Mother’s day is coming up shortly in many countries, which means that mums around the world will be celebrated with flowers, fancy brunches, and heartfelt gifts.
Many people look forward to this day, as it gives them the chance to celebrate the woman who brought them into the world and gave them unconditional love and support.
For the children of narcissistic mothers (NMs), it’s a very different situation indeed.
Rather than looking forward to this day as a chance to show a cherished parent how much they’re loved and valued, an adult child of a narcissistic mother may start panicking weeks – even months – in advance.
These are people who have been subjected to some of the worst types of psychological, mental, and even physical torture from the one person who they should have been able to trust: their mother.
Beatification Of Motherhood
We live in a society that puts motherhood on a towering pedestal.
Now, parenting is damned hard work, and mothers rarely get the validation and appreciation they deserve.
But there’s an underlying belief that as soon as a woman becomes a mother, she’s an ever-giving, saintly being full of unconditional love and devotion.
She can do no wrong, and if she does, it’s for a “good reason,” and deserves immediate forgiveness. After all, “she’s your MOM.”
One of the most difficult issues that children of NMs have to contend with is the fact that they were (are) so often disbelieved about what went on behind closed doors.
Why is this? Mostly because NMs tend to have a public face that is very different from what is displayed at home.
In public, around extended family members, friends, teachers, etc., the mother portrays herself as utterly devoted and loving.
She may speak of how proud she is of her kids, may hug or caress them to show all the people around her what a perfect, wonderful parent she is… and then as soon as the family is home, she’ll spew hatred and vitriol about any perceived slight.
Quite the opposite of the saintliness normally associated with motherhood, and incredibly damaging to the young, vulnerable beings in her care.
“But She’s Your MOTHER!”
People who haven’t grown up with a narcissistic parent tend to react badly when those who have try to express their despair about their upbringing.
In fact, when some adult survivors of narcissistic parental abuse try to explain to others why they have to distance themselves from said parent, or tell them about the horrible things they’ve experienced, they’re often met with either disbelief or hostility.
The other person might offer glib responses like “But she’s your mother! Of COURSE she loves you, and you know you love her too, deep down”.
Or they might brush off the experience entirely, with “Oh, it couldn’t have been that bad. You were probably overreacting because you were a sensitive child.”
They will never realize how damaging this kind of a response can be.
A person who has grown up with a mother who barraged them with a never-ending stream of criticism and cruelty, who gaslighted them constantly and made them question their own memories, their own sanity, is not someone who will have any desire to run down to the shop for flowers and a card.
Sure, they might do so out of a sense of obligation, but the flowers will always be the wrong type or the wrong color, the sentiment in the card will never be right, and the child might even be reminded that they weren’t wanted to begin with.
That is pretty much inconceivable to a person who received a lot of love and support from their parents, but they can’t be faulted for that.
It’s almost impossible for a person to truly understand a situation until they have experienced it for themselves… which is why, if you’re the adult child of a Narcissistic Mother, you have to be your own best advocate; your own protector, and nurturer.
Above all else, you need to take care of YOU.
The Importance Of Self-Care
Since you know better than anyone else how your mother may treat you on or around Mother’s Day, you can sort out the means of self-care that will work best for you.
If you’ve gone no contact – which is one of the best ways of healing from narcissistic abuse – then your parent may try to contact you on “her special day” in order to guilt trip you and try to regain a foothold in your life.
You can combat this by pre-emptively blocking her phone number (if you haven’t already), as well as blocking her across social media.
You can also ensure that any emails sent by her will immediately be archived rather than showing up in your inbox.
If she’s the type to send flying monkeys after you because she thinks you’ll behave the way she wants if other people get involved to harass you, there’s a good way to get around that as well.
For the week or so before Mother’s Day (and for a good couple of weeks after that), don’t answer calls from anyone whose name and number you don’t recognize.
Take a break from social media, only answer work emails and those from close friends, and spend a hell of a lot of time doing things that make you happy.
Avoiding TV is also a good idea, as you’ll likely be inundated with commercials all about the amazing things happening for Mother’s Day.
Streaming sites like Netflix or Acorn should be fine, but if and when you see an advert for the date of doom, skip or mute it and focus on remaining present.
Do a couple of breathing exercises if these things trigger you, and if you feel a pang of guilt or fear, try to let it go. Come back to center.
If you’re feeling really stressed and anxious about the upcoming date, reach out to those in your social network who understand what you’ve been through and can offer you support.
If you have siblings who also suffered your NM’s wrath, you can try to be there for one another, offering strength and support as needed.
Otherwise, if you haven’t yet found a therapist who specializes in working with people who have dealt with narcissistic abuse, it’s a good idea to find one.
They can help you rebuild your self-esteem, can help to validate your experiences, and teach you practices that can help you work through lasting damage.
Some energy psychotherapists can even teach you how to move negative emotions and memories out of your body so you have a chance to heal from them completely.
Note: If you’re sincerely worried that your mother might show up on your doorstep to terrorize you (and your family), then go away for that weekend.
Book a hotel room or an AirBnB, or see if you can spend the weekend with people you love. Hell, book a flight to another country if you can afford to.
You have the right and permission to do whatever is necessary for your own well-being.
If you’re a parent, you can use this day to celebrate your own awesome parenting accomplishments and have some wonderful quality time with your kids. Or, if you have animal companions instead, celebrate it with them!
Even if you don’t have kids or pets, you can reprogram your reaction to this day by making it a positive experience for yourself.
Since you likely had to be your own parent for most of your life, you can use this day as an opportunity to celebrate your own worth.
You are worthy of so much love and light, and nobody is more deserving of your love than you are. Especially with everything you’ve been through.
What makes you happiest? Do you enjoy spending time in nature? Doing some kind of art? Dancing? Painting pottery?
Whether your “happy place” involves a yoga mat and a green tea smoothie or a comfy couch and a couple of seasons on Netflix, you have every right to indulge in whatever you need to do to turn this darkened date into one of joy, love, and above all, peace.
A Ritual To Help You Heal
If you feel that there are things you always wanted to say to your mother, but know that she would never understand or acknowledge, write them out on a piece of paper or type it out: whichever you prefer.
Spill out all the words left unsaid, all the hurt, all the betrayal.
Once it’s all out, go to a place where you can safely set a fire, and feed that letter into the flames.
If you like, you can also burn photos or other mementos that you feel hold some kind of energy bond, and as everything collapses into smoke and ash, focus your intention on allowing all those old hurts to burn out along with them.
This physical act of letting go is immensely cathartic, and you can then focus on filling your body with light and unconditional love.
(Then be responsible and make sure the fire’s put out safely. Responsibility and all…)
Next, fill your home with scents that you find calming, whether it’s by burning incense or diffusing uplifting essential oils. Your home is your sanctuary: your bastion of calm. There, you are safe. Secure.
Make it your Fortress of Solace.
After that, take a shower.
Not a bath, which will envelop you in water, but a shower that can help rinse negativity from your body.
You can even do a salt or coffee scrub while you’re in there, as the physical act of exfoliating can reinforce the mental image of sloughing off old layers of hurt so you can emerge anew.
Try To Forgive, If You Can
Remember the phrase “forgive them, for they know not what they do”? That actually holds quite true when it comes to narcissists.
Even though they may cause an extraordinary amount of damage, it’s important to remember that they literally cannot understand their own behaviors.
They can’t see it.
Narcissism is a personality disorder much like borderline personality disorder, which often has its root causes in childhood abuse.
The adage that “hurt people end up hurting other people” rings quite true: the mother who damaged you was likely damaged in turn when she was a child… and those who damaged her were likely abused as well. And so on and so forth, with cruelty and hurt going back generations.
Forgiveness isn’t about absolving the other person of blame, nor is it about wiping the slate clean so you two can move forward with the shiny happy relationship you’ve always dreamed of having.
No, forgiveness in this situation is about cutting old cords that have kept you tethered to a person who will never stop hurting you, so that you can be free, and work on healing yourself.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.