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What happens to a twin when the other twin dies?

Losing a loved one is always difficult, but losing your twin can be an especially painful and confusing experience. Twins share an unbreakable bond from the womb to the tomb, so when one passes away, the surviving twin often struggles with intense grief, identity issues, and the feeling of losing a part of themselves. However, with time and support, it is possible for the surviving twin to heal and rediscover meaning in life after such a monumental loss.

How does the surviving twin respond?

There is no single, universal response to losing a twin. Each set of twins has their own unique relationship and dynamic. However, some common reactions include:

  • Intense grief and sadness – This may manifest as crying, withdrawal from normal activities, loss of interest in hobbies, etc.
  • Loneliness and feelings of isolation – The surviving twin may feel like no one understands the depth of their loss.
  • Anger – Anger at their twin for dying and leaving them behind, anger at the unfairness of the situation, or anger at themselves for still being alive.
  • Guilt – Guilt over not being able to prevent their twin’s death or guilt over still enjoying life after their passing.
  • Fear and anxiety – The surviving twin may develop separation anxiety and fear of also dying/leaving loved ones behind.
  • Depression – Intense grief after losing a twin can lead to clinical depression in some cases.
  • Identity crisis – Twins often share a strong sense of identity. The surviving twin may struggle with their sense of self after losing the person that has been by their side since birth.

These feelings can be extremely difficult to cope with, especially in the beginning. The surviving twin will need a strong support system as they work through their grief over time.

Why does losing a twin affect the other twin so deeply?

There are several reasons why losing a twin has such a profound impact on the surviving sibling:

  • Twins start bonding in the womb – They share intimacy and a connection from before birth.
  • Twins often grow up dressing alike, sharing friends and interests, and shaping their identities together.
  • Twins share genetic makeup – They are connected on a biological level.
  • Twins go through life stages together – They share childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age.
  • Twins have a lifelong friendship – The relationship often lasts longer than any other.
  • Twins understand each other deeply – There is an unmatched empathy between twins.
  • Twins fill complementary roles – When one dies, the surviving twin loses balance.
  • The twin relationship is exclusive – The intimacy twins share is difficult to replace.

For all these reasons, twins describe their bond as the closest one can have. When this lifelong bond is severed by death, it leaves a deep void in the surviving twin.

What are some unique challenges for the surviving twin?

In addition to grief, the surviving twin may face other struggles after losing their twin:

  • Changed identity – Twins often develop a shared identity over their lifetimes. The surviving twin must redefine who they are as an individual without their twin.
  • Loneliness – Other relationships can feel less intimate compared to the twin bond, leaving the surviving twin feeling isolated.
  • Lack of understanding from others – Friends and family often minimize the twin relationship, failing to grasp the true impact of the loss.
  • Guilt over milestones – Weddings, childbirths, anniversaries may stir up guilt without the twin to share them.
  • No longer feeling like a twin – The surviving twin has lost the person who made them a twin in the first place.
  • Relationship issues – The surviving twin may transfer attachment or dependency onto spouses/partners.

These unique challenges stem from losing someone who wasn’t just a sibling, but an irreplaceable twin. Support groups and grief counseling tailored for twin loss can help the surviving twin navigate these hurdles.

Does the grief ever go away?

The intense pain of early grief does subside in time. However, most surviving twins say the loss stays with them forever on some level. Even years later, important milestones, holidays, or triggering events may bring profound waves of grief. A surviving twin never fully gets “over” the loss – they learn to carry the grief with them through the years. Having ongoing support and healthy coping strategies allows most twins to integrate their loss into their lives in a way that allows happiness to exist alongside their ever-present grief. Their twin remains an integral part of their identity and their guiding memory continues impacting their lives.

How do surviving twins eventually move forward?

Although the grieving process is nonlinear and unique for every twin, most surviving twins gradually begin to heal and rebuild their lives by:

  • Allowing themselves to fully grieve – Bottling up emotions prolongs the intensity of grief.
  • Seeking counseling or a grief support group – This provides validation and prevents isolation.
  • Using coping strategies like journaling, exercise, meditation, etc. – Healthy outlets help manage difficult emotions.
  • Treasuring memories of their twin – Looking at photos, visiting special places, talking about their twin keeps their memory alive.
  • Redefining their identity – Exploring new pursuits and evolving their sense of self without their twin.
  • Commemorating their twin – Lighting candles, planting trees, or memorial tattoos are cathartic.
  • Helping others dealing with loss of a twin – Turning grief into compassion helps the healing process.

By being patient and kind with themselves, taking things one day at a time, and actively working through their grief, the surviving twin can eventually reconcile their loss and rediscover meaning in life.

What can friends and family do to help?

It is important for friends and family to be compassionate and offer the right kind of support when a twin grieves the loss of their other half:

  • Listen without judgement and validate their profound sense of loss.
  • Avoid telling them to “move on” or minimizing their grief.
  • Understand that their grief will resurface from time to time.
  • Check in on them for emotional support and practical help.
  • Honor the memory of the deceased twin.
  • Gently encourage counseling if their grief is prolonged or excessive.
  • Offer to partake in memorial activities.
  • Let them share memories and cry when needed.
  • Refrain from comparing other losses to losing a twin.

While no one can replace their twin, ongoing love and support from those around them gives surviving twins the strength to eventually reconcile their grief and move forward while keeping their twin’s memory alive in their hearts.


Losing a twin is a heartbreaking tragedy that the surviving sibling will mourn for a lifetime. However, with compassion, time, active grief work, and the support of loved ones, it is possible to achieve some sense of peace and purpose after losing your other half. The intensity of the immediate grief will subside, identity can be reshaped, and the twin’s memory can become a source of comfort and motivation to live life to the fullest. While the loss cannot be undone, surviving twins exemplify human resiliency by finding a way to integrate their grief into a life still filled with meaning and joy.