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We Do This Year Together

a hand holding two sparklers with the words Facing 2018

I barely remember the first year without my twin, it felt like I was in a horror film. My job was to breath in and out and to survive the minutes of the day. I hated this. Pretty soon I realized I had survived a month and then two… and soon a whole year. Unbelievable – I never thought it was possible to survive even a second without her. At times, I felt angry that I was still alive and I had to face yet another year without my twin. If you are feeling this, it is normal and your twinless family understands this feeling. —Michelle Getchell, twin to Missy

The year 2018 will bring you a date of loss and a birth date. On top of that you may be facing a major life moment such as a graduation, wedding, birth of a child, or purchase of a new house. These are all things your twin would have known about or have been present for. TTSGI recognizes you may feel you can’t do it without your twin. This makes sense. Because you thought he/she would be here for all these moments. To help you feel less alone in the life moments, we invite you to post these moments as a comment to this blog post so that we, as a twinless community, can send you twin-hugs when you’re sad and twin-cheers to celebrate your accomplishments. Be assured we know the depth of the loss and longing your heart feels for your twin, especially in these big moments. You are not alone. We do 2018 together!

We also encourage you to read a post by Mary R. Morgan on “Grieving and Coping with Loss Over the Holidays”

Getting Through the Holidays

By Michelle Getchell, twin to Missy

Apart from the date of loss and birth date, it is the holidays that seem to be some of the hardest times for a twinless twin. There are so many people full of cheer and well wishes, it can weirdly be a reminder that happiness is fleeting. Some twinless may be asking, “How can I be happy when I feel like I am missing part of me?” To a twinless twin, this question makes sense. I know this is a question I asked myself many times.

I remember the first several holiday gatherings without my twin. It was all I could do to sit at the dinner table and contribute to the conversation. I held back tears and was keenly aware of how alone I felt in a room full of family. Please don’t mistake me, I love my family and I had always enjoyed the festivities, but without my twin it did not feel the same. I did not understand life without her and gathering together highlighted that she was gone. It was another reminder that I wanted my twin back – now.

If I am candid, I wanted to avoid it all – gatherings, presents, and people. However, I felt torn to try and please my family. I knew my presence gave them comfort by letting them know that I was surviving. In their eyes they saw me as ok.

This holiday may be one of the first without your twin or it may be one of many you have had to endure. Be assured that the feeling of tension, missing, and longing for your twin makes sense. Remember we do holidays together. You are not alone.

I use the holidays now to remember my twin with joy. Some ways I have done this is to ask my family questions about my twin. I love all stories about her. This fills me and keeps her close in a way I may not have gotten all year. I now look forward to holidays. There was a lot of time and healing for me to be able to say this. Take your time in this process and be good to yourself this holiday season. For more encouragement, feel free to read this article on grieving and coping with loss over the holidays.

The 2017 Dr. Brandt Memorial Award Recipient

Photo of past TTSGI presidents giving Sandra an award

By Renie Halford, twin to Ernie

Dr. Brandt passed away almost one day to the year before I joined TTSGI. Though I did not personally know him, I know much about him. I do have the good fortune of knowing all the recipients of the Dr. Brandt Award. Each of them has made huge personal and resource contributions to TTSGI.

I am especially pleased with this year’s recipient, Sandra Brown. Sandra joined TTSGI in 2002, same as I, one year after the death of her beloved twin, Sammy. She has been a stalwart to the organization: involvement in regional meetings and activities, attendance at the annual conferences, a member of the conference committee and a dedicated board member.

The Board of Directors at that time was overjoyed when she was nominated to become a member. She immediately became a productive decision maker and a strong render of service and resources. Along with her own talent, she brought that of her husband, John, who became an integral part of what we do (Sadly, John passed away a few years ago).

For my wife LeAnn and me, Sandra was our first friend in TTSGI. It has now been 15 years since. Each year we cherish her more.

“You Are The Light”

The Empty Chair - and article from the twinless times

By Sandy Goad, twin to Jim

Recently, I was reviewing an article in Grief Digest, a magazine that offers hope, and support to those who have lost a loved one. Andrea Gambill writes,

“In the mid-to-late seventies the notion of peer support was viewed by the professional caregiving community with a high degree of skepticism. In those days, many of them thought that putting together a group of untrained lay people with similar life experiences, with the goal of “helping” each other, was at best, worthless. The only “support” groups in those days that were recognized as potentially valuable were Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers.”

A few visionary pioneers were beginning to plant the seeds of bringing together other people of similar needs to help support each other. Groups were beginning to form like Hospice, the Compassionate Friends, Madd, and the Centering Corporation. Andrea states, “In the beginning, most of us had little to bring to our missions but enthusiasm, energy, selfless goals, willing hearts and personal life experiences. There was not much in the way of formal training, but what we lacked in academics, we made up for in love and dedication. We didn’t have any road maps to follow…but we followed our unmarked roads with faith and purpose. And we learned a lot.” These support groups were “the light” for others to follow.

“A wonderful garden of hope and healing was spreading like wildfire.” In 1987, Dr. Raymond Brandt, twin to Robert, planted a seed. He established a support group for twins who have lost their twin called Twinless Twins Support Group International. (TTSGI) He was a visionary pioneer! Twins, at different stages in their bereavement, came together to listen to each other and reach out in the spirit of healing by helping others. This year marks the 30th year since Dr. Brandt shared his vision with the world. TTSGI continues to provide support to twinless twins through regional activities, national conferences, their Facebook page and educational resources.

Andrea Gambill writes,

“I’ve said it before and I’ll remind you again: The most positive sign of progress in our grief journeys is the point where we realize we care more about other people than we ever thought we could. When our mirrors start becoming windows, we know we’re making progress in our grief journey.”

When you have made progress and you are ready, will you “share your light” with others along this journey?

Radio Interview with TTSGI Executive Director

Open to Hope Foundation® is a non-profit foundation with the mission of helping people find hope after loss. Their radio program has shared over 500 interviews on topics of grief, loss, hope and healing. This week they share with us an interview of TTSGI’s Executive Director Michelle Getchell who talks about twin loss. Click here to listen to the full interview.

New York/New Jersey Regional Meeting

By Carolyn Shane, twin to Cary

The NY/NJ Region is fortunate to be able to meet four times each year alternating between the New York area and in various towns in New Jersey. An email is sent to everyone weeks prior to a meeting for a vote to be taken as to which dates provided will work best for the members of the region. The most popular date wins and the meeting date and location is set and a follow-up communication is then sent to everyone informing them of the meeting date details. The date of Oct. 30th won the vote and we were fortunate to have 14 members and 3 supporters who attended this meeting on Long Island at the beautiful and comfortable home of Laurie.

We begin each meeting at noon time with everyone bringing something for the group to eat and an hour is spent having lunch together and chatting informally. At 1 pm everyone is gathered together for our formal time together. We start by lighting two candles; one in memory of our twin and one for us, to be blessed with peace of mind, body and spirit. Fred then leads us in a prayer which sets the tone for our get-together. After the initial part of the meeting where we review the rules and procedures of the afternoon, discuss the past and upcoming conference, and remind everyone that it is important that we as Twinless Twins support our organization, we go around the room and we share our name, if appropriate our twin’s name, and the circumstance of their death. Depending on the number of attendees, this portion of the meeting can take an hour or more. We then take a 15 minute break to eat a bit more and to connect with each other in support, after our sharing time.

When we reconvene, there is always a chosen topic to be discussed. On Oct. 30th, the topic was ‘How has being a twin affected your life positively and/or negatively?’ Everyone participated and shared at their own comfort level. Part 2 of the discussion was ‘What have you done /are doing/or plan to do to make a positive impact on others and yourself to honor the loss of your twin and to help you in your healing process?’

We ended the discussion by quoting Dr. Brandt’s belief and one of TTSGI’s motto: “Healing by helping others.” I also distributed the following quote by Dr. Phil which we read in unison: “The depth, breadth, and longevity of your grief are not a reflection of how much you cared about the person. Celebrate everyday of their life instead of grieve the moment of death.”

Our meeting ended with a universal thank you to everyone who came and by their participation made this meeting very special, indeed. And of course, the meeting was not complete without our photo moment. Thanks to Burt and Steve, two of our supporters who took what seemed like 14 cell phone photo moments.

Our TTSGI Facebook Group: You are invited to participate!

by: Michelle Getchell, twin to Missy

Did you know that TTSGI has a FB group, which has almost 2,000 members? This FB group consists of both TTSGI members and non-members. We use this FB group as an outreach for TTs looking for support. On average 20 new contacts a week are joining our FB group. Our goal is to encourage and provide a safe haven for TTs to share honestly and candidly about their twin loss. Our FB group also serves as a way to help TTs (when ready) to get involved in the bigger community of TTSGI and become a member. Twinless twins from all over the world, with losses ranging from days to years, are participating in conversations, sharing their story, and offering their support – demonstrating “Healing by Helping”. We invite you to join our FB group: Click Here!

This FB group is moderated by eight of our amazing, faithful, dedicated TT members: Alice, Dawn, Sarah, Wilmette, Rob, Carol, Jane, Beverly – Thank You Moderator Team!

Questions? Please contact one of the moderators or send your email to contact@twinlesstwins.org and we will pass it to a moderator for you!

Feedback on the 2016 Conference

My Detroit 2016 Conference Experience
By Janet, twin to Margaret

The Detroit 2016 Conference began on Thursday, which is meetings day for the Board and Regional Coordinators. I had breakfast first, in the dining room. There was a wide selection of hot and cold foods and I had fruit, yoghurt, freshly cooked omelet and tea. The Regional Coordinator meeting went on until lunch time then we had a shared lunch with the board before a meeting with them. Afterwards, I joined up with my twin pal Jennifer and we had dinner with Sandy and Paul before we all registered for the conference. This year the conference shirts were turquoise and very smart. We went into the new twins meeting and introduced ourselves. President Ray gave an address and welcomed everyone. We had desserts and drinks; then I went to bed early, hoping to sleep.

Friday was the first real day of the conference. I had an early breakfast with some of the twins before Inspirations at 8am. Afterwards we all went to opening of the conference in the big room. The keynote speech was given by Alicia Sims, daughter of Darcie Sims, the well know grief therapist who has spoken at conference on two occasions. The room was captivated by her positive approach to grief. Her message was that if we honour the life of our twins, we can look at anniversaries and significant dates more positively.

After Alicia’s address, we had a break before the self-introduction time. Lunch was at 11:45am and this year it wasn’t the usual boxed lunch with sandwiches and fruit, etc. We had an express buffet lunch in the hotel dining room for $15. Break out options were available at 1:30pm for those twins who preferred an alternative to the continued self-introduction sessions. I went to the writing class, but there was also a session for parents of twinless twins. Board member Dena facilitated our writing session, which was based on telling our twin stories. Dena shared with us a technique of writing where you look at a story from different character’s points of view.

We left the sessions to change for the twin memorial walk. As we boarded the yellow school bus which took us to the start, I marveled at the progress the returning twins had made. I looked around at the new twins boarding the bus and saw how they had already made twin friends and how they were smiling more. The magic of the conference was working.

Those walking found the circular mile walk challenging, but we were proud to be carrying a banner signed by all the twins, in memory of our lost twins. There were water stops and energy bars stops, all provided by Executive Director’s Michelle’s lovely relatives.

After the walk, we gathered in the grassy area of the park for the balloon release. We wrote messages to our twins and after Conference Committee member Sandra read an address, we all released them to the soundtrack of Tell Your Heart to Beat again. As our balloons soared off into the blue Detroit sky, it was unbearably moving. Back on the bus, we traveled the short distance to the Marriott to shower and change, ready for a meal out or in. My twin pal Susan had arranged for a group of us to go to the highly recommended deli Zimmerman’s, down in Detroit.

Saturday started early with breakfast and then Inspirations at 8am. Sandy’s choice of music was moving, as she ended with Alan Pederson’s track ‘Thanks for the Little While.’ The business meeting followed, when we heard the exciting news that the 2017 conference will be held in Arizona! After financial news, we moved on to the second keynote session with Alicia. It was very funny and clever, as she explored how our different personality types affect how we deal with our grief. Lunch followed, another Buffet with an Italian theme.

More breakout options were available after lunch. These included Suicide, Murder, Lingering Illness, Early Loss, Sudden/Accident under 18 and Sudden / Accident adult. Also a session for Family and Friends. I went to lingering loss. It was a large group so Venice divided us up into those beginning their loss, those just managing it and those who were coping and managing to honour their twins.

The closing ceremony was at 3:30 PM. Alicia ran this and it was immensely moving. We were all given a band and beads and we chose five for our twins to represent their qualities and attributes. We kept one bead back and put it into a large plastic jar which Alicia took round. As we put our beads in, we said our twin’s name and also the quality of our twin represented by the bead. Alicia went round again and we all chose a bead from another twin, an unknown quality. We threaded these on our bangles.

As always, the conference finished with a magnificent banquet. This year we had a buffet meal with hot salmon and chicken. There were speeches and awards, with the coveted Angel Award going to Joan, who works tirelessly as a RC for Minnesota and who also started a new twinless group in Seattle. We lifted the roof with our applause. The 50/50 raffle and auction followed, led by the incredible Dave. All too soon the evening was over and Detroit 2016 drew to an end.

The next morning we all went our separate ways, echoing our thanks to Michelle and Ray. As I sadly checked out, all I could think of was three words. Roll on Tucson!

2016 Angel Award Recipient

Our “Angel”, Joan, twin to Jean
By Sandy , twin to Jim

At our recent National Conference in Detroit, I had the privilege of presenting the “Angel Award” to Joan, twin to Jean. I have known and worked with Joan for seven years. She is the Regional Coordinator for the North Central region and she has been the recording secretary for all our RC meetings and phone calls.

Joan is selfless, compassionate, kind and generous. When I came across this definition for an angel, I thought of Joan- “a person who can brighten up the worst day only with a smile, a person who can make life bearable with the sound of their voice, a person who you have come to love.” And we have come to love Joan!

In Joan’s own words, “As the Regional Coordinator for the TTSGI North Central region for the last seven years, I have helped twins connect with each other within a seven-state area: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Even though I lead a busy life, as the owner of a personal chef company, I have often said, “This (being Regional Coordinator) is the most important thing that I do with my life.” My work with the Twinless Twins organization is my way of connecting and healing, and also of honoring Jean. When I help others, I help myself. More specifically, I feel that JEAN is helping others, through me. This is especially significant because of the fact that Jean took her own life. As horrendous as that was, I must recognize that some lives are better because of it. Her unspeakable act has also made the world a better place, through my work with TTSGI.”

joan-awardWhen Joan had the opportunity to spend the winter months in Seattle this year, she used her time organizing a Twinless Twins regional meeting which included twins from Western Canada, Washington and Oregon. Currently there is no Regional Coordinator for that region. She saw a need in that area and filled it. Aided by the past Regional Coordinator, Pamela Fender, she assembled a list of potential attendees. This work for Twinless Twins filled her days, gave her a purpose and created a bigger twin “family” for her. It was truly a labor of love. On March 6, 2016, at noon, thirteen twins and two spouses met at the Best Western Plus Executive Inn, near the Space Needle. Half a dozen or so of them met the night before, in the hotel lounge. They laughed and cried, and shared stories with strangers who are now forever family.

In her “other” life, besides her work as a personal chef, she is a wife, mother and grandmother. One of my favorite things about Joan is that she makes me laugh! Laughter is one of the greatest gifts my twin gave to me. Thank you Joan for sharing this gift with all of us! Joan’s name is usually the first name on our attendee roster at every conference. If you look closely you will see that her name includes the word angel! We congratulate Joan, twin to Jean and thank her for her years of service to TTSGI!

West Coast Regional Meeting in Seattle, Washington

As the Regional Coordinator for the TTSGI North Central region for the last seven years, I have helped twins connect with each other within a seven-state area: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Even though I lead a busy life, as the owner of a personal chef company, I have often said, “This (being Regional Coordinator) is the most important thing that I do with my life.” When Jean died, from suicide in 1982, along with the intense grief, I also remember thinking, “at least now I know that the most difficult thing that could ever happen to me has already happened.” I still feel that today. My work with the Twinless Twins organization is my way of connecting and healing, and also of honoring Jean. When I help others, I help myself. More specifically, I feel that JEAN is helping others, through me. This is especially significant because of the fact that Jean took her own life. As horrendous as that was, I must recognize that some lives are better because of it. Her unspeakable act has also made the world a better place, through my work with TTSGI. It’s difficult to even put into writing, and more difficult to wrap my head around.

It’s been a long journey for me, one that changes throughout time. This year, my journey brought me to a new area Seattle. I offered to hold a regional meeting for TTSGI during my two-month stay there, as there is currently no Regional Coordinator for the Seattle area. Aided by past West Coast Regional Coordinator, Pamela, I began to assemble a list of potential attendees. Each day, I would cultivate the list, until it grew to sixty twins, from Seattle, Greater Washington state, Oregon and western Canada. It took quite a bit of time, but I had a lot of that. This was my effort of love, establishing connections, in person, by phone and by email, and it made me very proud. It filled much of my days, gave me purpose, and created a bigger twin “family” for me. I was also aided by Barb, who helped to find a meeting place for our group.

On March 6, 2016, at noon, thirteen twins and two spouses met at the Best Western Plus Executive Inn, near the Space Needle. Half a dozen or so of us met the night before, in the hotel lounge. We laughed and cried, and shared stories with strangers who are now forever family, until the security guard came over to quietly tell us that at 11:30 pm, it was now 1 ½ hours past the normal closing hour of 10 pm.

There is definitely a need for a Twinless Twin connection in the West Coast Region. If anyone is interested in volunteering, they can contact contact@twinlesstwins.org.

By Joan, twin to Jean

About Joan: Joan has been a member of TTSGI since 2007, and a Regional Coordinator since Fall 2009. She holds meetings in Minneapolis/St. Paul area about four times a year. Joan finds her twinless twins work very rewarding and healing, and a significant part of her life. At the 2016 TTSGI Conference, Joan received the Angel award for her work helping twins in her region and beyond.