At of the time I’m writing this, my father is in the ICU on life support, dying from leukemia. As a result, now I am having to put into practice the things I’ve written about before.
When I went no contact with my father earlier this year (prior to his diagnosis), I knew this scenario was very likely to happen. My father has had a myriad of health problems for years, & is, well, no spring chicken anymore. So, I prepared- I prayed & thought a lot about what would I do if this happened? Should I resume the relationship with my parents at the end of their lives, even knowing they won’t improve their behavior or will get worse? Could my physical & mental health tolerate that? Should I stay away no matter what? If I did stay away, could I handle the guilt? How would I handle the pressure from outsiders telling me to go when I knew I couldn’t do it?
Aside from the pain of losing my father, I’ve had many people come out of the woodwork to tell me to go to the hospital to see him. I should “put my feelings aside so he can die in peace,” “I only have one set of parents” & more. One even anonymously emailed me (as if I wouldn’t know who it was?!) information about NPD that she copied from the Mayo Clinic’s site, insinuating that I’m a narcissist for not going.
This is the kind of stuff that happens when a narcissistic parent is dying, & you, Dear Reader, need to be prepared for it since it can happen to you as well.
To start with, pray. Ask God to show you what you should do if & when your narcissistic parent becomes terminally ill, & ignore advice from everyone when the time comes. God knows best what you should do- no human being knows what He knows. Let Him guide you. Also ask Him to give you whatever it is you will need when that time comes- wisdom, courage, strength, etc. You’ll especially need those things if you opt to see your parent or become involved in a caregiver role.
Stay close to God. Talk with Him often. Let Him strengthen & comfort you, because you’re going to need those things more than you ever have in your life.
Ignore the pressure from everyone. You do what you believe God wants you to do & ignore everyone else. They haven’t been in your situation, so they don’t understand it. That doesn’t prevent them from judging it, however. Ignore them. You have to answer to God, not people, so obey Him. You’ll never please people anyway. Even if you became your parent’s full time caregiver, people would still criticize you, especially the ones who aren’t involved with helping. (Interesting how that seems to work- the ones who do nothing usually are the fastest to judge & criticize those who do it all.)
Don’t hesitate to block people’s phone numbers, emails or social media. Yes, it just sucks. It hurts cutting your own family or friends out of your life, but, you have to protect yourself. Blocking them will hurt less than allowing them to fill your phone or inbox with hurtful, manipulative, guilt/shame laden messages. Also, be aware that they may find other ways to access you that you hadn’t thought of. One of my cousins that I’d blocked used her dead mother’s Facebook to contact me. That was a shocking moment, seeing a message from my aunt who’s been dead since 2014! I’ve learned there is no way to protect myself completely- I have to continue blocking various avenues as people try to contact me. You will find the same thing is true for you.
Cling onto what you know is right, no matter what. I know, it is awful when your parent is dying & you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you can’t say goodbye. It’s painful for you & makes you feel like a terrible person. You aren’t though! Galatians 6:7 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (KJV) In cases like mine, this is exactly what is happening. They are reaping the awful harvest that they have sown after abusing me for my entire life. God has been reminding me of this Scripture repeatedly lately.
Don’t let people tell you how to feel. Even well meaning people may do this with comments like, “You shouldn’t be mad at the flying monkeys for coming after you right now- you have more important things to worry about.” You feel what you feel, acknowledge those feelings, & deal with them however you feel is appropriate.
Have realistic expectations. If you do decide to say goodbye to your dying narcissistic parent, don’t expect a happy ending. I haven’t once heard of any narcissist having an epiphany & apologizing for their behavior, even on their death bed. In fact, quite the opposite. I’ve heard stories of how cruel they can be to their children until their dying breath. If you are willing to see your parent so that parent can die in peace, or because it will help you somehow to say goodbye, then do it while leaning on God to help you stay strong even when the abuse continues. And, if at all possible, go when no one else is there. Avoid the ones who harassed & shamed you.
Think about the funeral. Do you plan to go? If so, it can get ugly. Even funerals aren’t off limits to some flying monkeys. Can you handle any confrontations with grace & dignity? Can you handle being shunned? It may be just too much, in the light of losing your parent. Visiting the cemetery after everyone has gone home may be a much better option for you.
Lastly, don’t expect anything normal about grieving your parent’s death. The death of a narcissist adds a lot of complexity to the already difficult grief process. Not only are you losing a parent, you’re losing the last shred of hope that things might be better one day. You’re losing the chance of ever having closure. You’ll grieve that your relationship was so toxic. You also are going to feel relief because the abuse is finished, & guilt because you feel relieved. You can’t fully prepare for all the things you’re going to feel, & it’s going to hit you hard. Try not to judge how you feel. Just accept that you feel as you do, & you’re OK. Speak only with supportive & understanding friends or relatives only about your feelings. Others will judge you harshly & not understand. Journal about your feelings. Read others’ stories about how they got through it. Don’t rush the grief- take whatever time you need to get through it all. Most of all, talk to God. Lots! He is there for you & wants to help. Let Him!
Also, you may need to grieve other things such as the loss of friends or family you thought would be supportive of you & turned out not to be. I learned last year that sometimes it’s possible for people to steal your grief. What I mean is when you should be grieving the loss of your parent, you’ll also have to deal with other things, such as people attacking you for not “doing the right thing” by your narcissistic parent. You may find it helpful to mentally put them in a box for a while as you grieve your parent, then deal with them later. I wrote about this topic in more detail in this post: Stealing Your Grief There’s also a follow up at this link: Update On “Stealing Grief” Post
You’ll get through this painful time, Dear Reader. It won’t be easy, but it is possible. xoxo