By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Missing half Group supports those who've lost a twin

Photos courtesy of Debe Bloom: Solo twins from around the world met last month in Toronto for an annual conference. The July 2009 conference will be in Denver.

Ventura County Star

Debe Bloom hasn't truly celebrated a birthday since losing her twin sister to ovarian cancer just three weeks before their 50th birthday.

"I muster up the courage to do dinner with my kids and my twin's sons for their sake, not mine," said Bloom, of Ventura, whose sister Carol died in January 2001.

"It has been proven that a deep bond is formed between multiple births while still in the womb, equally or perhaps more so throughout life," Bloom continued. "When one or more of those babies do not survive birth — or die anytime during life — the unique loneliness is hard to match."

After losing her twin, Bloom sought a grief counselor for one-on-one sessions, and she underwent group counseling for six weeks with others who had lost beloved family members. She also leaned on friends who had known her sister from early childhood.

But it was the support of Twinless Twins Support Group International that truly helped her cope.

"Those who understood my pain of feeling like I was half of a whole gave me the greatest support," Bloom said. "There is no judgment from the twins in this group. No one ever says, Isn't it time you got over it?' I don't believe anyone ever gets over losing their twin, since looking in a mirror will always remind us of our other half."

As director for the West Coast region, which includes California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, Bloom has been hosting meetings for more than seven years since her twin died.

"I was living in the San Francisco area when she passed, and that became my core," Bloom said. "Ventura will now be my core as I continue to host meetings here."

A unique but shared loss

A nonprofit organization, Twinless Twins addresses the need to know you are not alone, "a feeling that we don't know, since we always had our best friend and confidante with us at all times," Bloom said. "Everyone involved is a twinless twin. Everyone involved understands the loss."

Losing a twin is often described as losing half of yourself, said Michelle Getchell of Ypsilanti, Mich., executive director of Twinless Twins Support Group.

When she lost her twin, Missy, "it was the first time I had ever felt loneliness," Getchell said. "Twins have a best friend from birth and in my case, just as many twinless, they go through life and into adulthood with that person there, helping them and loving them unconditionally. To have that bond broken at any time from in utero to elderly in age, it is a significant loss, a part-of-you loss."

This bond stems in large part from the fact that most twins grow up being seen as one unit known as "the twins," Getchell continued.

"The individual identity is not really developed," she said. "This traumatic loss questions who you are. The loss of the relationship leaves you daunted and aimless."

With multiple births on the rise with fertility drugs, "I see Twinless Twins Support Group being daily more relevant," Getchell said.

Reaching to help others

"Our wish would be that the twinless twins in Ventura County will find the group and in essence find hope," she said. "Twins that have lost their twin will now have an avenue where they can be understood and supported through their terrible loss."

A regional meeting is planned for Saturday in Ventura with a focus on methods of healing.

"Typically we start by spending some time sharing our twin story," Bloom said. "The more you talk about your twin, the journey to healing becomes easier."

The support group is open to all ages, she added.

"If a young child needs support, we welcome their entire family to our organization," she said. "Spouses and other family members need support, too. This is a unique experience for all."

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