“When there are other multiples”

In the FAQs section of our site, in How do I deal with living twins and multiples? we talk about how encounters with living twins and higher multiples are some of the most painful experiences of bereaved multiple birth parents. Even years later, being around living twins or multiples (intact sets)–especially of the same number and sex as ours–is at best a sensitive matter, along with seeing the attention given to them and their parents. In addition to making us see what we are missing, it brings up all the questions of, Why?? why me?? why can’t mine be here too?? It makes us see what it is like to have all joy, with no loss pervading everything. Most of us do manage to find ways to deal with this over a long period of time, because we have to, and yet on our own terms and in our own way, not because others tell us that we must. And it’s still an up and down process, because we will always love and miss our own twin or higher multiple children.

With twins as prevalent as they are, and triplets now decreasing but still not uncommon, there is a good likelihood that a bereaved parent will have a relative or friend who has twins or triplets, either already or as time goes by. Quite a few members of our group have experienced having a sister who had twins a few years after they did. Others have twin siblings or cousins (and in some families, all of the above and more). Many have old and new friends or acquaintances who are having twins. In our forums, many members, some with losses over 20 years ago, have described the many different situations they have found themselves in with family and friends having twins or triplets. Our feelings are very confusing because we don’t want to not be happy for others, or have others think that we wish them ill or don’t like them anymore, but it’s painful to be around the pregnancy and the babies or children, in person or nowdays, in social media too. Also, many bereaved parents are around friends and relatives who are talking about others’ twins in some way.

One of the most helpful things for most bereaved parents of twins is for relatives and friends to acknowledge that they too have twins or multiples, when twins and multiples are being talked about. This is especially important for parents whose baby or babies never come home from the hospital, and therefore they didn’t receive much recognition as parents of twins. It’s always possible to say, “Suzy had twins too, and sadly they were premature” or, “Liz had twins and Tommy here is her survivor”. This is also helpful to children who know that they are surviving twins, who can be sensitive to being left out of being included as a twin when other twins are being talked about. This is true also for parents who have living multiples but also lost one or more in a previous or later set, “Lisa’s had two sets of twins, sadly one did not survive.” To do this, it helps to understand all the risks for twins and multiples and how many people do lose, so that it won’t sound like there was something about these parents that they “failed”. Also, it helps for those who are pregnant now with multiples to not be afraid of the bereaved parents because of what happened to them, but actually try to learn something that might help the outcome of their own pregnancy.

Perhaps the most important thing among groups of family and friends is to always remember, not seem to deny, that that person had twins or multiples, and not say or do things completely as if they didn’t. A seemingly innocent comment by any friend or relative (whether they have multiples or not) such as, “Cousin Suzy is pregnant, wouldn’t it be exciting if it was twins!!” can feel like a knife in the heart when made without some level of recognition. Feeling pressure from others to be happy or excited for other twins, or to spend time with them or even take care of them, can feel like “cruel and inhuman punishment”! especially when there is no recognition. At one extreme of this, several of our members have been expected to basically move in and take care of their sisters and their new twin babies while their husbands were away, without any discussion allowed of their own having lost a twin suddenly in infancy the year before. Another very difficult thing for most bereaved parents is hearing friends and relatives complain, or even seem to complain, about how hard it is to have twins and have to do everything twice… etc. etc. (It may be hard in some ways but these are not the people to complain to, or brag to.)

Even when relatives and friends are sensitive and caring about their own twins, or others around them, there is still the attention that those kids get from other people. This is a major reason why bereaved parents need to make their own time and space when it comes to spending time with the parents or with the kids, no matter how dearly they may love their relative or friend and want to be ok with it. It’s just something that needs to be understood and not judged, criticized, or taken personally–it’s just life, just reality, the way it happened. As some of the comments below point out, bereaved parents’ sensitivities can be different from time to time, too; even though it may be ok some of the time, it may be more difficult in the time of the year leading up to the lost babies’ birthday, for example. At the same time, with a lot of time and support and some luck, bereaved parents can experience a bit of what it would have been like, be sincerely happy for their friend or relative–and parents of multiples who are not bereaved can understand what a loss “my twins” are and can have another reason to not take their babies for granted.

Here are some quotes from some of our members that illustrate some of the ideas above. They’re in response to a post by a member having difficulties with her friend with living twins. If you’re a friend or relative with multiples, we encourage you to consider them and to have honest talks with your loved one who’s had a loss about what is most comfortable⁄least uncomfortable for them.

When there was all that speculation that Kate Middleton was pregnant with twins, I posted something on Fb about hoping she wasn’t. One of the friends I mentioned who has twins totally jumped on me for saying it. It was almost callous. Needless to say, we barely talk since. If your friend is supportive and understand you, do hold onto her.

My loss happened almost 15 years ago, and I still have a hard time with the twin thing. Give yourself some space and time if you need it. There is no right way to travel this journey…and if your friend is supportive and kind, she will understand. I have gone through many periods where the “twin” thing has hurt more than at other times. It’s natural.

I agree. We lost one twin over 13 years ago and it goes in waves. We have great friends with twin boys (ours were boy⁄girl) and it has never really bothered me to be with them, but my sister has since had twins and sometimes I’m fine and other times it hurts a lot – especially when they get called “the twins” by other family members at family gatherings. Don’t know why, but it just does. I love my little sister more than anything and I don’t ever want anything to get in the way of our friendship, but since her twins I’ve definitely be challenged. If your friend is dear to you – it will get easier with time. Hang in there and be kind to yourself!

I’m still fresh (less than a year from my loss). I’m okay as long as they are not boy⁄girl…I’ve had to keep my distance, emotionally, from some old friends (but we do not live near each other).

My very best friend has two sets of twins. Never thought I could do that. She’s the most wonderful friend and totally supports and understands my loss. We met when my survivor was in kindergarten with one of her kids.

Thank you all sooooo much. I was truly feeling so bad about all of this and it helps to be validated on this journey. My friend is supportive but I think since she has living twins and we are out together, people always stop and make comments about her twins, so being I have “on the surface” a singleton now, I never get recognition of having twins…it is so hard and I guess sometimes deep inside I do get angry that I don’t have my twins here with me to get that social recognition like she does…. She dresses them exactly alike all the time and it just kills me…….I am trying…..truly trying to find ways to just take a break from time with her but do not want her to get offended either….it is just so hard….

I have two close friends with girl⁄boy twins. It does not bother me as much since mine are boys, and I think older girl⁄boy twins get less twin questions from strangers when out. I’m still new in my loss since Noah passed away a little over a year ago, as a toddler. I struggle with being too honest with my twin mom friends about certain things like going to their children’s birthday parties. I don’t want them to think I begrudge the fact that they have all their children. I feel like there’s a fine line. Sometimes I have declined invitations to play dates and parties to avoid it. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone can understand how we feel unless they have had a loss. I hope you find a way to keep your friend and hang in there. Know that all of us understand where you are coming from.

It is so hard being around friends with twins or higher multiples… I agree with everyone above. It’s true that you will have good days, okay days and bad days & if your friend understands that then your friendship will endure. My sister had b⁄g twins 6 yrs. after we had our identical boys – she is sensitive to our feelings and so is my family but that does not stop friends from asking about “the twins” and people I was friends with but had to step back from b⁄c every other word out of her mouth was “my twins”.

We lost one of our identical twin girls six years ago. I have had several friends giving birth to twins since then–it was very hard for me. My daughter’s close friends in kindergarten are identical twins…they actually started calling them “the triplets”. I found that I had to get way out of my way to be comfortable with that, and although it is difficult I have come to terms with their friendship. As to my friends with twins…I am still close to some…and there are others I haven’t talked to in years. Bottom line: do whatever is best for you at this point. If you feel uncomfortable around your friend’s twins, talk to your friend and take a little break. If she is a true friend, she will understand. It will always hurt and some days are worse than others, but it does get better with time.

My best friend (more of a sister) had twin girls a year and a half before we lost our identical girls. She would try & stop the nosey people questions when we were together as I was answering them about my girls in my head.

I think that is one of the things that continues to surprise me along this painful journey is that I will get to a point where I feel ok with either being around twins, hearing about twins, etc. and then for some reason at some time I find I completely shut down and withdraw again… I guess that would considered one of my bad days. It is just so hard as I sometimes look at others with such envy that their lives seem to hold such joy and no loss. Although I know deep down other people suffer as well from different hardships or losses, when it comes to twins, I get envious and sad… I go to therapy today. Thank goodness as my surviving twin’s birthday party is Sunday and there will be at least 3 sets of twins at the party…

As difficult as it is. You will always have to deal with other people’s twins. I know, I lost both of mine many years ago and it’s still difficult to see twins, especially girls. If your relationship to this woman is dear to you, hold onto that.