I thought I’d share some things that have been happening since my mother’s death in April in the hopes someone reading this can glean some useful information from it. I’m going to make this post into a YouTube video (well, probably a 2 part one) in the near future since not everyone who follows me on YouTube reads my blog (& vice versa).
It’s been such a strange, strange time to say the least. God has been blessing me big time by enabling me to take care of everything I need to do. I was able to bring my parents’ cat home without having to trap her & add to her trauma. She’s still learning that this new home is a safe & loving one. He’s given me the ability to figure out just what my parents would want done with their belongings, too. He even got me through the horrific day of my mother’s burial. As if burying her wasn’t enough to deal with that day, the cemetery made a huge mistake. Long story short, they had to exhume my father & rebury him in the plot beside where he was before they could bury my mother. On top of that, one of my cousins showed up at the burial solely for the purpose of attacking me, & refused to leave. She was the one who was the cruelest to me when my father was dying. Not a pleasant day, but I got through it & everything else surprisingly well, thanks to God carrying me.
In spite of the blessings, it’s still been hard.
The death of a narcissistic parent is bizarre. Normally when someone you love dies, you miss them terribly & it’s incredibly painful. Very hard of course, but it’s not complex. Not so with a narcissistic parent. There is the sadness of course, but not always because you miss them. It can be because you miss not having a healthy relationship with your parent, because your parent stole your childhood or because your parent went to their death never admitting any wrong doing.
There’s also the relief & freedom you suddenly feel knowing that you are finally free from your parent’s abuse. It’s such a wonderful feeling! At least it is until the guilt for feeling that way kicks in. Even when you know that your feelings are totally normal, most people still feel some degree of guilt.
In some cases, like mine, your narcissistic parent dies alone because you are no contact. I hadn’t spoken with my mother for almost 3 years to the day when she died. The theory is my mother died on her birthday & 3 days later is when the police performed the wellness check & found her. I can’t describe the guilt I feel for this. Yet, I know beyond a doubt I couldn’t have maintained the relationship any longer with her or my father for that matter. I also know it was for the best for my parents that I wasn’t in their lives. That is what finally got my father to turn to God for the first time. It may have worked for my mother that way, too, but I’m not sure yet. Even knowing such things, there is still guilt. My mother died alone in a filthy house with very little food because she had only limited help. How can I not feel some guilt for this? Anyone with any compassion would.
Even knowing such things, the guilt is powerful. If you end up in a similar situation, Dear Reader, please be forewarned of this. Understand that feeling guilt is very normal & understandable, but that doesn’t mean it is right.
There is also the matter of going through my parents’ home. I had to find financial information such as bills, bank accounts & investments. I also have been trying to sort out things to send to various relatives. While it’s just stuff, it’s stuff that can bring back a lot of memories, good & bad. Being inundated with memories is so hard!
It’s also strange going through my folks’ home. My parents were no different than other narcissistic parents in that they kept secrets. I’m discovering some of those secrets, which makes an already challenging task even more challenging. I’m learning more about my parents than I felt prepared to.
I think what I’m learning from this entire experience is this…
Like I said when my father died, you simply can’t be fully prepared for the death of a narcissistic parent. You can learn all you can & pray, but still, you won’t be fully prepared. What you learn & your prayers can help you a lot, but don’t expect to be 100% prepared. Your emotions are going to be all over the place. You’ll experience hurt, anger, disappointment, relief, grief & more. Or, you may be numb. Or, you may bounce back & forth between overly emotional & numb. In any case, you’re going to be very surprised by all that you experience, & there isn’t any amount of preparation that can stop that from happening.
If you’re the one chosen to be the personal representative or at least to clean out your parents’ home, it’s going to be brutally hard on you. Seeing their possessions will trigger lots of memories, probably good as well as bad. When you have PTSD or C-PTSD, this is especially difficult to deal with since it also can trigger flashbacks or intrusive thoughts.
Going through anyone’s personal belongings also shows you a great deal about who that person is. Much more than you can learn by being in a relationship with them or even living with them. I learned that my parents wrote down a lot, including things like how miserable they were with each other. That was not new to me but seeing their most intimate thoughts in writing about such a topic is pretty difficult to say the least. Since it’s too much for me to handle, when I find anything in my parents’ handwriting, I glance at it to see what it’s about. If it’s one of those “I’m miserable with you” papers, I put it aside without reading further. You are going to learn things you wish you’d never learned about your parents like I have. While you can’t be prepared for what you learn, you can be prepared in the sense you know you will learn painful things. You also have the right to protect your mental health like I’m doing. Put things aside until you feel equipped to deal with them. Or, have someone safe that you can trust to go through such things for you.
If you are the one responsible for writing the obituary, you can always ask the funeral director to do that if you aren’t up to it. The one who took care of my mother did her obituary & it turned out wonderfully. Not overly gushy, just simple & nice. Some folks in such situations write honest obituaries, detailing some of the abuse their parent inflicted on them. It seems to be quite therapeutic for them. That may be another option for you.
Whether or not your parent had a will, chances are excellent that it’ll take quite a bit of time to get their estate settled. While that can be a challenge, having this situation hanging over your head for what feels like forever, it’s also a good thing in a way. This means there is no rush to sort through their things. Take your time. Take frequent breaks too. You’ll need those breaks for the sake of your mental health.
You’ll also find out most people have no idea what to say or how to deal with you after the death of your narcissistic parent. If you had a good relationship with your parents, they would send sympathy cards & say the usual, “sorry for your loss” type comments. Since you didn’t, many people won’t know what to say or do. This may make some folks avoid you. If they don’t avoid you, they may avoid talking about your parent in any context or they say things that hurt you even though they don’t mean to. It will hurt & disappoint you, even when you know that wasn’t their intention. After someone close to you dies, no matter the relationship, many people are rather emotionally raw for a while. This means you’ll be oversensitive, & hurt much easier than you normally would be, which is why their comments hurt you.
Most importantly, lean on God as much as humanly possible! You are going to need His love, strength & support more than you ever expected to. He will carry you through this!