How Do You Grieve the Death of a Narcissistic Personality Disordered Mother?
|Grieving Narcissistic Mother's Death|
© by Gail Meyers
I recently read a posting on one of the narcissistic personality disorder boards. The question was an adult child of a narcissist asking how to grieve the loss of her narcissistic mother. The question was answered by someone who in my opinion should not have answered. The response was, "You grieve a narcissist parent just like you would grieve for anyone else."
As adult children of narcissistic personality disordered mothers (or fathers), we have heard this kind of response most of our lives. It just seems like one more example of someone who has never experienced being the child of a narcissist failing to grasp the severity of the situation. What a woefully pitiful answer to someone who has undoubtedly already experienced so much pain and is apparently wrestling with her grief enough to post such a question on a public forum.
I do not even particularly agree with the idea that grieving any two loved ones who are not narcissists is the same, let alone the idea that you grieve a narcissistic personality disordered mother just as you would anyone else.
Each of us grieve differently from one another, from one loss to the next and maybe even one day to the next. Perhaps the only way it is the "same" is in the general, broad sense that we all go through the five universal stages of grief. The five stages of grief are:
While I grieved differently for my grandmother and for my brother, it was at least remotely similar. Someone I loved was gone. I missed them. I remember the good times. However, grieving my narcissistic personality disordered mother was not even in the same ballpark as grieving my brother and grandmother.
First of all, I really did not grieve much for the first year after my narcissistic personality disordered mother died. As the golden child and flying monkey adult children seemed devastated, a part of me felt guilty that mostly what I felt was relief and numbness. Do not get me wrong, I loved my mother dearly.
Perhaps the numbness was my devastation or denial, especially from the realization that even on her deathbed she manipulated, gaslighted and lied. She was dying, yet her final gesture was to give me one last swift kick. The more the realizations struck me, the more her passing began to seem like a gift to me. She was no longer suffering with cancer and there could be no more damage done by her lying, manipulating, scapegoating, ridiculous demands, etc.
I went to a therapist for a couple of months a little more than a year after my mother's passing. She pointed out to me that I had been grieving my mother for my entire life. So perhaps it was not a lack of grief, but that I had already spent a lifetime processing that grief. That is a very accurate statement.
As an adult child of a narcissist in my 40's, I had spent many years grieving for everything my relationship with my mother was not. I would imagine there are many adult children of narcissists who have been grieving their entire lives because of all of the loss that so often accompanies being the child of a narcissist. It is truly serial grief.
Secondly, I realized what I was actually grieving was not a real, two-way relationship as I grieved for with my brother and grandmother. I was grieving the shattering of what remained of the illusion of having a mother.
Thirdly, the loss of the hope that she would ever change, that she would ever be a mother who loved me. I thought I had given up that hope many years ago, but it became obvious somewhere deep down inside the little girl in me was still hoping. Along with that was the realization that she never admitted the truth, let alone ever apologizing for any of it. When she died there could be no more hope of change or resolution.
Next, the anger and rage began to just gush out of me. When I say gush, I do mean gush. As I looked back over my life, it was clearer than it had ever previously been. She knew about the sexual abuse. She not only felt no responsibility for failing to protect me, but had the audacity to blame me for it. She would even taunt me as a child when I attempted to protest the abuse by sarcastically saying, "Poor Gail." She continued that well into adulthood, as well as during her illness.
Then the jealousy, gaslighting, backstabbing, silent treatment, ostracism, verbal abuse, slander, manipulation, scapegoating, etc., as an adult. When a narcissistic personality disordered mother dies, there is a lot more to grieve than her death. You grieve her path of destruction. You grieve not only for everything they were not as a mother, but for everything they destroyed in their wake. I grieved the loss of reputation, family, numerous relationships, years of turmoil and deep emotional pain, etc.
I grieved the total absence of any remorse or attempt at resolution by her during her two years of terminal illness. In retrospect, I honestly believe her mind was on the preservation of her image after her death, as crazy as that may sound. I grieved the fact that there was a human being walking around on this planet who could inflict so much merciless devastation without batting an eye - ever. Yet, still have so many deceived and defending her due to her fabricated martyr tales.
I experienced strongly conflicting emotions. She was my mother. Mothers should love their children and children should love their mothers. Yet, the wide, deep and lifelong trail of destruction reveals the truth no matter how hard the surviving flying monkeys work to contain it.
Did I experience any of this while grieving anyone else? No, I sure didn't! The flying monkeys worked hard to contain the truth even after her death. There is no question in my mind at this point that most of them do it knowingly, but some could possibly do it out of ignorance. (Unknowingly becoming a narcissist's flying monkey and inadvertently inflicting their abuse by proxy is just one more reason to go no-contact.)
I was verbally assaulted after my mother's death by three different flying monkey relatives. I would not go along with their fictitious version of the late narcissist, as the flying monkey spewed their slander and grief on me. Please note, I was not expressing my own grief or anger to them, but they were expressing their grief to me. Later, I was nauseous when one told me her first grandchild would be named after my mother, but thankful I heard the news in an email.
It might truly sound amazing to the average person, but certainly not to the adult child of a narcissist, that in each case the flying monkey was angered by my response, then immediately proceeded to attempt to tell me what I should think and feel. When I say they were angered by my response, I mean my unwillingness to agree or display emotions in direct opposition to my feelings, in response to their absurd assertions.
Extended family flying monkeys treated my late brother horribly during her illness. At times he was even asked to leave her house because it was their day to visit, which escalated into a confrontation. He was told by our mother, as he cried at the side of her deathbed, to just go home if all he was going to do is cry. This was in direct response to her years of slanderous martyr tales resulting from him attempting to hold her accountable and having the ability to expose her. Then, the gossip by the flying monkeys was that he was not visiting her much and it was obviously because he must feel so bad for treating his mother so poorly!
Narcissists love to rewrite history. Then not only tell outlandishly ridiculous lies with a straight face, but convince others of their fables. It is astonishing to me to this day how well her routine of playing the victim while vilifying the true victim worked. It is what I have previously called the flipped tale. She had people giving various negative responses to the scapegoats in an effort to defend her when she was consistently the ruthless aggressor!
For example, the statement was how badly my brother must feel for the way he treated her. In reality, she had spent two decades destroying him with slander because he confronted her about knowing about my childhood sexual abuse, doing nothing to protect me, then actually blaming me for it, having jealous rages and attacking me for it many times. It was the typical narc maneuver of playing the victim while vilifying the true victim. She ultimately managed to make herself the victim, even in that.
What my late brother actually did was call our venomous narcissistic mother on the carpet for her abuse, lies, treating his wife poorly, etc. He also saw the truth and had the character to stand up and confront his narcissist mother. So she spent the rest of her life destroying my brother's family relationships, reputation and mental health in order to conceal the truth about her own character. She spread martyr tales about how she was the innocent victim of her vicious son when the reality was the exact opposite. She was the vicious aggressor and he was the victim.
She did the same to me, the slander just had a different twist to it. (Note: If I was dealing with a narcissistic personality disordered person today, I would use those accusations toward others as nearly precise indicators of the truth about the narcissist. What I think she was doing is projecting her negative traits and feelings onto me. She would also often accuse the victim of the very thing she was doing, but she would also put forth fabrications. In any case, the flipped martyr tale gives the appearance of stripping the narcissist of their wrong and the victim of their virtue, all wrapped up in one smooth, disgusting little maneuver).
The grieving flying monkey was promoting the narcissist's slanderous lies about my brother and I was expected to stand there and agree with the ridiculous fairy tale. Mind you, my brother died suddenly, unexpectedly and very young, only a few months after our mother's death. Yet, she wanted me to sing her praises and express aversion for my brother!!
Yet, here she was as if completely oblivious to the reality of the situation. It was all about her grief and maintaining her narcissistic sister's facade. The flying monkeys attempted to cause my grieving to be just as much of a charade as the narcissist's life was. To hell with the scapegoat's feelings, my grief for my brother, the truth of what actually happened or the actual character of the late narcissist.
They are still in the rabbit hole and did not appreciate me refusing to play along. If the flying monkeys defended the narcissist during her life, their efforts seemed to double after death. However, I flat refuse to play let's pretend with anyone anymore. She was not the only flying monkey to attack, but I have had the whole bunch of them out of my life for a few years now. I do not regret it at all. It feels so much better.
We all tend to speak more highly of someone who has departed. So then the scapegoat survivor also has the social taboo of speaking ill of the deceased, and not just any deceased but a deceased mother, to deal with in order to be able to speak the truth or grieve honestly. There was no bigger relief than getting a therapist trained in narcissistic personality disorder.
Did I have this rage toward my brother or grandmother after their passing? Nope, nor do I believe that is the same as the "anger" stage in the five stages of grief. That stage might include being angry with the dearly departed for abandoning you or angry with God about the loss, but not the kind of rage associated with a narcissistic personality disordered mother. Most people have some differences in their relationships, but they love each other. You try to remember the good and let go of the bad. You remember the good times, the good qualities. Hopefully, the good outweighed the bad.
Yet, the relationship with the narcissist is parasitic in nature. When my narcissistic personality disordered mother died, the maneuvers came so much more clearly into focus. Everything about our relationship was one sided. I gave and she took. She also took when I did not give. She took regardless, either by hook or by crook. It was all about her regardless of the consequences in my life and often intentionally to cause me distress or loss.
The fact that it was a one-way, parasitic relationship was even more exceedingly clear after her death. After a couple of years of anger and rage, I began feeling as if someone I never really knew was gone. Someone who held herself out as the exact opposite of what she actually was. You truly cannot fault a wolf for being a wolf. That's who he is. He looks like a wolf and he acts like a wolf, but you know he's a wolf. The danger of a narcissist is you are dealing with a treacherous wolf hell bent on pretending to be an innocent, victimized sheep - at least in public.
As my therapist told me years before, I truly began to deeply pity my mother. When she told me that, I strongly believed the only thing I would ever feel toward my mother was anger because I was still in the heat of it. It took processing the anger and allowing it to subside, then I began to see how truly pitiful all of it really was. I think it took me a full five years to arrive at that point. Even now, I can still become angry about it. It's just not the intense anger it once was and the overwhelming pain is no longer attached to it.
So while some act as if your grief should be processed three days after the funeral and others say one year, I would have to say it took me at least five full years. I am glad I continued to process it in order to come to better resolution of a lifetime of her abuse. My point in all of this is we all grieve differently and there is generally a whole lot more to grieve at the death of a narcissistic personality disordered mother than just her passing, e.g., the wide and deep path of destruction and deception they leave behind.
The way I grieve may be different than the way you grieve. The way we grieve for one person or relationship may be completely different than the way we grieve for another. The way we grieve a narcissistic personality disordered mother may be off the charts different, in another ballpark. It could take a couple of months or a couple of years or several years. In my opinion, the important thing is to process the emotions in a healthy manner while taking good care of yourself and leading to healthy resolution.