Special days after escaping narcissistic abuse can be very odd & very difficult days. Many narcissists make holidays miserable in some fashion. The overt narcissists may do everything they can to ruin the day by starting some ridiculous drama as a way to sap the enjoyment out of the day for everyone else. Or, the covert narcissists may work hard to make special days extravagant so they may be praised for all their hard work, & make people think they’re so wonderful because there is nothing they won’t do for their family. Whichever the case, special days make a very deep & lasting impression on victims of narcissistic abuse, & sometimes they can be very difficult even after the abuse has ended.
My late mother in-law controlled the big holidays & some special days such as her & my late father in-law’s birthdays & their anniversary. Everyone was expected to show up to her get togethers, no excuses not to, & bask in all the hard work she put into making these days special. I wasn’t overly fond of holidays to start with because my ex in-laws, although not narcissists, also expected certain things on the holidays & there was no excuse not to do them. I already was fed up with holiday demands, & my mother in-law’s behavior didn’t help! As a result, I still hate holidays even years after my last attendance at such events. I’ve tried creating new traditions or doing things I enjoy on the day to counteract my negative mindset, but nothing has worked. Most holidays & special days are now just another day to me at best or at worst days I dread.
In my family, my grandparents made July 4th into a celebration combined with a family reunion. As a kid, I loved it. I got to see my two favorite people, my grandparents, & it was always a fun time with my family lots of fireworks. It’s only been in the very recent past that it occurred to me that most of those people I was so happy to see each July 4th are narcissists. I can think of eight people off the top of my head that have been utterly cruel to me. That’s a lot of people in just one family!
Since you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume your story is similar. I’m sorry for that. My hope is to help you to handle this situation in a healthy way.
I always recommend prayer as the best place to start because, well, it is. God knows us much better than even we do, & is infinitely smarter than us. What better source could there be for help?! Just ask Him to help you to in this situation & He will.
You can try creating new traditions that have nothing to do with the narcissist, too. Do something that is pretty much the opposite of what the narcissist did. Create a calm environment without pointless drama. Rather than participate in the usual traditions, do something unique like take a trip somewhere you like. For example, instead of spending Christmas exchanging gifts & eating turkey & all the usual fixings, go to the beach for a couple of days. Or, maybe go to the mountains or go skiing with friends. After doing this once you might want to make it an annual tradition.
If this doesn’t help you to find some joy in special days, I understand totally since it didn’t help me much either. It’s ok! Instead, you could write out what you feel in your journal, leaving nothing out. Granted, this isn’t going to add a lot of fun to your day, but it may help you to figure out how you can begin to enjoy special days again. At least it’ll help purge you of negative feelings.
If your situation is more like what I described with my family, you once enjoyed gatherings & only later realized there were many narcissists there, you’re going to need to grieve. This is a loss, finding out your family members are narcissists, & it should be treated as such if you are to move past this painful realization. It’s important to remember that moving past it is a realistic goal. Getting over it may not happen. Hopefully it will, but if you find that you simply can’t, don’t beat yourself up over it. I haven’t been able to get over the realization with my family either. It still hurts, but so much less than it once did. And, once you get to a place of healing, you might be able to find joy in special days by doing things you like & creating new memories.
I wish you the best in your healing journey! xoxo
5 responses to “Special Days After Escaping Narcissistic Abuse”
Cynthia, there is a little distinction that needs to be drawn with respect to controlling hosts for holidays. My mother was not a narcissist, but she was very much OCD. She was organized to the nth degree, having a combined major in college of Education and Home Economics. She was so organized she was asked by her church to pull together food for weddings and funerals. My mother was very dear and did this because she was good at it and did not necessarily seek accolades.
To your point, the narcissist must get the credit. He or she must make everyone believe they would be lost without his or her efforts, so add histrionics to the equation. The narcissist must step on someone to elevate himself or herself. We have a woman in our neighborhood who must know everything about everybody. And, she very much wants you to know that she knows the person or situation more than someone else. She is a kind person, but she is one that must get credit and more.
I think the distancing strategy or the time limiting strategy work best. If you must be there, get in and get out. Or, don’t go at all. I have a friend who has orphan Thanksgiving dinners for people that can’t or don’t want to travel. The hostess would rather eat with friends than some of the relatives.
I think it’s pretty easy to tell who is being narcissistic with their celebratory demands & who isn’t. Covert narcissists must be sure to get attention for all their hard work. Your mother having OCD clearly wasn’t that way. My ex mother in-law wasn’t a narcissist or had OCD, but still wanted things her way come holidays. She worked hard for them but never made sure everyone knew just how hard she worked, how much she sacrificed, blah blah like narcissists. People like her & your mother may be kinda hard to handle but compared to the demanding narcissist holiday dictator, are truly a walk in the park.
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I’ve just never liked holidays. To me everyday life is stimulating enough! I have learned to let others do things as they wish and at my age I now just say I’ve retired from holiday doings. I’ve experienced plenty of dysfunctional holidays and I’m grateful for peace and quiet now.
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Peace & quiet are truly priceless!
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