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When A Narcissistic Parent Is Dying

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health, Narcissism

When A Narcissistic Parent Is Dying

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

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My New Book Is Available!

I have just published my newest book entitled, “The Truth About Elderly Narcissists”.  It’s all about identifying their changing abusive behaviors, finding ways to cope with them while taking care of yourself, coping as a caregiver, as well as things to consider if you opt to go no contact.

 

This book is available in ebook & print formats on my website at:

 

http://www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com

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Do Narcissists Change As They Age?

I’ve read so many times that narcissists never change, but I have to disagree with this.

 

Narcissists can change for the better, because with God, all things are possible.  This is quite rare, but it’s certainly something to hope & pray for.  (I believe in hoping for the best but preparing for the worst)  It happened with my husband’s father- he improved so much.  I don’t know why he changed, but it was wonderful.  He was caring & kind to my husband instead of his usual behavior- critical, bossy & generally nasty.  Unfortunately though, he later developed dementia, & returned to his old ways.  (Dementia & Alzheimer’s can exacerbate narcissistic tendencies.  Sadly, this is quite normal.)  After his wife (a covert narcissist) died in 2016, he returned to his much better behavior.

 

More commonly though, narcissists do change as they get older, & they get much more devious & creative.  They have to change because as they age, they have to use different tactics if they want to remain in control.  In my teens, my mother was a very intimidating & imposing figure.  When she screamed at me, as she did so very often, I was always afraid she’d physically hurt me.  If she tried this today at age 77, I wouldn’t be so intimidated.  How could I be?  She is much older & frailer now.  Screaming at me now wouldn’t have the desired effect, so she has changed her tactic from screaming to speaking in a soft tone & saying the most vicious things she can come up with.

 

Narcissists are smart- they know what will be the most effective way to accomplish something they want to accomplish.  They are experts at reading people, as they have to be to figure out the best way to use them.   They also are smart enough to realize what worked well for them when they were 35 most likely won’t work as well at 75, & they must adapt accordingly.  Besides, their children aren’t as easily pushed around at 40 as they were at 10.  They have to find new ways to manipulate them if they wish to continue using their children.

 

Many older narcissists also like to reminisce.  They like to talk with you about the past.  Often it’s the usual narcissistic rhetoric- bragging about their great accomplishments at work or the vast numbers of people they’ve helped.  But, narcissistic parents also can do something very hurtful- brag about the amazing childhood you had.  My mother has done this many times.  She talks about all the great things she did for me when I was a child.  Some things were simply a parent doing what she should for a child, & some things never happened at all.  When this happens, it used to hurt me a great deal.  She was invalidating & denying abusing me!  Instead she made me look like a screw up who needed her.  Finally though, God showed me something that has helped me tremendously.  This behavior is a coping skill.  Dysfunctional as it is, this is how my mother copes with the guilt she feels for being so abusive.  Rather than take responsibility & apologize to me, she reinvents the past to make herself look like a good mother.  She also even tries to get me to agree with her stories, in the hopes of convincing herself & I both that the stories really are true.  Once God showed me this, it made perfect sense to me.  I no longer was so hurt by her stories, because I knew they weren’t a personal attack (even though they may feel like it sometimes).  I knew instead they were a dysfunctional coping skill.  It is her right to use that skill if she wants.  It’s also my right not to validate her stories if I am so inclined, & I never do validate them.

 

Just be forewarned, Dear Reader.  As your narcissistic mother ages, she may not mellow out like many folks do.  She may seem a bit easier to handle in her golden years because she isn’t screaming, but don’t be fooled- just because she isn’t screaming or physically abusive doesn’t mean she isn’t still capable of hurting you a great deal.

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New Book Idea- Elderly Narcissists

Recently I was involved in a discussion about how little information there is available for those with elderly narcissistic parents, including caring for them.  It gave me an idea- write a book on the topic.

 

I have already started writing an outline & have some ideas.  But, I’d like to hear from you, Dear Reader.  I don’t want to miss anything on this topic.  If there is any topic you’d like explored or if you have stories to include, please let me know.  I won’t divulge your name to protect your privacy.  You can comment on this post or email me privately at CynthiaBaileyRug@aol.com

 

Thank you!  I look forward to hearing from you!  x0xo

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What Do You Owe Your Narcissistic Mother?

So many adult children of narcissistic parents struggle when their parents become elderly or ill.  They feel that because these people birthed & raised them, that they owe their parents everything at any personal cost, & the narcissistic parents feed that false belief.

 

The truth is, Dear Reader, you only owe your parents one thing- to honor them.  Exodus 20:12 says, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (KJV)  Many people upon reading that verse think that means they have to blindly obey their parents, no matter their age, no matter how their parents treat them.  That is simply not true however!!

 

You must understand what honor truly means.  According to the Merriam Webster’s website, honor in this setting means, ” a showing of usually merited respect : recognition <pay honor to our founder>”  Basically, you treat someone with courtesy & respect when you honor them.  You don’t cuss them out when you get angry, you don’t manipulate them, you don’t abuse them in any way, you don’t lie to them.

 

There is also this little gem in Acts 5:29: “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”  (KJV)  In other words, obey God before you obey your parents.  If you’re like most of my readers, this Scripture provokes a great deal of anxiety in you.  You know when your parents want you to do something for them, they demand it be done in a prompt matter, no excuses!  Not doing their bidding means you’ll have to pay & pay dearly.  Disobeying them can be a daunting prospect to say the least.  However, as a Christian, it is also good for you to follow it in spite of your fears.  God never gives bad advice!  Obeying Him will be more rewarding than disobeying them will hurt you.  I’ve had to do this myself.  Yes, it can be very scary, but clinging to the fact that God is good, loves me & wants the best for me helped me to obey him.  Also, once you do it, it gets easier the next time, then the next time, & so on.

 

Keeping these two points in mind, along with prayer, can help you to decide what you owe your narcissistic, ailing parents.  Do not allow anyone to tell you what to do.  No one but you is living your life.  You are the only one who can decide what you are & are not able to do regarding your narcissistic parents, preferably with the help of God.

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The Benefits Of Feeling Useful

If you’re a caregiver to an elderly parent or grandparent, there is a little something you need to know that will make your job more pleasant & improve the patient’s mood.

People need to feel useful.  Even if a person isn’t physically able to do much, that person still needs to feel like they are capable of doing things.  It can warm even the coldest heart when a person knows they have a purpose.

When collecting firewood for the winter, our neighbor helped out my husband.  He is in his late 70’s & has quite a few health problems.  Not only did he load his pick up full of wood, he helped my husband unload it.  He was obviously very proud of his accomplishment, as he should have been!

When I was helping to care for my narcissistic grandmother in 2000, it was not a pleasant experience.  She was a narcissist, & a very mean, cold, manipulative person.  One day, she wanted applesauce.  I assumed this meant she had a jar on a shelf somewhere, but I was wrong- she wanted homemade.  Since I didn’t know how to make it, she taught me.  That was one of only a couple of nice days I shared with my grandmother.  As we both peeled & cored apples, we talked.  She told me stories about her family as she showed me what to do.  It was a surprisingly pleasant day.  She was enjoying herself as she worked.

Although it’s no one’s job to make another person feel good about themselves, it’s a good idea to let people know how much you appreciate their help or what a good job they did so they feel useful.  It truly brightens their day & makes them feel good.

If you’re a caregiver, it is also a good idea to give someone you’re caring for tasks to do that you know they are capable of handling because a person who sits back & does nothing while others do everything can get depressed.  She may even feel like she has no reason to live, because she isn’t a contributing member of society anymore.  Or, if the person you’re caring for is a narcissist, she will love the fact she has people at her beck & call.  My grandmother was that way.  She had no problem demanding I come do something for her at any time, no matter what I had going on in my life.  One night at 9:30, when I was about ready for bed, she called my mother who had my father call me to tell me I had to get to her home right away.  Why?  Because when I wrote down her list of what medicine to take when, I scratched out something & she couldn’t read through the scratches.  I had to go to her house & explain that I’d made a mistake, that was why I scratched out what I had.  Just ignore it & focus on the things I’d written down.  *sigh*  Obviously it was all about control, but I was unaware of that at the time.

Even a malignant narcissist like my grandmother could be changed (temporarily but it still counts!) by simply making her feel useful.  Giving her small things to do that she was physically able to easily do made a difference in her behavior.

Also, if you give a task, do so respectfully!  Just because someone is older or frail doesn’t mean they are unworthy of respect.  Please & thank you are phrases that go a long way with someone!  And, don’t treat that person like a child.  That does NOT go over well, & understandably so!

Don’t forget too, to say you could use some help.  That helps to make the person feel  useful rather than feeling patronized.  With the applesauce, I made sure to tell my grandmother I needed some help that day since I had no clue what I was doing.  Once she realized she was being useful, her mood drastically improved.

This advice isn’t only for the elderly or sickly, by the way.  Everyone needs to feel like they have a purpose!

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Don’t Take The Elderly For Granted! They Can Be A Treasure!

Enjoy the company of your elders.  If you still have grandparents, visit them, & visit them often.  Listen to their stories.  Write them down or record them.  You will learn so much wisdom from them while enjoying yourself at the same time.  You will treasure their stories one day when they are gone.  Some of my best memories involve my great grandmother when I was little or my granddad as an adult.  As a very little girl, my great grandmother & I had fun drawing, playing her favorite card game (Gin Rummy) or even snuggling up while watching the fire works on July 4th.  My granddad taught me a great deal about our family, including many fascinating stories of his & my grandmom’s early days of marriage & raising their family.

Grandparents & others in the elder generation can be such a blessing.  They have seen a lot in their lifetime, & have learned a lot.  They can teach you so much about life &, if they are relatives, about your family history as well.  Not to mention, they can be a lot of fun.  I always got some laughs when I spent time with Granddad.  He had a wonderful sense of humor.

Before Grandmom died in 1996, she & my aunt wrote a small book together that wasn’t published.  It included family history & some fun stories.  She wanted our family to expand on it, but no one did.  So a few years ago, I nagged my relatives for stories they wanted to include in the book.  I added some pictures as well, & ended up with a wonderful finished product with the help of my publisher.  If you feel creative, then I would suggest doing something similar.  It’s a fun project, & with the help of self-publishers, even an amateur can create a lovely finished product that can be passed down & treasured  through the generations.

If, like many of my readers, your elders are narcissists, this can be more complicated.  Don’t feel guilty if your parents are old & you don’t want to spend time with them.  How can you want to spend time with people who abuse you?!  It’s normal to feel that way.  People reap what they sow, & if they sow bad seeds into your life, you normally won’t want to spend time with them.  It took me a long time to realize this & stop feeling so guilty for not wanting to spend more time with my parents.  What you do regarding these people is between you & God only.  Don’t be guilt tripped into spending more time with abusive narcissists just because they’re old.  Being old doesn’t give a person the right to be abusive, & many narcissists only get more abusive as they get older.  You follow your heart & the promptings of God regarding the relationship, not what people have to say.

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Aging Narcissistic In-laws

Aging narcissistic parents are a very disturbing group of people. While most people mellow out as they age, narcissists often get more vicious.  Not easy to deal with for their adult children!

As I write this, I’m waiting for my husband to come home.  He’s at the hospital visiting his mother who was admitted today.

Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t go into much detail, so please bear with me a bit.  Both my mother in-law & father in-law are narcissistic, her covert & him overt.  As they are getting older & their health is failing them, they are making more demands on my husband.  Also, he is facing the truth about them & how he’s been abused by them for the first time.  It’s not an easy time for him.  I’m very concerned how this situation is going to play out for him, & how he is going to deal with his own feelings.

I’m also a bit nervous about how I’m going to deal with my own feelings as well.  You see, there were countless times I considered divorcing him earlier in our marriage because of the abuse his mother put me through & his failure to acknowledge it at the time.  Honestly, sometimes I still get angry when I remember those dark days.

I’m sure there are others in similar situations, as many of us with narcissistic parents marry someone who also has at least one narcissistic parent.  I’m writing about this to share what God has been showing me about how to cope.

Pray.  About what?  Whatever comes to mind regarding the situation.  Personally, I’ve been praying for my mother in-law’s salvation (I’m unsure if she’s a Christian- I don’t believe she is), asking God to give my husband strength, wisdom & anything else he needs right now, & asking God to help me release my old anger at him.  Prayers like this can truly help you as well as the recipients of your prayers!  I admit, it isn’t easy to pray for my mother in-law, so sometimes I ask close friends to pray for her.  It helps me know she’s getting prayer, plus I don’t have to do it at that time- I can do it later when I feel able to do so.

Distractions.  I’m hoping to distract hubby when he gets home with a funny video that we love.  We’re big fans of the old TV show, “Mystery Science Theater 3000” with its fun, warped humor, & since it always makes us laugh, I think watching an old episode could do us both some good.  After all, it’s unhealthy to focus on the more serious issues in life 24/7.  The brain needs a break sometimes!

Nice gestures.  A little sweet, thoughtful gesture can go a long way when someone is going through hard times.  Hubby will be greeted with raspberry herbal tea (we both love it) when he gets home.  I’ll come up with other gestures once I gauge the kind of mood he’s in.  Sometimes, he isn’t in the mood for interaction- he just wants to be left alone.

Listening.  Before I start the movie, I’ll see if he wants to talk.  Often when his mother is in the hospital, he comes home very frazzled.  The hospital staff at this particular hospital isn’t the best (as I learned when my father was there last December), his parents are demanding & his sisters want constant updates until they come into town.  It can be a lot for him to deal with.

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Caregiving And Narcissistic Parents

Good evening, Dear Readers!

My father recently had a mild stroke, which in addition to other health problems, has made him much more frail than he was.  My mother has some health problems as well, so they need some help.  This is where I come into the picture.

Being my parents’ only child, I think it’s only right for me to help them.  Plus, I’m good at caregiving.  I think most children of narcissistic parents are- we learned early in life how to read people & detect their needs.  I’ve promised them part of the day each Sunday for this. This already makes me nervous, since both are narcissistic.  I was a caregiver for my mother’s narcissistic mother for about a year, & it was miserable!  I’m hoping & praying my parents aren’t as bad as my grandmother was.

So far, it’s been more difficult, but in different ways.

My folks are lonely, & want company as much as they want help.  They’re frustrated with losing some independence.  And, the new issues haven’t fixed the dysfunction in their marriage- they still fuss at each other & play head games.

I feel sorry for them.

In the time I spent caring for my narcissistic grandmother, this never happened.  I didn’t think it would happen with my parents.  Imagine my surprise.

This has made me have to work hard on keeping my focus on God’s will for this situation & my boundaries.

These may be my parents, but they also are dangerous to my mental health.  The C-PTSD flares up in their presence, especially the anxiety.  I also realized how quickly I slip into old, dysfunctional, unhealthy mindsets around them.  This taught me how I need to keep focused on God & what is true.  I will frequently ask God to remind me of what He says about me & what is true.

My plan to help them & keep my mental health is to pray even more than usual.  I’ll be praying prior to visiting them.  And, asking God to help me have discernment when needed, & to remember His truth about me, so any criticisms don’t hurt me.

I also realize I’ll need to get better at having a self care routine, & remembering to take things one day at a time.  Maybe one hour at a time on bad days…another thing to ask God to help me with.

I’ll be sharing some about my new “adventure” in this blog.  I pray it’ll help you if you too are the child of a narcissistic parent.  ❤

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