Celebrating Joanna Carlson
After Joanna died, people would ask me, “What’s it like to lose a twin?” And I’d always say, “I don’t know. I’ve never lost one before. I’ll let you know.”
I’d feel badly when people asked, because I didn’t have an answer right after she died. But I wouldn’t have an answer for a long time. The answers I do have – they’ve changed as I’ve gotten older. After 26 years, I’m still finding out what it’s like to lose a twin. To lose Joanna.
People also ask, “What was she like?” She was like me.
When I look at pictures of us as kids, I can’t tell us apart in some of them.
But we did have clearly defined roles. I was a little more athletic, a little more of a risk taker, a little harder maybe. She was drawn to the arts and tended to be a little softer in some ways. She was romantic, I was pragmatic. One of us was left-brained and and one of us right brained, for sure.
I’ve fought a bit for my own independence since she died. When you are known as one of two, and one of those two is gone – it means a big part of the last 26 years has been spent trying to figure out what part of me is gone and what’s left.
In some ways I tried to keep a sense of Joanna alive for all the people around me by stepping into roles or things that she might have done if she was alive.
And sometimes I forgot me in the whole equation. But spending so many years of my life taking up her rein a little bit was also a good thing.
My personal growth, spiritual development and all of the inner work we do as adults to become better humans is all a direct result of this one major incident. My life has been deeply and inextricably tied to grief and loss.
So, to celebrate Joanna’s life is also to acknowledge the complexity of bereavement.
More than anything, I have a sense of surviving now – and that’s a good feeling.
Maybe the life we are also celebrating here is the life I am living after 26 years of grief.
From Joanna’s sister, Vanessa Watters