Actor-director Tim Robbins is coping with the double heartache of his mother's death Sunday, 12 days after his father died, a shared experience that is supported by medical and anecdotal evidence.
Mary Robbins, 78, suffered a heart arrhythmia, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Her husband of 59 years, Gil Robbins, 80, died of prostate cancer April 5, the Los Angeles Times reported. Both died at their home in Esteban Cantu, Mexico.
The phenomenon among longtime couples of dying so close to one another is well documented.
A 2007 study at the University of Glasgow that followed more than 4,000 couples found that, on average, widows and widowers were at least 30 percent more likely to die within the first six months of a spouse's death than those who hadn't lost a partner. Another large study in Jerusalem found that the grieving spouse's risk of death during those first six months went up by 50 percent.
Stories similar to the Robbins' have been reported around the world.
Welsh couple Donald and Rosemary Dix, who had been inseparable for most of their 55 years of marriage, died in February within minutes of each other.
Donald, who had been suffering from the flu, collapsed at home, according to the U.K.'s Daily Mail. After an ambulance left to take him to the hospital, Rosemary called their children to deliver the news, then collapsed and died. Donald passed away during the short ride to the hospital.
New Orleans couple Joseph and Maxine Cassin, who had also been married for 55 years, died four days apart in March 2010.
Their son, Daniel Cassin, told the Times-Picayune newspaper that after his 89-year-old father died in a hospital, he delivered the news to his mother. "I had told her she would be with Dad and he'd be waiting for her," he said.
Because his mother, 82, suffered from seizure-related problems, Cassin said, he wasn't sure if she comprehended the news, but perhaps she did.
As for the Robbins, they were professional musicians in the 1950s and '60s. Gil Robbins was a member of the folk band the Highwaymen.
His wife had previously beat colon cancer by treating herself holistically, according to the Associated Press. Her son, who won the Oscar for "Mystic River," told AP that his mother "had a calm and cheerful demeanor, a sharp wit, a gentle spirit and a generous and loving heart."
Of his father, "The Shawshank Redemption" star told the Los Angeles Times: "He was very charming, open and funny. He had a real strong moral center; he spoke up for what he believed in."
Like his father, Robbins is known as much for his outspoken liberal views, shared with former partner Susan Sarandon, as he is for his acting and directing.
In addition to Robbins, his parents are survived by their other son, David, daughters Adele and Gabrielle and four grandchildren.