lessen the pain of losing a child, and will never entirely disappear. Many parents find that with time, they find creative ways to keep the memory of their child alive, and many donate their time to causes such as SIDS awareness and the March of Dimes.