I am answering questions submitted through twinlesstwins.org

Here is the first Q&A:

Dear Dr. Klein,
I have been estranged from my fraternal twin brother for all of my adult life. We were close as children, but then grew apart once we started school. We are extremely polarized. Anything that I embrace and love, he automatically hates and vice-versa. I have tried everything within my power to reconcile with my twin, but nothing has worked. I continue to struggle with an almost overwhelming feeling of grief. In my relationships, I seek out someone who can fill the hole that my twin has left, which is impossible. I feel extremely lonely and misunderstood. Any advice would be appreciated.

Dear Kristina,
Twins form their attachment bond to one another based on their early relationships with their parents. Mothers and fathers who are not prepared to deal with the extra work of raising twins can polarize them into one good child and one bad child in order to avoid the difficult job of treating them as individuals. It is very difficult for twins with this limited type of parenting to get along as adults. I write about this very issue in my book Not All Twins Are Alike. Nineteen percent of twins that I spoke with had this relationship (split identity twins).

I recommend that you find a psychotherapist who works with twins so you can get some understanding of how you are being affected by this painful and confusing relationship with your twin brother. Although I hear your desperation at your loss I encourage you to try to find comfort in other close relationships or interests. Also, please understand this break in your relationship is not your fault. It’s your burden. Talking about your unhealthy bond with your brother might help.

Dear Dr. Klein,
I am blessed to have my twin sister here with me, yet I have a twinless twin question. A co-worker recently told me that her twin sister died at 6 months old, then her mother died when she was a year old. Older siblings raised her, but they cannot understand when she tries to explain her overwhelming feelings of being alone and very empty. What can I do to comfort her and help her understand that what she feels is very real?
Thank you.

Dear Dorothy,
I believe that such primary early losses are difficult to put into words. Talking about these losses is essential but is never enough. Understanding from close others is crucial and a part of the healing process. Who listens to your friend is important. Simply reliving your past with someone who can’t or won’t understand is dangerous and will make the pain and isolation worse.

Keep empathizing with your co-worker. Suggest to her that reading about twin issues and loss and identity will help. If you think she is very sad suggest that she seek out therapy with a professional who has worked with twins.

Keep up your compassion!

Dear Doctor Klein,
Is there a normal time frame for twin loss to be experienced? Should it take months, one year or many years to successfully grieve and recover from the death of a murdered twin? How can a spouse help to support a twinless twin --- what role can they take?

Dear Anon,
There is no “normal” time to grieve the loss of your twin. At first twin loss is like having a hole in your heart. Gradually the pain will lessen as the meaning of this loss is understood. New relationships, careers, and children also fill in the hole. Twins never forget their twin.

The adjustment to this loss, which is traumatic, should be dealt with in psychotherapy and with the support of close loved ones. Going to a support group is crucial.

Often it is very difficult for nontwins to understand the magnitude of loss and pain and they will get frustrated and impatient. My advice is to try to find other twins in your situation to talk with---like Twinless Twins.

Don’t expect your nontwin loved ones to make it better for you. This will just breed frustration and alienation. What you need is understanding from others who do understand. People who don’t get it are not the enemy. They just have not had your experience.


I have also been asked by Twinless Twins to be a keynote speaker at their annual convention in Toronto this July. Stay tuned for more details. I think I'll talk about "Why Twin Identity Makes Twin Loss So Painful."