If you were raised by a narcissistic mother, you know just how complicated that relationship has been for your entire life. Living with a narcissist is a special kind of torture, particularly a narcissistic parent. You might think that you’d be happy when she died, but just like your relationship with her was, the feelings you’ll experience when she dies are, well, complicated.
When your narcissistic mother dies, you’ll experience a number of different emotions, some of which might surprise you. You’ll most certainly feel relief, but you’ll also likely feel intense grief, anger, and a sense of ‘dis-anchoring.’ If you’ve yet to express your feelings, it gets more complex.
The range of emotions you’ll experience can be very confusing. The relationship you had with your narcissistic mother was one that involved emotional abuse, and whether you have healed that or not, her death will create mixed emotions. It’s vital to explore all of the emotions you might experience as well as what to do after she’s gone to heal.
What to Expect When Your Narcissistic Mother Dies
You’ll experience a range of emotions. Your relationship with her was complicated and full of emotional abuse, so it’s no wonder her death will cause many different feelings. You might have wished her dead on many occasions. As Princess Bibi says of her narcissistic mother, “I used to hope and pray she got hit by a car on her way home and died so that I didn’t have to feel inadequate anymore.”
When she actually dies, however, while you may experience relief because the abuse is over, you will struggle with it more than you think. You’ll also struggle with the many other intense emotions that will rise up over time.
What you might be surprised to feel is intense sadness. You might expect to be relieved and you might also think you’ll be happy once she’s gone, but for good or for bad, this was your mother. Her death will likely make you sad for many different reasons.
You might be sad because you never expressed the pain she caused you or you might be sad because she didn’t know how to love. You might feel compassion for her own tortured life, and you might feel compassion for yours as well.
It’s also not unusual to feel intense anger. She hurt you for so long and now she’s left you with the scars. She wasn’t a good parent and that’s not fair, but her death doesn’t change any of that, and it won’t give you the satisfaction you think it will.
You’ll also feel pressure from the cultural norms you’ve been taught to expect when a parent dies. The emotions you feel will likely differ from what you’ve learned is proper, and that can cause you even more grief as you struggle to accept your own complicated feelings.
When Will These Emotions Come?
Another frustrating part of grieving the death of an abusive parent is that the emotions you’ll experience will emerge at a moment’s notice. You may be going along just fine, but then something will happen that triggers a memory or an intense feeling.
These feelings will hit you harder than you think or are expecting, and they will do so for some time following her death. As psychologist Dr. Liz Bonet notes, “grief peaks at about two years after the death.” You’ll experience cycles of intense emotions over a long period of time.
There will be some lulls and you’ll think you’re finally getting over it, but then, a holiday rolls around or some other experience triggers a memory and you’re once again awash with grief, anger, or sadness. It’s normal to think there’s something wrong with you, but that’s not true.
You’re going through a normal grief process that can be intensified by the nature of the relationship you had with your narcissistic mother. It’s particularly painful if you’ve yet to really process the abuse she heaped upon you.
Part of you will be very angry at her for dying before you could tell her how you feel, and it’s also common to feel stuck because of that. You might think you’ll never get over this, but give yourself time. When you lose a parent, even an abusive one, there’s a part of you that feels dis-anchored or detached because one of the people who created you is gone.
It doesn’t matter if they abused you, you feel a sense of loss, and it’s hard to process that with the mix of other emotions. There are, however, several things you can do to move on. Let’s look at a few things that can help.
What Can I Do to Process My Emotions and Move On?
If you’ve been doing some work on healing from the narcissistic abuse you endured from your mother, then it’s important to continue that. Your therapist can help you process the emotions you feel as they arise.
If you haven’t done anything, it’s time to start. There are a number of exercises that can help get the ball rolling, but at some point, you’ll also want to contact a professional. The narcissistic abuse you suffered has undoubtedly affected your life, and you need to understand how.
Let’s explore some exercises that can help and look at how therapy can dramatically improve your life.
Write a Letter
This is a good tactic if your mother is alive, and it works even if you don’t send the letter. That’s why it can also work after she has died. Writing a letter to your mother lets you express what you’re feeling in the way you want to do it.
You can be as angry or nasty or hurt as you want, and you can speak the truth without fear of reprisal. Just the act of writing your feelings down on paper helps you feel so much better. Even if you don’t send the letter or if you know your mother will never read it because she’s deceased, you’ll feel better.
Admitting the things you never dared to before is a wonderful way to honestly speak your truth. You don’t have to pull any punches. You can scream (metaphorically speaking), you can cuss, you can say things you could never say to a living person. You can let it all come pouring out.
Once you do, the healing truly begins. After telling your mother how you feel – whether she ever knows it or not – you can now move on to understanding better why she did what she did and how it truly affected you. As you explore those truths, you’ll develop compassion for her and for yourself.
You’ve spent a good portion of your life feeling inadequate because that’s how narcissists make you feel, but now you can better understand both why she did it and how it affected you. That helps you feel compassion for her, but even more importantly, it helps you feel compassion for yourself. That is critical for your healing process.
Examine Your Core Beliefs
Another helpful technique to heal those old wounds is to examine the core beliefs you adopted about yourself because of your mother’s narcissistic abuse. When you’re a child, you don’t know that you’re being abused, and the way your mother treats you can cause you to adopt core beliefs about your nature.
For example, you might have adopted the core belief that you’re selfish and spoiled because that’s what your mother told you when you expressed a need. That can cause you to be reticent about expressing valid needs as an adult.
As a child, you did the things you did to survive, and so, you stuffed your feelings of need to prevent your mother’s criticism. But now you’re an adult, and those survival tactics no longer serve you, and yet, you still use them. Now is the time to more closely examine those beliefs and work toward healing them.
When you start to really trace your core beliefs and understand the reasons you adopted them, you can help that inner child to let go of those old strategies. You can be the mother you should have had for your own inner child. That’s a powerful healing technique that can really help you overcome your toxic mother’s abusive treatment.
Work With a Therapist
Working with a therapist is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s one of the bravest things you can do. When you start to pick at those old wounds created early in your life, it can stir up some powerful feelings, and you need to be strong to do that.
A therapist can help you recognize things you just thought were normal. You were a child when this type of abuse began, and there was no way you could know that you were being abused. I didn’t realize that my mother was abusing me until a friend of mine reacted with shock to something my mother said to me.
My friend just couldn’t believe that a mother would say something like that to her own child. Until that moment, I didn’t realize it was abnormal. I thought everyone’s mother talked to their children that way. How could I have known any differently? And how could you?
I spent much of my childhood and a good portion of my adulthood feeling that there was something wrong with me. I bought into what my mother was saying because I didn’t know any different. Even after realizing that not everyone’s mother spoke that way to their children, I still thought that somehow the problem was with me.
I had fully integrated those core beliefs long ago, and even with the realization that my mother was not typical, I couldn’t let go of them. It required working with a therapist to recognize them and disentangle them from my identity structure. It’s difficult work and requires strength of character and perseverance.
Learn to Forgive
Learning to forgive your mother and yourself for what happened is one of the most important things you will ever do for yourself. It’s absolutely vital to be moving on. Until you can forgive your mother for her abuse and yourself for the feelings that abuse generated in you, you will be shackled to the effects that abuse had on you.
Forgiving is an action we take for ourselves. Your mother may never know you have forgiven her, and she may not ever have believed she needed to be forgiven. It’s you who needs to be able to forgive.
Learning to forgive is a skill that you must work on and develop after you’ve recognized the effects the abuse had on you and accepted the strategies you developed to deal with those effects. To truly forgive your mother, you need to be able to view her mental condition with compassion.
Narcissism is a tortuous mental condition. The narcissist never develops a sense of self and is completely dependent on other people to boost their self-esteem. What’s more, they live in a constant state of fear that they will be exposed for the worthless person they have come to believe they are. It’s what drives every part of their manipulative and abusive behavior.
When you can finally understand that, you can develop compassion for your narcissistic mother, and that’s the foundation that will allow you to finally forgive her. Along the way, you will also learn to practice self-compassion and self-forgiveness. Those are priceless gifts that will serve you well for the rest of your life.
How Long Will It Take to Move On?
As mentioned earlier, typically grief peaks at around two years after the death has occurred, but that doesn’t mean you will be healed and ready to move on that point. It’s hard to say exactly how long it will take to move on.
Much depends on the nature of your specific relationship with your mother and the damage her abuse has caused. Each person feels the effects of narcissistic abuse differently. One person may be able to process these difficult emotions in a few years while others may continue to struggle for many years to come.
What’s important is not to put a time limit on it or have fixed expectations. Instead, practice being gentle with yourself. Another important practice is acceptance. Accept the feelings you have no matter what they are without judgment.
When you get to the point where you can let go of the self-judgment and shame that resulted from the narcissistic abuse you endured, that’s when the healing really begins to take effect. Shame is one of the most damaging emotions humans have, and it’s part of what causes narcissism in the first place.
The narcissist then passes that on to their children who carry it often for the rest of their lives. Letting go of that destructive and useless emotion is key to truly healing from the abuse your toxic mother heaped on you throughout your childhood.
What Comes After?
When you’re finally able to lay the specter of your abusive, narcissistic mother to rest, that’s when you can truly fill your life with love. You really can’t love other people properly until you can learn to love yourself. You have to be able to accept every part of yourself, even the selfish, needy, and yes, narcissistic parts.
Once you’re able to accept what you consider to be the worst parts of yourself, the parts therapists call your shadow self, that’s when you can recognize the gifts those shadows bring you. You can understand that your selfish shadow self is looking out for your best interests. Your needy shadow self is reaching out for love and the care your mother never gave you.
Each of these shadow selves is bringing you a skill that you once used to survive. You may have better skills now, but recognizing the value of the shadow self and learning to love those parts of you is vital for total self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is critical for learning to love yourself.
When you finally learn to love yourself, you are now ready to truly give love to other people. You can accept them even with their flaws, you can have compassion for their situation, and you can practice forgiveness even when they harm you. You also develop self-respect and refuse to allow anyone to continue to harm you. That doesn’t mean you can’t forgive them, but you won’t let any more abuse into your life.
Narcissism is a toxic mental condition that results in generations of abuse and pain. Your narcissistic mother lived in constant fear with profound shame and self-loathing. Her tortured mind never knew how to love you. She only knew how to manipulate and abuse you.
But you don’t have to live with that for the rest of your life. No matter where you’re at when she dies, you will experience mixed emotions. Let yourself feel them, explore them, and use them to heal. You’ve suffered enough, and it’s time for you to find true love – hint: it’s self-love.
One of the first and most important things you can do when you begin your healing journey is to understand your emotional triggers. Your narcissistic mother likely created many of these and she used them to manipulate and control you. It’s critical to understand those triggers so you can stop any future abuse from anyone in your life. A free copy of my 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers can help you do that so that you are the only one who controls your emotional responses. Just click on the link below this video and I’ll send it directly to your inbox for free!
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