Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Dangers of Expecting a Deathbed Apology from Your Narcissistic Mother

The long hospital hallway leading to the narcissist mother's rabbit hole.

© by Gail Meyers
When a narcissistic mother becomes terminally ill or nears death, many sons and daughters struggle with the situation.  It is easy to think surely after a lifetime of abuse she will at the very least apologize!
Dangers of Expecting a Deathbed Apology from Narcissistic Mother Quote by Gail Meyers
Expecting a Deathbed Apology

It is tempting to feel like this is your last chance to finally have some closure and healing from your narcissistic personality disordered mother.

Before approaching the deathbed of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder expecting an apology, consider the likelihood of disappointment, further abuse and abuse by proxy. This is my experience.

The Disappointment of Expecting an Apology

A sincere apology involves taking responsibility for your actions and expressing remorse for those actions. Unfortunately, the hallmark chronic behaviors of Narcissistic Personality Disorder remained unchanged on my mother's deathbed. There was not a sudden urge for accountability after spending a lifetime avoiding it, nor did empathy suddenly flow from the deathbed.

My narcissistic mother never sincerely apologized to anyone for anything.  However, there was a non-apology given to another family member prior to her death. This non-apology subtly shifted the blame away from her and onto another. Even this was issued under public pressure with an audience of flying monkeys.

My narcissistic mother never apologized to me, nor did she even acknowledge any of her abuse. If anything, she aggressively did everything in her power to take her scapegoats down with her. Her charade continued to the end with even the preacher at the funeral making a joke at the expense of her children. The laughter rang out throughout the room.

While psychiatry considers NPD a serious disorder, Christianity would clearly consider it a grave spiritual condition. The consistent, enduring hallmarks of pathological narcissism line up nearly perfectly with what the pastor's faith would call evil.

The preacher displayed a lack of discernment regarding the narcissist he knew for decades, as well as a lack of class by making her adult children the butt of his public joke at our mother's funeral. The whole room laughed letting the scapegoats know the extent of the narcissist mother's facade, gossip, lies and manipulation.

Expecting an Apology Sets You Up for More Narcissistic Abuse

While your defenses are down, thinking surely there will be a deathbed apology and merciful closure before saying goodbye, the predatory nature of pathological narcissism remains. Do not make the mistake of attributing normal human emotions to a narcissist or expect them to do what you believe you would do in their situation. My mother's actions clearly demonstrated that while making amends was the furthest thing from her mind, attempting to make sure the truth was not revealed or believed after her passing was a top priority. She was manipulating right up to the last moments of her life.

Being a target in the past did not improve during the two years of terminal illness, but actually escalated. In my experience, the narcissist's favorite stunt was to viciously verbally assault a target when no one else was around, then put on an angel's face claiming it never happened. She continued pulling this stunt while she was terminally ill.

So protect yourself by never being alone with the family member with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Bring someone with you who has not been caught in the sticky web high levels of pathological narcissism creates.

Expecting a Terminally Ill Narcissist to Apologize Sets You Up for More Narcissistic Abuse by Proxy

Unfathomable to some is the narcissist using the deathbed to orchestrate her last grand performance as the puppet master. After a lifetime of manipulating with pity, forever claiming to be the innocent victim, my narcissistic mother was a master manipulator. Highly charged emotions caused those close to the situation to be easily manipulated into abuse by proxy. Again, being a target in the past did not improve at the deathbed, but actually escalated.

A variation of the previously mentioned scenario also occurs. The narcissist abuses privately, then claims to be the victim and accuses the true victim of being the abuser. She flips the script. This is a typical narcissist maneuver in my experience. This often results in the victim being abused by the narcissist, then shunned, ostracized or again abused by the people who believe the false accusations. This is the narcissist's abuse by proxy and the abusers most often used are better known as the narcissist's flying monkeys.

Flying Monkeys May Inflict More Abuse by Proxy

When a parent passes away it can be an extremely stressful time.  In a toxic family, no one deals with stress very well or in a healthy manner.  Instead they often fall back into old, abusive patterns as their toxicity comes shining through.  This was the case when my step-father died, as well as when my narcissistic personality disordered mother died.

My alcoholic pedophile step-father died many years ago, not long after I completed three years of sexual abuse therapy.  At this point, I had been out of the house nearly a decade and had not been in physical fights since leaving the jungle.  I was healing from the sexual abuse, but it was all still pretty fresh.

So a few days after the funeral my mother began singing his praises to my two sisters and myself.  She was intentionally going on and on blatantly trying to aggravate me.  In my opinion, what she was really angry about was that I had told the truth of the abuse (the abuse itself was not the problem, telling was), which forced her to have to leave him a year earlier and get a job.

However, she was happier after she realized she could draw enough Social Security after his death to not have to continue working.  She then promptly began using him and the chilhood sexual abuse as scapegoats to conceal her continued abuse.

So, she kept on taunting me until I said, "He was a pedophile!"  When I said that, my two younger sisters attacked me and began punching me in the face while my mother stood there with a smirk on her face.  They stopped after several minutes, at which time she pretended to be breaking up the fight.

Several years later, when our narcissistic personality disordered mother died, three of my siblings and their spouses all dog piled on me a couple of days after her death.  This mobbing was led by my narcissistic sister with all six of them ganged up on me.  This was only a matter of weeks after I had been released from the hospital and was still in a weakened state.  This is often when narcissists smell blood in the water like the sharks they are. They are petty, vengeful and cowardly.  So, they will wait for an opportunity such as this.   

Narcissistic sister knows it did not end well for her in the past to have a direct confrontation with me because I will not mince (honest) words with her.  I see through her lies, manipulation, extremely inappropriate behavior and facade - and she knows it.  So she launched a surprise attack and ganged up on me six-to-one in my weakened condition.

It was supposed to be the reading of the will, and it was.  However, it was mostly my narcissistic sister reading a speech she prepared of her ridiculous, twisted commentary. This is another example of how pathetic and vengeful abusive, narcissistic people can be - with no empathy or remorse either.

There was no physical contact this time because they knew well by that point I would not hesitate to call the police.  They all would have gone to jail and they knew it.  So, it was a total set up with everyone acting friendly up until that point.  There had been comments made that I had done more than her, so my narcissistic sister stood up with notes in hand to give a tearful speech about how much she had done and how little I had done!

Yes, it was a continuation on the theme of our mother's fabricated martyr tales about how poorly she was treated!  I like to think of this as my narcissistic sister's I'm the new narc on the block speech.

Narcissistic Mother Playing the Victim While Vilifying the True Victims Video by Gail Meyers
Narcissistic Mother Playing the Victim Video

So be very careful of this if there is a history of childhood physical abuse or if you have a very narcissistic sibling. Narcissistic siblings will often join in on the abuse of the scapegoats.  Narcissists in the extended family will also work together as long as it serves their individual purposes, and will even build on the lies of one another.

None of them, with the exception of my late brother, have ever sought therapy or even peeked out of the rabbit hole as far as I know.  So they continue in what they were taught at home, which is to abuse the scapegoat.  Even so, they know what they are doing.  My mother greatly instigated this mobbing during the last days of her life, but my narcissistic sister was happy to oblige. 

I had been no contact with narcissistic sister for years after telling her what I thought of her consistent narcissistic behavior. Just like our narcissistic mother would do with people, my narcissistic sister saw this highly emotionally charged situation as an opportunity for revenge because I confronted her years before about her narcissistic behavior.  How dare anyone expose a narcissistic person.  Narcs do not appreciate that, at all. This mobbing also drew attention away from the fact that she barely had anything to do with our mother for several years prior to her illness.

Thankfully, in the years that followed this stunt, every one of her siblings saw through her treacherous shenanigans enough to back away from her.  This many years later, I have been no contact with the whole bunch. I can honestly say I have never gone no contact with a flying monkey family member and ended up regretting it.  Virtually without exception, they reinforced the fact in my mind that no contact was the right choice, just as my narcissistic sibling did here.

Narcissists in a family will often gang up to tag team a scapegoat, which allows the narcissistic mother to inflict even physical abuse, then put all the blame on the children as if she had nothing to do with it or was trying to stop it.  The look on her face and in her eyes always betrayed her and revealed the truth.  It was like an evil little smirk and glimmer of satisfaction that could easily be missed by someone who does not realize they are dealing with such a treacherous person.


Whether or not to visit the deathbed of a terminally ill narcissistic mother is a personal choice we each must make for ourselves. However, the expectation of an apology is nearly certain to end in disappointment.  If you have been a target in the past, lowering your defenses in anticipation of a deathbed apology may very well expose you to further direct abuse or abuse by proxy. Never being alone with the person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and taking an appropriate person with you if you do decide to visit are practical ways to protect yourself.


This article was originally published on October 16, 2011, moved here in August of 2013.  The following published comments are from that time period:

sparkster 22 months ago from Here To Eternity Level 6 Commenter
Very interesting and informative. People often fail to realize the extent of this disorder. It took me a long time (over a decade) to realize that my (ex)partner would never admit the truth to me or apologize for her actions even when I was on my deathbed because of the abuse (and abuse by proxy).

Naima Manal 18 months ago from NY
It must be very difficult for a child to emerge from this experience without scars. But I hope that many people with this experience are able to find wholeness and closure while maintaining what is important to them from their families, even if it is at a distance.

aviannovice 6 months ago from Stillwater, OK Level 8 Commenter
Pretty amazing. I had an ex that had a narcissistic mother, and turned the same way. There were other problems, too, though.

Gail Meyers 6 months ago from United States Hub Author
That was absolutely the issue, Sparkster. At the time I failed to realize the unfathomable depth of the disorder. There was a professed Christian woman about to meet her Maker. Instead of confession and repentance that one might expect, it was one last kick in the behind.

Gail Meyers 6 months ago from United States Hub Author
Naima, NPD parent destoy lives, as well as the relationships of their targets. There is no question about it. However, healing is possible with a lot of honest hard work, prayer, the help of God and often the assistance of a good therapist. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

Gail Meyers 6 months ago from United States Hub Author
I definitely agree that it's amazing and I hope your ex has since found healing. To the casual observer who has a good grasp on NPD, the idea of expecting a deathbed apology can seem nearly comical. However, no matter what the age, I think everything in a child of a terminally ill NPD looks for resolution before the finality of the passing of the parent. It is also something that our mind may tell us is logical because it is often what people do before they die. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, aviannovice.

LongTimeMother 5 months ago from Australia Level 7 Commenter
Even though I am perfectly healthy, I tell my kids that if I ever get alzheimers, contract some awful disease or just simply turn into a ratbag, they should stay away from me and enjoy their lives. I don't ever want them feeling like they have to visit me, particularly if I was rude to them. (And I would never deliberately be rude to them.)  Your mother should have apologised. Does it help if I say "sorry" on her behalf? I am so sorry.

Gail Meyers 5 months ago from United States Hub Author
Thank you, LongTimeMother. She has been gone for several years now, but at the time I wrote this there was not any information on this particular situation to be found on the web. So, writing it helped me process it as well as making the information available to others facing the situation of a terminally ill NPD mother. The hope is always that they will change, even up to the last minute. The point is they don't. If someone can accept that reality, it is a big step in the right direction toward healing. An NPD does not do what many would expect before dying - reflect, make amends, etc. They continue on with their facade they are heavily invested in and continue the abuse as they have for decades. A terminal illness does not change the NPD for the better, but may even make the behavior worse. I am glad to hear you would not be deliberately rude to your children and I appreciate your apology on her behalf. Although it feels as if the anger and pain will never end, it did. I have come to a place of just truly pitying her. Thank you for reading and commenting.

LongTimeMother 5 months ago from Australia Level 7 Commenter
I'm not sure she deserves your pity, Gail. You obviously know more about any circumstances that may have led to her condition, and you're the one who knows what kind of difference it made to her life, so I respect your decision to pity her. From where I'm sitting though, my pity doesn't lie with her.
I am very pleased that you managed to make a life for yourself and come to terms with your past. That takes a special strength.

Gail Meyers 5 months ago from United States Hub Author
I pity her for the person she truly was, not any circumstances that led to her condition. She made many choices along the way to arrive at such an emotional and spiritual state.
In my opinion, facing reality and processing the emotions in healthy ways can go a long way in the healing process. However, in the end there are some things only God can heal. Thank God He does.

Green Art 4 months ago Level 3 Commenter
I recently talked to my narcissistic mother about past physical and verbal abuse as a child and verbal abuse as an adult. She is in her eighties and of sound mind and good health so I felt it was OK to ask her some questions. She denied ever saying or doing anything wrong and emphatically stated that she had an excellent memory. The implication being that I was lying. She has since called me once to yell at me and sent me a letter still denying that she ever did anything to me. I am not going to contact her again because at this point I feel as though nothing will change. She does not take responsibility for anything she has said or done to myself or siblings.

My mother was clever and only abused me and my siblings primarily in private. No witnesses. In fact none of us knew about the others treatment until we were adults and started bringing up things our mother had done.
I feel as though I've given her every possible chance to have a positive relationship and no longer expect it to ever happen. It's sad, but then again I feel a sense of relief that I've done enough.

Thank you for writing such a personal hub. Voted up and useful!

J. Cash 3 months ago
Wow I cried reading this and wondered who had crawled into my soul!! I felt as if I was reading my own life story. The similarity is eerie yet comforting knowing I wasn't the only one. My mother had passed, but the damage was long done. I have almost no relationships with any of my family members (flying monkeys). I realized before she died that she was a product of her raising by her mother who was the same way. While I have faith in God, I cannot go to church anymore due to past traumas caused by my mother. Thank you for sharing your story and letting me know I'm not alone, I'm not crazy and I don't have to feel bad for not wanting to be around the "flying monkeys" anymore.

Green Art 2 months ago Level 3 Commenter
Mother's Day was yesterday and I did not call, or even send a card to my Mother. It is sad and yet I felt it necessary to protect myself from further hurt.

I enjoyed my own family on Mother's day and that made it perfect:) I hope others who read this hub and other posts here find comfort that they are not alone. Peace to all of you and a good life!

Gail Meyers 2 months ago from United States Hub Author
Green Art, I am glad it appears you are finding some resolution to the situation. I think anyone in this situation is far from alone. 

Gail Meyers 2 months ago from United States Hub Author
J. Cash, thank you for reading and commenting. On one hand, I am glad you found comfort in knowing you are not the only one who has gone through something like this. On the other hand, I hate that you can relate to my experience so well because I know how painful it can be. Thank you for reading and commenting.


  1. As I read this story I could not believe how much of it mirrors my own life. My mother just passed away two weeks ago. What I am enduring now is something I could not have prepared myself for. The Flying Monkey's have been released. I have decided to not let these monkeys drag me back to a place that took me a long time to get out of. Just when I thought a good portion of my parents severe abuse could be put to rest...up jumps the abuse by proxy. A bad Legacy carries on. So so sad.

    1. Anonymous, my heart goes out to you! Please let me know how you are doing now.

  2. I can relate to all of this i confronted my mother of her physical and emotional abuse. She was upset with me and of course did not admit what she had done nor apologize. There was no contact between us for twelve years but i have to say i did expect her to one day come around. My mother was very ill and was dying and i thought for sure she would make amends with me knowing she was going to die. My mother passed away two months ago i was devastated that she did not contact me to make things right . I am still that little girl looking for my Mother`s love. I have made the decision to go to therapy in order to heal from this. I do realize that my Mother was not capable of love she was a very sick person .She had all her flying monkeys and they will continue to place blame on me because she manipulated all of them. I will have no contact with them either I choose to heal and be happy and i will not allow myself to be dragged down with the rest of them. I have no contact with my Father and siblings either and have made the decision to keep it that way. I know the truth that is all that matters.

    1. Anonymous, my heart goes out to you in your pain. I have been exactly where it sounds like you are and I want to encourage you. My mother's flying monkeys also kept on after her death, even to the point of verbally assaulting me for refusing to go along with their ridiculous comments during their grieving process. I have been no contact for nearly a decade and I do not regret it at all. Please be sure to join us on Facebook if you haven't already done so. The link is in the right margin.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am dealing with an elderly and ill n-mother. She's practically textbook. We have gone long periods of time without contact and I've had enough therapy to sink a battleship, but I'm still struggling. I have finally come to a point where I have assured that she has high quality care, and I am in charge of the medical decisions for her, but I have no direct contact with her - only with doctors, etc. If there is any blessing here, it's that the dementia has sent her behavior spiraling out of control and she is no longer able to limit it to just me as the scapegoat. Relatives and even her pastor have sent me emails stating "NOW we understand." I would love an apology, but I believe I will get one right after I get my OWN literal flying monkeys (who I would use for errands, not for attacking innocent scapegoats). This is a great blog - thank you so much.

  4. Enjoyed the article and of course I related to everyone. My MNM recently left a voicemail with an angry apology, professing that she did nothing wrong and doesn't know why she is apologizing, but she was "sorry." I had told my stepsister that my mother had never apologized once to me in my life so I owe the "apology" to her not my mother. It was fun to listen to, I must admit. Sad actually. She does not admit to favortism, character assasination, sexual misconduct, triangulation. So I took the high road and in an email I thanked her for her apology. I have suffered so much as this women's scapegoat. I will never contact her again, nor will I attend her funeral. They will be talking about someone I never knew.

  5. Are you sure that we aren't related?
    The picture of the lady and her reflection in the mirror that also looks like a skull was hung in my bathroom by my mother when I was 7. The caption underneath it reads "all is vanity".
    My NM is in her 90s and I am still her scapegoat. I stayed no contact save by phone for 16 yrs. Only after her stroke have I seen her only to have her confirm that she will never change.

  6. Also mine tried to manipulate my siblings and me over who would make decisions for the youngest, I was still surprised to see my much older sisters still play the game...despite all their therapy. How very sad.

  7. I have a question about therapy for Adult Children of Narcissistic Mothers.

    How could it be even remotely possible in finding someone qualified who could possibly relate to what we've been through unless they were also a victim?

    Do such therapists / psychiatrists even exist?

    How could one talk about extreme narcissism with someone who has never lived through the terror and expect a meaningful connection?

    It seems to me the terms "Golden Child" and "Scapegoat" are common psychiatric jargon, but put in the context of Extreme Narcissism the drama and consequences are escalated to the nth degree.

    Does any of this make sense?

  8. Yes, they do exist. My sexual abuse therapist in the 1980's spotted it and so did my late brother's therapist during the same time period.

  9. Thank you for writing this. We truly experienced the same abuse, and now abuse by proxy. My siblings, though, did not even bother filing the will, which would have divided her assets among the six of us. She had given the two brothers power of attorney and the money disappeared. They said she had nothing left so no reason to file the will. She had always told them them she had to give me so much money, when in fact she used me, the scapegoat, to cover the fact she was mishandling her money. How do you fight this abuse by proxy and stay sane?

  10. Thank you so much for writing this. My narcissistic grandmother is in the last stages of stage 4 lung cancer, and lost in the maze of Alzheimer's. I've been wrestling with the decision to go and visit one last time or not. I know I'm not going to get any death bed apologies. I've been in therapy for four years and found a peace and happiness I've never had before. 3 of my 4 aunts are already assuming their positions and I know my dad, the remaining aunt, my brother, myself and one cousin are about to get abused as the scapegoats again. Never thought of what to call them other then grandma's minions, I like flying monkey's better. Thank you for explaining this in a way that I can relate to and understand.