Sep 30, 2013 by



When a loved one dies, we lose a part of ourselves. While there are many programs out there, one thing I’ve learned over the years. There is no one right way to grieve. There is no one time limit, method, or strategy that works for all.

Each of us must grieve in our own time and in our own way. Just as life is a custom job so it is with death and dealing with death. I invite you to read on …



Marnie: I am 19-years-old and a sophomore in college.  Two months ago, my identical twin sister was coming home from a party and was killed by a drunk driver. I can’t even put into words the emotions I felt when I heard the news. Ever since my sister’s death, I feel like I have this huge hole in my life. I can barely drag myself out of bed in the morning and looking in a mirror is nearly impossible.  Everywhere I look I’m reminded of my sister and it just makes things even more raw when people ask where my twin is or ask how it feels to lose her. Please, help me MARNIE. I don’t know how I can go on feeling this way — Twinless Twin

MARNIE SAYS: My precious child, losing someone you love at any age hacks your heart.   Losing someone young is incomprehensible.  Losing someone because of a despicable, preventable act — drunk driving — is raging insanity.  Losing a twin, I would think, feels as though your soul has been separated, and you’ve lost part of you.  I promise you, you’ll feel whole again.  You will look in that mirror, and you will see you,  and you’ll do that  in celebration of the both of you.   Maybe not yet.  But you will.   I once compared twins to snowflakes.  Little snowflake … you’re not alone.  That, too, is a promise.

Personally yours …

*When someone we love dies suddenly, it feels like Earth just flew out of orbit. The world as we knew it spins out-of-control, and everything we were sure of collapses in a heap of grief, fear and confusion.  We ask ourselves, “Who and what do I trust now?”  And unfounded guilt is often overwhelming as we agonize over all we did and didn’t do, the times we wanted space, or why “they” died and “we” lived.  Please know these feelings are normal.  Also know … you will and must work through them.  Be kind to you.

*Like snowflakes, even identical twins are unique marvels of nature.  But, despite your individuality, critical to your individual growth, death violates the special twin world you’ve known, and adds excruciatingly to your burden.   “Who am I now?”  “Who will finish my sentences?”    “We came into the world together — how could I be left behind?”  Loneliness, fear, confusion are swirling around you.   There’s also the sense that this tragedy is not outside of you, but — in you.  Knowing these questions and feelings, too, are normal — and you will work through them.

*Tell yourself, “I’m still a twin. I always was, and I always will be.”  You’ll carry that special that bond with you, forever.

*Grieve any way you want.  If “talking to her” and holding onto some of her things keeps you from stumbling, do it.   Feel her presence and take comfort from her.

*Ask yourself, what she would tell you, if she were sitting in a chair across from you right now. You know, don’t you?   She’d say …  “Hey sis.  Quit thinking you’re living on borrowed time.  Live your life happily.  Live it full-out.  Live it for you. And …  thanks for everything.  For making my life one uncommonly fascinating, marvelously intimate rip-roaring journey  — even if we did argue or got fed up sometimes— Well, I felt that way, too.  But most of all …  I loved you so much — in specialness.    I know you’ll always take that part of ‘us’ with you.”

*Now, honey, do it. Decide to live your life — to the fullest.  I want you to get help. Here’s where:

*Trying to make some sense out of the senseless is one way to deal with your rage.  I suggest you consider joining Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) whose national mission is to stop drunk driving and support victims.  You and your family are also victims.  MADD has many programs in your area, even on campus, to fight this crime and, when you’re ready, help other victims.  Through involvement with this organization and/or others, you can create reason out of unreason and commemorate your sister’s life.


Finally, take one breath at a time.  Then another.  Then another.  With each breath, give yourself permission to take one more … and feel stronger … and less afraid … and less alone.  Then, one day, my snowflake, you’ll look into that mirror and you’ll see you, and yes, the memory of your twin too— but sweetheart, her presence in your heart will fill you, not with emptiness, but with supreme joy.

The majesty of twin snowflakes are forever.

My deepest condolences to you and your family.



Marnie:  I don’t know where else to turn for advice. Mom died last year (at 78) after moving to be close to me after Dad passed away the year before.  As soon as she got here, she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.  It was a nightmare.   Both  were cremated and I keep their urns in a closet.  I’m an only child and their family lives far away, so we had no formal service for my mother.   My problem is,  I don’t know what to do with the urns.  I could keep them where they are, but I’m not sure, especially, as I haven’t had a service for Mom.  The whole thing is upsetting me greatly. – Still in Mourning

MARNIE SAYS: My deepest condolences.  Losing both parents so close together – especially after all the hope went into your mom’s move is gut-wrenching.  If you’ve read MARNIE, you know I’m ferocious about protecting the right to grieve our own way.   After reading your sad missive, my hunch is  your way means … it’s time, honey, to settle the issue of the urns.

Getting It!  Your Personal Strategy:

*Is closeting “closure?”    Closets are temporary.  Things get lost, broken, moved. Your turmoil suggests the answer – for you –  is no.

*Check with a local funeral home for laws regarding scattering of ashes.  In many states, scatterings over water or from the air is acceptable, and there are companies that will accommodate you.   Many mortuaries have special garden sections where ashes are scattered, and names written in loving tribute.

*Choose a plan that’s meaningful to you. Here are some ideas, but go with your sensibilities.

–Many clergy will conduct a service and go with you to scatter the ashes.  Or, you can assign others you care about to direct the service.

–Select a receptacle that had meaning for your family.  One daughter chose mom’s favorite teapot.   Another, combined her parents’ ashes in one receptacle.  If you wish to scatter the container as well, some are biodegradable.  Choose a place they loved.

– Write your feelings to each of them, and include your letter in a service and in the urn(s) as a way of uniting the three of you, symbolically.

– Ask family who won’t be attending to write a tribute to be read and included.


Finally, sweetlady, seeing a loved one ill, then die, is a process of  almost unendurable pain – and labor.  We get caught up in disbelief, hope, waiting – constant waiting – fear,  rage – hysterical attempts to help, fix, heal – then the inevitable need for the biggest sacrifice.  Letting  go.   You’ve done it too often and too soon.  You’re no doubt traumatized, exhausted, and – thinking not at all about you.  Now, I ask you to think – about you.   Opening that closet, will help.  But, open it wider.  Get the help and support you need to reclaim your balance.

My very best to you.





Marnie: My oldest friend died in October. She had been living with a terrific man for about eight years.  They were very much in love. When Molly was alive, we often did things as a threesome. (We’re in our early thirties.)  He and I were close but obviously there was nothing romantic between us. Since Molly’s death, we’ve spent even more time together, on weekends, etc.  On Thanksgiving he told me that he had developed loving feelings for me. At first, I thought maybe he’s still grieving, but he assured me that what he is feeling is real. I’m fond of him, but it’s hard for me to truly believe that he cares for me, and is not still pining for Molly.  What should I do? – Uneasy and Unsure

MARNIE SAYS: Allow me to paint a picture – with words.  A man’s wife dies.  His brother dies soon after, leaving a widow.  The surviving mates date.  Now, did the couple: A) fall madly in love, and wind up passing the pumpkin to the re-constituted family around the next Thanksgiving table?  B) bust up, not only their couplehood, but the family ties.   The above is a true story.  You could’ve seen the problems from the first International Coffee Couple moment.

Getting It!  Your Personal Strategy:

*Tell yourself that grief shared, like other shared tragedies is a connector of such gargantuan  pull it can actually masquerade …….. as “loving.”  In a way, I believe, it is.  Maybe the most natural.  Here’s why:

– all those mutual memories require mutual understanding.

– all that mutual pain demands mutual empathy.

– all that mutual love for the person lost needs someplace to go.  Moving it to a sympathetic soul is the most natural temporary home.

*Loving buffers are soul-savers.  For a brief time.  They cry when you do, accept your silences and pour over photos, long after the food trays and well-meaning words have wound down and others’ worlds have returned to spinning.  The question is, can buffers turn to lovers?  But more … how you can you honestly know what and who really stands between you?  It’s all so close …too close.

*When something important is too close to call, what do you do?  Well,  you weigh the risks vs. the benefits.  Let’s ask the right questions.

— You date and find you were better buffers than lovers.  What might happen to your friendship; and will you have delayed an opportunity to grow and move on?

— You date and think you might be in real love.  Will you ever be able to trust it?  Be honest.  With the grief so near, can you … now … ? No?

*“If not now, when?”   Here’s when, my friend. When you can look at those photos alone, and still take comfort – from yourself alone.  When you can stand, listen to the wind and enjoy the solitude. When you can spend a Saturday night with another and enjoy it.  And keep enjoying it with not one, but two or three terrific guys you’ll date – over the next year.   And, if this fellow has done the same, then you may be ready to turn this relationship from intense comrades in grief to comrades in intense love.

But that requires not having to ask the reason why; not to wonder.

Give this man a mammoth hug, tell him you adore him as a friend, so much so, you don’t dare lose him to desperate timing or desperate wishes.

My best to you.




photo credit: Ondablv via photopin cc

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