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Amazing Graces: Days Two, Three, and Four

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The Missing Twin: Part One

The loss of life here in Jacmel is far less than in Port-au-Prince but the burden is still heavy. There are of course the ordinary deaths that come with age, and the losses of younger people cut down by accident, sudden illness, or murder. And in the background for everyone in this coastal city, and all the surrounding communities, as well as in Port-au-Prince, is the tide of losses that came with the January 2010 earthquake. The deaths of children seem the hardest to bear.

Toni, a clinical social worker from Baton Rouge, tells me about a woman in her group -- a school teacher. Her six-year-old twin sons were buried under the rubble with their father. He struggled to carry both out, but one fell under a collapsing ceiling. The father suffered a serious head injury as he carried the first boy to safety. Still, he returned to dig frantically for the fallen twin, but to no avail. By the time he reached him, his second son was no longer moving or breathing. Two years later the family is still frozen in grief. The surviving twin is furious. "Why are you alive?" he shouts, when family tension rises, at his father. "And why is my brother not? He should be alive, and you dead." Toni and I both suspect that the boy feels guilty that he could as easily be angry at himself.

After her son died, his mother "lost my smile. When I smile now," she goes on, "it feels" -- and here she grimaces, all teeth -- "like this."

James S. Gordon M.D., a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.