“You were an unlovable baby. You were a prickly baby and no one could love you. You are still unlovable!” These are not the words that one expects to hear from their mother, but in a strange and yet cathartic way, they were a huge relief. I could finally let go of seeking love and acceptance from the woman who was meant to love me unconditionally.
I was 43 when I heard those words for the first time. 43 years of striving for love and seeking acceptance in a family that I was born to, but did not belong in.
In the aftermath and days that followed, I emotionally buried my mother. I grieved for a short period, and then like most who have endured a long painful end to a relationship, soon after I felt a great relief. I felt a sense of liberation and freedom that I had never felt before. It wasn’t my fault. All the things that I had held onto believing about myself that said that I was bad, naughty, recalcitrant, rebellious – I realised I was none of those. I was merely a child deserving of love that should have been rightfully hers.
Such is the life of any child who has survived a narcissistic parent.
In the many years that have followed this event I have gone through various stages of frustration living with a family which was partially dead to me. Emotionally letting go was my only way forward, but somehow I had to maintain relationships with the rest of my family. I have a siblings and my father and extended family all still in the realms of the ‘living’.
One of my healing mechanisms was to start some honest discussions with other family members. I was honest with my father about her for the very first time. He told me, exactly 12 months ago and some 7 years after the fact, that she was desperately trying to make amends for what she had said and done. His words were met with an emptiness in me. They didn’t even resonate because it was simply too late. I had buried her already.
I saw how she was ‘trying’. She would try and hug me and say “I love you” but it was shallow and not genuine and it was also very unfamiliar. I had not been raised with love from her. Not pretend, nor real. It just wasn’t there. She never used to tell me she loved me – why start now when I knew it wasn’t true?
I also had some honest conversations with my sister. Our memories of our childhood are vastly different and it’s almost as if we grew up in different homes. It’s been a long running joke between she and I, that she is the favourite. I actually feel a strange sense of affection for this in our relationship. I guess I will never really figure out if it’s better to be loved or loathed by a narcissist. Either way, we had the same mother.
I have almost no happy memories of my childhood, yet my sister has many. The things that she remembers or the way she remembers them are blank to me. There is nothing there. I can recall some of the events, I just don’t have any emotion around them. None.
Since early adolescence I have never been close to my brother. As I’ve been told, we were always fighting as little ones. I guess that’s normal with siblings close in age. As we grew older I tried many times to see in him what others see. They see him as a happy, funny guy ~ always the life of the party. I just never got it. I always used to wonder how they would feel about him if they only knew the things I knew.
I remember when he became engaged. I was living in Sydney and I heard through some friends of his engagement party. Upset and hurt that I was not told or invited, I questioned him about it. He said to me “I don’t know what you’re upset about. It’s just for close friends and family”.
I’m laughing at myself recalling this. I should have known then what just this past week I realised. He is my mother’s son.
This week I tried to explain something to him about some vulnerabilities I was experiencing at the hands of online stalkers who are harassing me. I tried to help him understand why it was affecting me so much. Now, any of you used to dealing with narcissists know that was fruitless. Again – it’s laughable that I was so naive as to think he would get it. He projected a whole heap of rubbish back at me and completely turned the situation into something it’s not. It was straight out of the narcissists handbook on how to cripple a person in pain.
So with little ceremony and only a short few days of grief, he has been emotionally buried alongside my mother. Like her, I will still come into contact with him, but it can now be done without expectations of innate love and any desire for familial connection.
Letting go is far easier than most people realise. It’s a conscious choice to say good bye to someone who is causing you harm. It’s a choice to realise that what they inflicted on you says nothing about you, and everything about them. And it’s a conscious choice to forgive.
People often object to the concept of forgiveness because they misunderstand it’s importance. Forgiveness is not for them, it is for us. When someone has inflicted years of torment onto you, you are filled with doubts, fears, insecurities, anger and bitterness. You become the very thing they want you to be ~ weak.
Forgiveness is to enables us to take back the space and heal our wounds so we can rebuild with love and self respect and make way for new people into our lives.
Forgiveness allows us to let go of being their victim – and I have not yet seen anyone who has successfully moved on to a happy life, while holding onto victimhood.
Letting go of our victimhood does not mean we are ignoring or dismissing the impact of what happened to us. It is still there, and it is still real. It just doesn’t have to define our future.
I forgive my mother and my brother for being loveless to me. I forgive them for being incapable of seeing others pain. I forgive them both for harming me in ways that no one should endure from family. Neither of them are evil – they are simply incapable of empathy.
For those who have unconsciously chosen narcissistic partners, I feel your pain. No one survives this unscathed.
I am often reminding people that they don’t need permission to be themselves or to show up as the person they desire to be and it’s perhaps never more relevant than when you are moving on from a narcissistic relationship. You do not need their permission to move on. They are never going to say sorry. They are never going to give back what they took from you. They are never going to change their ways.
You have a right to be free of others harm.
You are not at fault.
You are worthy of love.
Your life is of value to others.
You ARE strong.
When I first emotionally buried the living, I was able to break free from all the constraints my mother had placed on me. For the first time I learned what love actually was – and it started with ME. I learned what it felt like to feel peaceful inside. I was free from the cage she had crafted to keep me contained without my consent. I was a whole, loving and worthy human being who was loved, because I had love.
Letting go is hard, but it’s not nearly as hard as staying trapped in a belief that you are unworthy.
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