Parallel Lives

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a rorschach inkblot to illustrate parallel lives and shared journeys of bereaved parents.As a child, I used to imagine that a double of myself was walking around somewhere else on the planet, far away. Later, when my world expanded to college, instructors and fellow students insisted I had a twin on campus. And when I was busy birthing and raising children, I saw myself replicated in mothers everywhere. But after my daughter died, for a long time, I felt like the only one on earth to ever lose a kid. Nobody was like me.

Last week, before writing my post, I googled “grief and gratitude.” That’s been my focus for a while; somewhere around the fifth anniversary of my daughter’s death, gratitude started sopping up some of my grief. And there in Google was someone else named Robin whose life was like a Rorschach inkblot of my own life. If you folded a map of the US in half, her home on the west coast would be juxtaposed with mine in the east. On the opposite side of the country, a stranger’s life was running parallel to my own.

Four months before my daughter died, this other Robin lost a son who was the same age as my Marika. This second Robin, also an avid hiker and writer, started blogging about her grief journey seventeen months after her son’s death; I started sixteen months after my loss. She wrote, “I am not the same person I was and this loss is an integral part of who I am now.” In over 97,000 words posted since 2012, I have tried to express the same truth. West Coast Robin currently facilitates grief support groups while I organize a bereaved parents group and make bereavement calls for Hospicare.

There may be millions more of us lighting candles for loved ones, posting their photos on Facebook, watching the Afterlife TV series on Youtube, and reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Maybe tens of thousands of us are hoping to publish our own memoirs. And if there are hundreds of Robins howling to the moon, how many of us are now out there somewhere, contemplating the chances there’s a double of our child who died? A twin who’s still singing.


Did you ever wonder if there is someone just like you somewhere in the world? Did you ever find a soul mate? Or a look-alike?

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8 thoughts on “Parallel Lives

  1. Suzanne

    Robin, your discovery of your Rorschach double gave me chills. Glad you found another person to make you feel less alone. It is an isolating experience to lose a child, and part of why I value you and the other parents in our group so much is that they all share this experience, which, for a short time every two weeks, allows us to feel “normal.” Looking forward to our next meeting.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I’m looking forward to it too, Suzanne. Well, I found this other Robin, but I have not tried to contact her yet. I guess I should try, now that you’ve reminded me of how important it is to connect with others who have gone through this experience. I really value our group and our time together too.

  2. Elaine Mansfield

    Beautiful, Robin. I thought my twin was in China. When I visited Taiwan, I felt at home and watched for her. I’m still looking.

    Grief is isolating. Since losing a spouse is one of the most common experiences women have, I didn’t feel I was the only one, but I was the only one to feel my own shredded heart and cry what seemed like endless tears. Almost nine years after Vic’s death, in a snowstorm that went on for two days, grief grabbed me hard. I once again felt like I was the only one. I’m glad Willow was here.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      OMG, yes. The snowstorm. All of us stuck alone in our houses for two days. Talking to the ghosts of the ones we love and wish were there with us as time stopped, the driveways got buried ever deeper under snow, and the world disappeared. Poor Willow and Suki – amazing they didn’t get drowned and shredded in all the tears and hugging. Has it really been nine years since Vic’s death? Yow. Time really does strange things when you’re missing someone, when you’re stuck in a storm.
      Still wondering about your watching for a twin in Taiwan. Maybe I should search for mine in Sydney, my favorite city in the world. Well, at the least, I will search for a hospice program there. Or maybe some group of bereaved mothers. Twins.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Oh, you never know, Lynne. Isn’t it a fun thought? You should google around a bit. Amazing the people you find out in the rest of the world. It always surprisies me how much alike we all are. Cheers!


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