Every loss, whether it be a spouse, parent, sibling, or friend, is incredibly difficult. So, to be clear, I am not endorsing any sort of “Grief Olympics.” Child loss, however, seems to be uniquely agonizing. It is a hand absolutely no one wishes to be dealt. It is not natural. No parent should ever have to plan their child’s funeral.
Then there is twin loss. Those of us who lost one of our twin children are a very particular subset of loss. We are the ones who go through each day grieving a death while at the same time caring for a surviving sibling who may or may not understand they lost their genetic counterpart. In the case of identical twins, like my daughters, we are the ones who are both blessed and cursed to literally, physically, see what could have been if our child were still with us on this earth.
We are the ones who must answer the uncomfortable question from people who want to know who the other child in the picture is.
We are the ones who bought parenting books about raising multiples that now sit gathering dust on the shelf.
We are the ones who bought or were gifted two of everything and made our partner do the returns because we could not bear to walk into that store and face the harsh reality that we would only need half of it.
We are the ones who were told, “At least you have your other child.” A comment which I’m sure is always well-intentioned but nonetheless feels like an ice-cold dagger to the heart.
We are the ones who picked out two names but only get to say one on a regular basis.
We are the ones who, every time someone uses the words “twins” “identical” or “multiple” feel a strange, tiny wave of PTSD. At least, I know that is what I experience personally.
We are the ones who write birthday posts on social media with side-by-side pictures that do not match because one child grew up and the other left this earth far too soon.
We are the ones who see beautiful, adorable twins out in public and want to be happy for their parents, but deep down inside, we are pain-stricken that we were robbed of that precious and unique experience of raising twins.
We are the ones whose friends ask them before a playdate where twins will be present if it will be too difficult to be around them. The truth is that it often is.
We are the ones who spend every important milestone with our surviving child—birthdays, baptisms, first days of school—with a breaking heart because we are painfully aware of the fact we should be celebrating for two.
We are the ones who brought one of our precious children home from the hospital in a car seat while the other came home in an urn.
We are the ones who pray our surviving child will somehow feel a beyond earthly connection to their twin: maybe a gentle breeze out of nowhere meant to alert them to their presence or a gut feeling or instinct that goes beyond their understanding—a signal or message meant just for their twin.
We desperately cling to this hope because it is all we have left of them.
No loss is easy. Death is inevitable, but some kinds of loss blindside us and leave us forever scarred. So, I do not intend to be disrespectful toward anyone grieving the loss of a loved one; I certainly do not feel twin-loss parents are the only ones who get to hurt. But I cannot help but feel the reminders we live with on a daily basis via our surviving child can manifest in a special kind of pain and heartache few people can truly comprehend.
For my part, I am grateful for my relationship with God that allows me to keep the faith that one day I will be reunited with my daughter in Heaven. I hope and pray all loss parents can experience the same peace I feel carrying that knowledge.
To Hannah, my angel baby: thank you for being your sisters’ constant guardian angel and protector. We love and miss you and cannot wait for that glorious day when we will see you again.