Virtual Book Tour with Mary R. Morgan

Today we are pleased to welcome Mary Morgan, author of Beginning with the End, to our blog. Mary is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in working with twinless twins. In her frank and moving memoir, she writes about the mysterious disappearance of her twin brother, Michael Rockefeller, and her healing journey.

Her Mentor Center:  You’ve written a candid and deeply moving memoir about your journey to heal from the tragic loss of your twin brother, Michael Rockefeller, who was never recovered after his boat capsized off the coast of New Guinea in November 1961 when he was just 23 years old. What inspired you to write about this painful experience in your life?

Mary Morgan:  My bereavement group of twinless twins from the 9-11 World Trade Center disaster inspired me to write my memoir. The twins wanted me to bring awareness to and understanding of the treatment issues and long-term consequences of breaking the bond of twinship. I felt I could meet that goal by sharing my personal story and by putting it in perspective—not only to twin loss—but also to the shared issues of deep personal loss. I felt particularly close to this group. We not only shared a twin identity, but our loss was made more isolating and painful by being embedded in a highly publicized event. Physical closure became impossible for most of us, as the remains of our twins were never found.

HMC: As a psychotherapist who received a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University, you have dedicated the past fourteen years to counseling twinless twins, including those who lost their twins in the World Trade Center tragedy. How is the grieving process different when it involves the loss of a twin?

MM:  The two main differences between twin loss and other human loss are the paired issues of identity

and the twin bond.  From the moment of conception, twins develop in relationship. From fourteen weeks of age, both identical and fraternal twins purposely interact with each other in the womb.  Their sense of self grows in connection. The “I” is seen and felt within the frame of a “we.” This seminal bond is tempered by whether the twins are fraternal or identical and by the environment they are born into. Breaking that original bond through the death of one twin can seriously affect the remaining twin’s sense of who they are and how they relate to the world. The resulting bereavement process can be longer and more complicated – often requiring the formation of a new, individual identity.

HMC: There are many aspects of the 9-11 experience that people are not aware of. How did your experience inter-relate with the victims of the tragedy of 9-11?

MM:   I had read a touching and heartbreaking interview in the New York Times of a young man whose identical twin brother died in the collapse of the first Trade Tower.  Since I became a therapist, I had wanted to work with bereaved twins. None of my colleagues knew any. A phone call to the writer of the article put me in touch with the wife of the surviving twin, who was looking for a therapist who could understand the issues affecting her traumatized husband. If felt like Providence had intervened. Over the next months, I counseled him and other surviving twins from 9-11 and formed a twin bereavement group, which lasted for two years. The tragedy of 9-11 and my own twin loss created an opportunity for me to work with and study twin bereavement and to form a connection to an international network of twinless twins.

HMC: You speak about a “natural healing imperative.” Can you explain how that works?

MM:   I sincerely believe we possess, as human beings, an inner psychological healing process or “natural healing imperative” that self activates in the psyche, just as the healing process does in the body when we are injured. This psychological process helps to integrate the trauma experience, which shocks and destabilizes the psyche and helps the bereaved to slowly regain his or her emotional grounding and sense of connection to life. In my memoir, I show how this natural inner force worked through my life and made it possible to heal. From the numbness that protected me when I first met the trauma, to the psychological crisis that broke through my resistance and denial, and forced me to face my loss and Michael’s death, the “natural healing imperative” positioned and pushed me when I was ready, to open to the seminal loss I had suffered. In partnership with this process, I experienced the resulting grief, and moved to a rebirth of my life along with a discovery of a new relationship to Michael, which surfaced after I had let go the one that no longer exists.

HMC: What do you hope readers will take away from your story?

MM:   In telling my story, I hope to help to break the isolation that surrounds and pervades the journey of deep personal loss. I want to open up the process of healing that is possible even in our culture, which promotes repressing grief in order to get on with life. By sharing the experience of my own twin bereavement, I want to connect with bereaved twins, to touch the place where twins are torn from their intrinsic sense of who they are and how they express themselves in their lives. I would like my readers to understand the challenges twins face in their healing journeys. Perhaps my book might offer encouragement and a guiding hand to people who need to further explore their own unique healing process and become a partner with the “natural healing imperative.” Finally, I would like my readers to take away the understanding that healing from major loss takes place in connection. In connecting to ourselves, our true feelings, to others and to the relationships in the natural world, we form community. We break the isolation and can take the necessary steps for our healing.

HMC:  Readers, you can learn more about Mary on her website. And now it’s your turn for us to hear from you! Use the comment section below to ask Mary questions about Beginning with the End, the twin bond, bereavement or her writing process.





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15 Responses to Virtual Book Tour with Mary R. Morgan

  1. Kathy says:

    Thank you for writing this book. What was the most healing part of the process for you?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have wanted to write about a personal tragedy for years now but have little confidence in my skills and no training. Did you take some courses before you wrote your book?

    • I did take a creative writing course years ago, however I think I learned more about writing from reading many books than from anything else. I also would recommend Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.” For me, it was important to have essentially completed my healing from Michael’s death before I began my book, in order for me to be able to bring perspective to my journey. I made a quiet space to write uninterrupted and created a spiritual ceremony at the beginning and end of my writing time so I could enter the difficult memories and writing process and leave it again in safety.

      Writing can also be used as a wonderful healing tool. Skills are never as important as being true to yourself and to your feelings as you write. You are as unique and special as anyone else. Share your truth.

  3. Shelly says:

    Can you explain more about the natural healing imperative? Thanks, Shelly

    • Dear Shelly,

      Just like when we cut ourselves, our physical body begins a healing process within. Over the years, I have seen in myself and experienced in others a natural healing process, especially from personal loss, which works through the psyche. It is experienced in the shock and numbness of the first stages of grief and in the normal depression, all of which protect the body/mind from taking in the enormity and reality of the loss before it is ready. When one is strong enough, our inner knowing will begin to release the myriad of emotions that characterize the major grieving process. The psyche knows when we are ready and how long the process needs to take. This process is unique to each individual, as is their life, and it is difficult to place it in a time frame. The process also feels cyclical and repetitive. We grieve and then we feel we are moving forward with our lives. All of a sudden, a memory, a smell, a piece of music, etc., throws us back into deep grief. The natural healing imperative is expressing itself through us, as the psyche knows when we are able to handle the emotional memories that need to be borne witness to and released. We need to become partners with our natural healing imperative for us to heal.

  4. anonymous says:

    As I get older, my identity and close relationships are changing too, even though I have not suffered a personal loss like yours. As a therapist, do you think that’s not uncommon?

    • All of life is comprised of small and large deaths and rebirths, within our relationships and within ourselves. It sounds like you might be talking about the natural growing that accompanies a maturing, engaged life.

  5. Roberta says:

    I am so close to my brothers who are several years older than me. I can’t imagine how losing your twin brother at such a young age must have felt. How courageous of you to put yourself out there to help others heal from their losses.

    • Thank you, Roberta – any sibling love and loss is important and powerful. Its importance is not focused on enough or fully understood within the psychological community. How wonderful you have close relationships with your brothers!

  6. Anonymous says:

    My mom died close to 10 years ago and I’m still grieving. I see her in my daughter and long for her to be a part of our lives. I can’t seem to let go. I know you can’t tell me what to do but any ideas would be appreciated.

    • Look on The Complicated Grief Program website: The program is run by Dr. Katherine Shear who is a research psychiatrist specializing in Complicated Grief (extended grieving). You might be able to find some advice there as to where to go for help. I would recommend you get private counseling in order to help you complete your bereavement.

      Remember, you are letting go the temporal life of your mother, but her love for you and your relationship with her will last forever. I am sorry for your loss and send healing wishes.

  7. phyllis says:

    Thanks so much, Mary, for your thoughtful, informative and compassionate answers to our readers’ questions. We appreciate the time and energy you devoted to giving us a peek into ‘Beginning with the End.’

    You can click on Mary R Morgan above any of the responses to learn more about her memoir and her work.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Just came back from niece’s Christening. I find family occasions like this hard because it’s a reminder of the 2 people that aren’t there. I seem to ride a roller-coaster of emotions. My sister-in-law brought up about my Dad (and how he would never know his granddaughter). How do I approach these topics with her if she brings it up?

    • Mary Morgan says:

      Dear Jennifer,

      Family ceremonies and holidays are always challenging for those of us who are experiencing and grieving over a loss. The roller coaster metaphor is very apt. One can experience a myriad of emotions: joyful and sad, hurt and angry, etc., and then even feel guilt for having some of these feelings. These are times when it is important to be very good to yourself. Try to limit your expectations for these events; try to set boundaries around what you can and cannot do; and try to accept your own feelings without judgement and to stay true to where you are in the moment. Others struggle with what to say to a person who is grieving and often end up saying the wrong thing. A friend of mine writes these gaffes down and she compares notes with her other grieving friends. It helps to add a bit of humor to our unavoidable roster of emotions.

      I believe honesty is the best policy in relationship to your sister-in-law. If it is difficult for you answer your sister-in-law’s comments, you might say something like “I know you truly mean well, Sally, but it’s still hard for me to have this kind of conversation about Dad. Can we talk about you and what’s happening in your life? (or whatever)” Feel entitled to your own grieving journey. When you get home from an event like you described, write down your feelings or express them in some other way. Then these emotions expressed, and released, will contribute to your inner healing.

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