When a healthy person loses a parent, it often causes them to reflect on their life and everything their parent has meant to them. For someone like a narcissist, the picture is less clear. They have usually had a complicated relationship with their parents. Narcissism is most frequently caused by some kind of abusive treatment, usually by the primary caretakers. That makes for a more complicated reaction when one of the parents dies.
There are various emotions a narcissist has when they lose a parent. They might feel a sense of relief and freedom, or they may feel as though they are lost without that primary source of supply. They may cycle through feelings of sadness, euphoria, empowerment, and exhaustion all at the same time.
The grief reactions that a narcissist goes through when they lose a parent are the result of the trauma, pain, fear, and unresolved conflicts that they have because of that complicated relationship. That causes many different kinds of emotional reactions, all of which are complicated by the fact that their primary focus remains on their need for narcissistic supply. Read on to learn several possible reactions a narcissist may have at this time.
How Does a Narcissist React When Their Parent Dies?
There are many different possible reactions, and the narcissist may cycle through each of these as they process the emotions that inevitably come up when a parent dies. As Dr. Sam Vaknin notes, “Their death represents the loss of the best available Narcissistic Supply Source and, therefore, constitutes a devastating blow to the narcissist’s mental composure.” Let’s take a closer look at each one of these and what’s behind them.
They Have a Victim Mentality
For the narcissist, they view the death of a loved one, particularly a parent, from the point of view of “What about me?” While they definitely feel the pain of the loss, their distorted reality turns that loss into something that has victimized them.
It’s not about what happened to their parent, it’s about how that loss has hurt them. They have to adjust to the absence of a typically significant source of narcissistic supply and how that will affect their well-being.
It’s a Cosmic Joke
Another way the narcissist views the loss of a parent is that it’s some kind of cosmic joke the universe is playing on them. It’s a punishment for something they didn’t do. They feel as though they are suffering the consequences of their parent’s death even though they don’t deserve that.
They make the death of their parent all about them. It’s not about what happened to their parent, but rather, it’s about what they will have to do now that they’re gone. They act out in ways that bring everyone’s attention to them.
They Experience Superficial Grief
While the narcissist may express grief at the loss of a parent, what soon becomes apparent is that they are really grieving the fact that they’ve been abandoned. It’s not about the loss of their parent, per se, it’s about how they’ve been abandoned.
This sense of abandonment may soon overshadow any other emotions they’re experiencing. This may lead to dynamic displays of grief like wailing combined with rage. They aren’t grieving because they miss the person who died, however, they’re grieving because they’ve been personally affected by that loss.
They Live in a State of Denial
Denial is a strong defense that narcissists will use to prevent other people from seeing their vulnerable emotional state. They have proclaimed themselves to be superior humans, and as such, they can’t be seen grieving. That would make them normal.
They might do things like make jokes or laugh at the loss. They don’t want people to see them being affected by the tragedy. They basically use denial as a means of shielding themselves from having to show any emotion.
They Show Their Rage
Narcissists commonly fly into a rage anytime they fear being exposed for a flawed individual. Losing a parent is something that sends them into a panic. They are confused because they feel shame and guilt about the death of their parent.
They often blame their parent for what they felt was wrong with their childhood, and that is usually mixed with guilt if they feel relieved by the death of an abuser. That’s a very threatening combination to a narcissist, and it sends them into an explosive rage.
They Experience Instrumental Loss
It’s not unusual for narcissists to view the other people in their life as more of a means to an end. These people do things for them like prop up their ego, but they may also benefit them in other ways. This is particularly true for a parent.
Parents might do something for their narcissistic child that helps them, and their loss is something the narcissist experiences as an inconvenience. Rather than being sad about the death itself, the narcissist is sad because now they won’t be able to get whatever it was their parent gave them in life.
How Can You Help a Narcissist Through the Grief Process?
It’s often difficult for people around the narcissist to help them with their grief. Narcissists can easily drain you spiritually and emotionally, and sometimes, they can even be abusive. It’s possible they could view your attempts to help them as antagonistic. If that happens, they might lash out at you, so what can you do?
It’s a fine line to walk to help them. Usually, it’s best to keep your distance until they have worked through the worst of their emotions. You can, however, send them a condolence gift to express your sorrow for their loss. Since the narcissist is ever critical, even in grief, it’s entirely possible they would criticize your gift, so don’t overthink it.
You can also compile a list of literature on dealing with grief and send it to them with a message that should they feel the need, here are some resources that may help. They probably won’t read any of them because they see themselves as different from everyone else. But you will have tried.
As they go through the grief process, you might find that they become very contentious. They often blame people around them for not being supportive enough. If this happens, simply tell them that you understand they’re still going through the grief process and you hope that they’ll consider reading some of the literature you recommended.
As for yourself, you should remember that none of the reactions the narcissist has are really about you or your relationship with them. It’s about their own sense of identity or lack thereof. You likely haven’t done anything inappropriate. It’s just that their distorted view of reality won’t allow them to acknowledge that.
The death of a parent is a difficult process for anyone, but narcissism complicates the grieving process even more. Narcissists do many things as they grieve including trying to manipulate their loved ones into replacing their dead parent as a principal source of narcissistic supply.
One way that a narcissist may try to manipulate you during this time is by using your emotional triggers against you. It is something that will profoundly complicate your own grieving process. I have developed a 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers that can help you prevent that from happening. This handy guide will help you recognize, defuse, and even heal those old wounds so they can’t be used against you. Just click on this link, and I’ll send it directly to your inbox free of charge.
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