The Adult Survivor: Remembering the Truth vs Longing for What Could Have Been

[via flickr user Roberta]

[via flickr user Roberta]

Some of the best content on The Invisible Scar can be found in the comments section of the various blog posts. In reading them, I’ve seen myriad themes emerging. One of the most powerful ones is an adult survivor’s longing for a loving family vs the truth of what their family is really like.

The desire to be part of a loving family; to have parents who are loving, supporting, and caring; to have siblings who love you and care for your well-being; to have family members who listen to you, who share themselves, who make your life happier by being in it (and who are happy in your being in their lives)…. All those are very human desires. Everyone wants those. Who doesn’t want to be loved well and loved for who they are?

However, as readers of the Invisible Scar can attest, not everyone gets that family. Yet abused children will do anything to convince themselves that, yes, they do have that family. Myriad children, for the sake of being able to survive to adulthood, have to convince themselves that their family is loving…. even if the children are being routinely cut into shreds emotionally. Abusive parents, knowing this on some level, often tell their abused children that they deserve such verbal takedowns, that the parents are only being honest or caring, that the parents need to correct their children, etc. The abusive parents often cling to an idea that they are fantastic parents and, as emotionally abused children often experience a type of brainwashing, children repeat what they hear. “We are a loving family,” a child will repeat, even if bearing emotional scars from distant, selfish parents. “My parents are the best,” a girl will say even if her mother is always making her feel fat, ugly, stupid, worthless. “My parents are great parents,” a boy will repeat even if he has been treated harshly and been abused routinely. The child’s mind needs to believe that the loving family is true… because the truth of the matter is very difficult for a child to accept.

But it’s also difficult for an adult survivor to accept the fact. However, an adult has the ability to break away from the abuse. And one way to make sure they stop engaging in relationships that are abusive is to remember the truth of the relationship. Remember the facts of what really have happened.

Unfortunately, many adult survivors of emotional child abuse—longing for family, longing for parents, hating how judgmental society is regarding estranged family members—hurry back to the fold almost as quickly as they told their abusers to stop it. The adult survivor’s deeply rooted desire for what could be makes them return to the fold in the very foolish, heart-breaking hope that everything will be different now…

As the brilliant authors of Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Control of Your Life state…

“To continue  to open yourself up emotionally to an abusive or addicted person without seeing true change is foolish.

“You should not continue to set yourself up for hurt and disappointment. If you have been in an abusive relationship, you should wait until it is safe and until real patterns of change have been demonstrated before you go back.

How to Stay Focused on Your Healing… and Not Return to the Abusive Cycle

In that horribly rough, shaky, nerve-rattling stage of stepping out in the truth, many adult survivors will have strong physical reactions to what they are remembering or seeing in a new light. They will, in many cases, demonstrate the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They have been locked in a false reality for so long…. they are bound to feel the physical pain, via headaches, stomach pains, panic attacks, etc. in looking at the truth of what is. (And all that is one of the many, many reasons we highly recommend therapy for all adult survivors of emotional child abuse.)

Unable to endure the headaches and that terrible feeling of guilt, of being orphaned, many adult survivors hurry back. A professional therapist, however, may tell them to hold on. Wait. Give it time. You don’t hurry back to the abusers to stop having headaches or feeling bad. In one case, we heard a therapist offer the following advice: “You’ve been living under a dictator for so long… You are bound to be lost right now. To feel that you’ve somehow betrayed your parents and family. But you are free now. And freedom takes some getting used to.”

To help you keep in mind the truth of what has happened in your childhood (and, in many cases, continued until adulthood), here are some ideas…

  • Go to a professional therapist. Even if you cannot afford regular visits, go when you can to the same one, who will know your history and will be able to guide you through everything. They will not be sentimental about what could have been and can remind you of what exactly you’d be hurrying back to.
  • Keep a journal. Write down all the memories of the most abusive moments you’ve endured. You’re not doing this to continue living in the past nor to keep yourself full of hate… but you are doing this to have a notebook to turn to in your weak moments. So, when you think, “I really  miss my dad…” you can pick up your notebook, read through it, and remind yourself that, you know what, that loving dad really never existed… and the one you have is not getting a chance with you until he’s proven, for a long period of time, that he has truly changed. (The importance of a journal will be tackled in another post at the Invisible Scar.)
  • Read about emotional child abuse. Learn the definition, read the stories, understand that emotional abuse is real. It is very real. We have some suggested books and the list is growing…  
  • Mourn your loss… Getting rid of the magical thinking—”I wish my parents had been loving!” or “Maybe my parents will love me this time!”—is a tremendous step towards becoming healthy once more. So, let yourself mourn what you didn’t have and mourn what you did have. You have the right to be sad. It’s all right. Let yourself be sad…. (Just make sure that the mourning doesn’t last for too long or become suicidal or hopelessness… Again, we recommend professional help to do this.)
  • Look to the present. Remind yourself of the gift that you’ve given yourself in facing the truth of your emotionally abusive childhood. You can no longer be held emotional hostage. You are free to be who God intended you to be, free to be your most authentic self. Instead of wanting to turn back to the past, focus on what you have today… and try and create a new life for yourself with friends who are emotionally healthy, loving, and kind… and be that to others, too.

Readers, do you have any tips to share?

44 thoughts on “The Adult Survivor: Remembering the Truth vs Longing for What Could Have Been

  1. Reblogged this on Bipolar For Life and commented:
    Mourning the loss of a mother I never had…”Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from home…” and a home I never had. I have been mourning all my life, but only conscious of it for the past 30 (thirty!) years. Still I have gone back and back, tried and tried to appease with accomplishments (such a good, talented daughter), gifts, flowers, baskets (such a thoughtful, generous daughter) but what is lacking here? “Such a loving daughter.” Why? Because, in essence, since I don’t have a real mother, I can’t love her like a daughter. And that, too, I mourn, especially when I see mothers and daughters who are close, who share their feelings. My mother always told me, “I’m your mother, not your friend.” And now I think she regrets that. She wants me to be her friend, to like her, to love her. But since she was never a mother to me, there is no basis for that. And since her cutting tongue and unpredictable rages have caused me to always be aware of my boundaries and try to keep a healthy distance even when in her presence, she feels my distance as coldness, rejection, and as we know, certain people are extremely sensitive to rejection, real or perceived. So then she gets very sad, and cries, and I feel bad. But I know from bitter experience that the first minute I let her inside my boundaries, WHAM I will get smacked, verbally, or subjected to a screaming fit, belittled, mocked…so I keep my distance and mourn for the mother I never had.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I read your post, my initial response was, “Wow!….she is telling my story…I am not alone…someone else feels the same pain I feel!” And, at first I felt validated…that what I experienced at the hands of a narcissistically cruel “mother” (because she made the word “mother” seem like a bad thing) is not unique to me but to many other victims of the same abuse. But, then I realized the sadness I felt at discovering that others had endured the same emotional pain that I endured, and that is unacceptable in a society that should be lovingly taking care of the needs of it’s most precious little citizens as they grow to
      maturity. No matter how much I did for or gave to my mother, in terms of gifts or kindnesses, I finally realized that her narcissistic needs created a well so deep in her soul that nothing would ever be able to fill it…..unless God chose to intervene. All the blame she had placed upon me had absolutely nothing to do with anything that I did or was or wasn’t….it had everything to do with who she was and how she chose to deal with her unsatisfied needs for her own approval. I can’t control that…I can control only me. In that moment I was able to “let it all go” and now it has no control over my life. Her credibility has been challenged and found lacking. I wish I could wrap this part of my healing inside a little box and hand it to you as a gift, and I pray that one day you will have this gift….it is most precious! May God bless you on your journey to heal.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Laura,

      I’m so sorry for your pain. Please know you are not alone… and that you do not deserve to be treated like you have been.

      One step towards healing is to mourn the loss of the parent-that-never-was… The sorrow will always be there, but it will be manageable and not so overwhelming in time… Be patient and treat yourself lovingly.


      Liked by 1 person

    • Had I not seen these posts, I would have still believed that something is really wrong with me. I am in a distressed state and am trying to work my feelings. Now that I am aware of the way the whole relationship with my mother had been built to favour her abnormal and unreasonable demands of me.
      The whole thought process and search for help started when I began to feel I am doing to my boyfriend what my mother is doing to me (which made me unhappy). However now that I am able to see some of the reality I hope I am able to break the cycle and not be a narcissistic parent/ partner myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am so very grateful for this website, and for the people who comment here. I “divorced” my parents 27 years ago in a bid to save my own life. I now have a family of choice whom I love and who love me, but it will never be the same as having a mother or father.

    I accept that loss, and I grieve it. However, I have been very closeted about it, because when people find out about my parents, the usual reaction is panic and disapproval: I should go reconcile “while I can” etc. — the only reply I can give is that it isn’t possible, they aren’t capable of it. And I truly believe that. They have their own illnesses and problems and are not capable of connection with me in any healthy way. Moving myself and my children out of their reach was a good decision. That assessment didn’t change when my father died, as some predicted it would. It was a very good decision.

    What the people who don’t understand don’t get is that I never had a parent. I had two sick people with the power of parents, a very different thing.

    It has been a joy and a relief to find somewhere where my decision is respected and even praised.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for your kind words regarding this site…

      Yes, separating oneself from emotionally abusive parents is definitely a taboo in the US… Perhaps it is natural for people to want families to be reconciled. Then again, it’s natural for children to love their children and treat them well, but, as emotionally abusive children know, that is not always the case. Sometimes, what seems inherent and natural does not happen… but not everyone understands that.

      Those folks we know who are separated from their parents (or “divorced,” as you put it) tend to vary from being open to it to being very close. What they have in common, though, is that they keep in mind that they needed to preserve their dignity, their peace, their heart from the destructive forces of emotional abusers. Keeping that in mind helped them stay true to their decisions.

      And yes, “parent” is a description that not every alleged parent deserves.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Peace to you.

      Liked by 2 people

    • This line in your comment: “What the people who don’t understand don’t get is that I never had a parent. I had two sick people with the power of parents, a very different thing” was so powerful for me that I can’t stop repeating it in my mind. It’s the very definition of what I have been coming to terms with recently! Thank you so much for putting it into words!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. ‘Readers, do you have any tips to share?’ If you can, I’d strongly recommend trying to find a friend or partner who understands the situation. I was very fortunate at the age of sixteen that one of my friends picked up on what was happening at home. I had been putting on a brave face and never really talked about the family, but he had picked up enough just seeing brief interactions through lifts home in the car and put it together with changes in my behaviour.

    He talked to me about it and I completely broke down into tears – part of me still strongly felt the urge to defend my family, a sense of loyalty deeply instilled, despite the constant undermining, emotional blackmail and verbal (occasionally physical) abuse I’d put up with for years. Having rock-bottom self-esteem and nowhere else to turn to, I’d fall into the trap of trusting and forgiving again at the slightest indication of change, only for it to inevitably crash down a few days later. There is a human need to connect with those closest to you, and I knew I couldn’t stop the cycle, so he suggested a substitute. I could ring him up when I felt like I needed to talk to someone, and start to shut the door on those who were worsening my emotional state. We also talked about why destructive behaviours occur, which I would also say is a great thing to do. It helps identify the exact root of the problem, and why the abuser is compelled to act in that way.

    Looking back, I am a bit embarrassed at how often I had to take him up on the offer to call at any time, as if he was a free therapist. Sometimes I’d ring mid-panic attack or just cry at him for a bit, but it got me through. I started to realize I would soon be moving into full adulthood and have a greater choice of who to live with, spend time with and trust. I buckled down and concentrated on my studies, so that I could escape to university and give myself the best chance of the career I wanted.

    I’m now twenty-five, have lived away from home for the past seven years, am working within that chosen career, and the same friend visited me just this weekend. We stayed up til 4am talking about how far things have come. There are, of course, still days when I backslide into thinking it could have been different. It couldn’t have, though, at least not through anything I might have done differently. The problems originated with them, not me, and in all honesty what it would have taken was for them to seek professional help and spend the next months, maybe years, working as hard as possible to turn things around.

    I know that I was particularly fortunate to have the right person there at the right time, but analyzing the approach we used might be useful for others. We treated my need to keep going back as an addiction, and that at last brought something into the realm of my control – still difficult, but at least achievable. Once I’d managed to stop sharing the emotional information, there was less ammunition to use against me. Once I knew it was without doubt bad for me and making my life worse than it needed to be, it was an easier thing to say, ‘I don’t want to share that information with you.’ Of course, saying that led to hearing every worst-case scenario (‘I knew it! You’re a whore!’, ‘Tell me the truth, you’re on drugs.’, etc.) but hearing hypotheticals (especially so wide of the mark!) was much easier to deal with than having my actual choices criticized. And it also reinforced that the unreasonable behaviour was coming from them, not me.

    I hope everyone who’s been there can feel strong about themselves now. It really isn’t you, it’s them, and you never need to go back there. Concentrate on finding people in the present who can see how valuable you are. And although it doesn’t in any way make up for the negative baggage, you will be an incredibly perceptive person, with deep insight into the motivations of the people around you. Use this to your advantage by finding trustworthy friends, knowing who you can go to when you need a good cry, and who can make you laugh. And once you’re stable enough, help others in turn. Let the cycle of healing replace the cycle of destruction.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Find a friend who understands the situation. That’s very good advice indeed.

      Your last paragraph is full of solid advice. Thanks for sharing it, for sharing your story, and taking the tie to comment.

      Onward and upward!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. WOW….I feel that this post was written about my and what I’ve been through FOR YEARS dealing with my Whole Family. It is very hard, and you feel as though your on the Outside of the bubble all your members are in, and I’m looking in from the Outside of the bubble of all the Disfunction going on with my family. I spent years not understanding my parents “Love Language, and willing them to give us kids Unconditional Love, to say…”Hey, I’m Proud of you”…..I spent many years trying to prove my Worth.

    It wasn’t until I got caught up in Addicted Gambling, and entered Recovery did I see Just how MUCH unhealthy crap there was going on. I also was Diagnosed with Bipolar2 disorder, and my family treated me like a Freak. I guess ignorance is Bliss. They didn’t hide how they felt, nor did they want to be understanding. After my mom passed, all stopped talking to me, including my father. WHO DOES THAT???…..That’s been almost 10yrs now. They only PEEP I heard from them was when my Published Book was Released. I wrote my Story of,
    Addiction, my Childhood S_x abuse by 2 family friends, which my parents didn’t believe me, dark family secrets, Mental health issues and challenges, and my Recovery.

    They left Nasty Voicemails saying I was just Family Bashing, telling lies, and more Nasty things. That I was just trying to make them all look bad, that I was sick in the head, on and on!…..I think the “TRUTH” hurts, or why would they even bother after not talking to me for 9yrs??….Also, the SHAME makes them feel guilty. I, my husband, and GOD knows I’m telling the truth of my past, and that is all the matters.

    I wrote my book to help others who suffer from ANY types of Addiction, not just Compulsive Addicted Gambling, and to show and educate the Public on the DANGERS of becoming addicted to gambling, and for some people, it can destroy a persons life. I wanted to give Insight to people of what Addicted Gambling looks like, and show how your PAST hurts and pains can shape your Choice’s when your addicted. Also to help SHATTER the STIGMA around people in Recovery and those who suffer from Mental & Emotional illness & disorders. Had nothing to do with my family members.
    YES, Family can be NOT so supporting. Be blessed all who have a Understanding & Supportive Family. Thanks for a Great Post!

    Warm Regards,
    Author, Catherine Townsend-Lyon

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have separated from two family members permanently. I am happier, safer & emotionally healthier because of it. I separated in a respectful way.
    Every so often I get a rush of guilt, obligation & deep fear or sadness about what I’ve done. I wonder if ill ever be free of the emotional scars leftover. In these painful times I practice self-parenting, kindness & doing things I love.
    Inevitably these feelings pass & I feel centred, grounded and back in my body again. I have perspective on what happened, & I’m glad I’ve made the choices I have.
    I may have these feelings sweep through me for the rest of my life, but I think they are pretty normal now, and thankfully, know that they pass, & ill be ok.


    • Holly,

      How wonderful to fear that you are happier, safer and emotionally healthier! That’s lovely.

      I’ve heard it said that the momenets of guilt, obligation, and sadness are strong at first… but they grow less and less as the separation lasts. And sometimes, those moments of guilt, obligation, and sadness come from the preconditioned child within the adult, the child who was told to do this or that, who was loved conditionally, who was made to feel responsible for his parents’ happiness… Sometimes, that inner child needs to be reminded that all is well, that healing is happening…

      Ah, self-parenting! That’s so vital. Thanks for the reminder of this concept. We’ll have to write about it on The Invisible Scar.

      Peace to you. And thanks for taking the time to share your story and your journey.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I just turned 60 last year and I am only just figuring all of this out now. I had a narcissistic mother. I left home when I was young and left the country and traveled around the world and never had any desire to come home. It was the 70’s and I just found jobs in places like Australia and Japan. I guess this was my own form of no contact. I stayed far away for many years and I always chose to live far away from her when I returned to live in the US. I really did not know my father, I am sure he stayed away due to my mom too. He passed away and I never got to know him. He and my mom always stayed married, they just never got along. Growing up, my father would work out of town and only come home on most weekends. And when he was home, he just slept.

    My brother was the “golden child” to my mother. And that is still to this day. She is in her 90’s and still sharp as a tack. I could never complain to my brother about my mom. His perspective of my mom was completely different from my experiences. He thought I was just whining and blaming others for my life.

    For many years after I left home and I was out in the world, I lived a death wish and I am probably lucky to be alive!

    I worked so hard to not be like my mother all of those years Then I end up marrying someone worse than her!

    I just started a blog myself about divorcing a narcissist. It has been very therapeutic and I am learning so much from everyone else’s posts.

    Thank you so much


    • Unfortunately, it’s common for children of narcissistic parents to continue the cycle by marrying someone with that personality disorder….Fortunately, however, you sound like you have recognized what happened and you are on the way to healing.

      Writing everything out on a blog is very helpful. May you find it cathartic.



    • I’m a bit younger than you, New Beginnings, but our story is so similar!!! I did the same thing…left home as a teen, traveled the country and was even homeless for a bit, to do my No Contact. Always returned, always fell back into the trap. I had a “Golden Child” brother who made me feel like I was always whining and blaming others!! I also had the death wish life you speak of. I tried to commit suicide. Married a Narcissist who almost beat me to death. It all started when my parents had their own biological child. I’m with my Biological family now, who are the loving and caring people I always felt I came from…even after having my adoptive family try to convince me I was too sensitive, etc. etc. I’m so very thankful that I’ve awakened. My adoptive mother was the destructive narcissist, but she did marry someone just like her, only he was so quiet and allowed everything to happen, and it’s only been recently that I’ve realized he was just as much the narcissist as she was, but for the fact that he wasn’t as expressive as she was. He let her do all the “dirty work”. I’m on absolute No Contact now, and never been happier. It’s a long road to build the self esteem I’ve never really had, though.


    • Traci,

      Thanks for sharing your story… and so very glad that you are on the road to recovery. Congrats on your awakening.


  7. I’ve been going to therapy for the last few weeks and memories I have tried really hard to suppress are beginning to surface. I have seen the difference in how I was raised versus how my siblings were raised and I am left to ask why wasn’t I good enough….I told my parents yesterday that I needed space and I was made to feel like the bad guy but I know that if I don’t face these memories and figure out a way to heal I will never be happy. My question is, can a relationship with emotionally abusive parents ever be fixed?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your question is a good one….one that deserves an honest and productive answer….but the answer is complicated…in my opinion. I am not a counselor, just an Adult Child of a Narcissist who has been through a lifetime of abuse and is now in the final stages of recovery. I mention that because I want you to know that as a victim there is HOPE! Here are my thoughts on your question: To “fix” a relationship, especially one that has been abusive, requires that both parties own the truth of the abusive relationship, have a desire and commitment to change, and then implement a healthier way to interact. You have control only of yourself…not the other person. So you can do your part….but what happens when the other person is either unable or unwilling to do their part? A relationship is only as good as the person who does the least. If you are doing “your part” but the other person is not, there is still hope… can learn to set healthy boundaries to limit that person’s access to you in order to protect your physical and emotional health. It’s ok to try to repair a damaged relationship, but if the other person doesn’t do their part, it’s also ok to choose boundaries (and to enforce their consequences) that protect yourself. Normally, abuse victims don’t know that it’s ok to choose protecting themselves from current and future harm over letting their abusers run rampant over them. I wish you luck and blessings on your journey.


    • Rita,

      The beginning of the awakening is the most difficult… All those suppressed emotions can feel overwhelming.But there will be peace in the long run…it’s just brutal at first and then gets more bearable.

      And freedom and peace do follow eventually.

      As far as whether a healthy relationship is possible, I’ve pondered that one a long time and recently asked a therapist that question for this blog post ( He answered: “In many cases, but the timeline varies greatly and is highly individual. Focus on healing before repairing. Without healing, adequate repair is impossible. Once you heal, you can decide whether you truly want to repair and what kind of emotional connection you wish to have. Then the decision will be positive, based on your values, rather than an attempt to avoid guilt or shame.”

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My parents would have me believe that they do love me, that I had an idyllic childhood, and that I was basically not emotionally abused. This is so confusing. They taught me “love”, and they did love me often but they were also cruel–cruel to each other in front of me, and cruel to me directly. They might tell me that they had it way worse, and that I have no idea how good my childhood was compared to theirs. What does one do with all this? Is my love concept broken because of them? I’m confident that I love my wife and that she loves me, but I’m concerned that my past could cause trouble in our future as potential parents.

    Liked by 2 people

    • garuda2600 — My parents were the same. Our family was (and is, now that I am working on an exit strategy) big on a visual and spoken image of unconditional love, when neither of my parents had ever experienced such love themselves, had no idea what it was, and no intention or desire to learn. My parents seemed to believe that as long as they kept me from starving and gave me clothing and a bed, TOLD me they loved every day, and constantly pushed me, from a young age, to “make something of myself” in out of touch, unrealistic, and impractical ways and without instruction or guidance aside from verbal and physical abuse… well, you get the picture. They really thought they were doing things right by us 5 (I was oldest, and the only child who has awakened or probably ever will) and they were so confident about it that they would parade us around like this perfect little troupe of trained chimps, and got a lot of accolades for it, too. I was fairly gullible about all this until about 3 years ago when my first husband and I got divorced, and even then, it took me passing through the emotional shock of a stillborn son 7 months ago, and watching everyone’s behavior, to really understand that this ship was sinking… healthy rats run from the rising water level, so why am I not? And now comes the hard part, the part where I’m being judged by everyone, the part where I’m alone and I realize what’s worse is I was always alone, through everything. My dead son’s father is my new husband, and he’s a good man and loving to me, but we both grew up in the same kind of environment (his way worse because his parents had a lot of money to fuel their idiocy, whereas mine didn’t.) We are both so full of rage and resentment that we pretty much hate/distrust everyone who’s not us, and that’s not exactly conducive to healing. But I did find this website, last week, after ripping some budding “Mean Girl” from work a new one one too many times. I am hoping that both you and I will find something here that will lead us through to the other side, so that we too can break the cycle. There is nothing I want more in this life than to love a child or children in a way I was not.

      Liked by 5 people

    • garuda2600,
      I’m an adult child of a narcissistic mother. I’m a disabled military veteran. I’ve been married to a wonderful man for 17 1/2 years (nearly the same amount of time I lived at home).
      We have a 16-year-old son, who just started his junior year of high school. He is an incredible young man, full of love and compassion for others. He has strong moral beliefs and sticks by them.
      We have a 14-year-old daughter who just started her freshman high school year. She is. . . amazing! She has strong opinions, self-confidence, beauty, emotional strength, and love for people (if they take the time to get into her life; she’s also an introvert), and highly creative.
      I wish I could tell you how, but I don’t know the answer– I was able to give my children what I never had from my parents: unconditional love, being their cheerleader & comforter, adviser, teacher (I homeschooled them for 3 years), and some how managed to set a predominately positive example.
      Yes, there could be trouble in your future as parents. Get professional counseling to help resolve your individual issues and build a strong foundation before having kids. Even though you were deprived of love as a child, you can still be a good and loving parent. You’ll have to put more conscious effort into parenting, more than likely, but you can do it.

      May you find your way, and redefine love.

      All best,


  9. I have found it so hard to withdraw, which is almost totally ironic because they only let me in to their lives on rare occasions or to manipulate. Yet I realize that no contact or very limited contact is the only thing that is healthy for me. Thanks for addressing this topic, it helps me to know I am not alone in that desire to be part of a healthy family.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Grief and mourning
    I have recently chosen no contact. I’m finding it hard to work out how one grieves. One thing is that I have to grieve so privately. If they were dead one could more easily discuss it with others. Obviously I’ve often grieved the lack of real parents, and spent years thinking, it’s fine to grieve but I need to just make the best of it. Now it’s a different sort of grief, a mourning similar to mourning death, but without the rituals, closure and so on. Strange.
    Although, of course, all deaths are different. There’s no certainty that there would be any sense of finality with their death. Perhaps it’s a good thing to know I grew up and finally – at 40, and with a strong and supportive husband at my back – chose to free myself; rather than just being able to sing “Ding dong” like a munchkin freed by chance.
    Virginia Woolf wrote somewhere that if her father had lived, she never would had been able to write.
    Obviously it would be easier for me if they just were dead, especially in terms of explaining things to the children, who at some point will notice it’s a while since we’ve seen them.
    But how do I grieve and mourn – any ideas?

    Liked by 2 people

    • frederiksdal,
      You’re in a difficult place right now. I’m 37 (so close to your age) and went pretty much “no contact” on 3 Mar 2014, after confronting my parents with the abuse. They, of course, denied everything; my dad was clueless about most of it (he’s the “Enabler”).
      The pain is very deep, and isolating.
      Your Liberty (look up the difference between “liberty” and “freedom”– very powerful) comes at a cost. It is so good that you have a supportive husband to help you (I do too, and I couldn’t have done this without him).
      As far as how to grieve and mourn this, do you have a friend or two? That’s the start of a “support network,” and they can be very helpful– to be listening ears, to validate your feelings, to be a shoulder to cry on while you go through this process. The other thing I’d recommend is getting a professional therapist, with whom you build a good rapport. Mine has been invaluable, especially recently as I received news through family about my father getting cancer. There’s an whole other story around that. Suffice to say, my therapist is helping through this added grief.
      When the “negative” feelings come (sadness, denial, anger, etc), LET THEM. Allow yourself to feel them. Write or sing or draw or paint to help yourself express the feelings. Because along with feeling them, you’ve got to let them go (that’s the part where I struggle).
      I wish for your every kindness along your journey, and that you will arrive at a peaceful and comfortable “place” to “be.”

      I don’t recommend this (necessarily), because it’s such a personal decision. I came up w/ an “awareness ribbon” idea that included the text “Survivor (done backward) to (upside down) Victor” in 3 colors important to me and had it tattooed on the inside of my forearm. I love it. Got it in June, as part of “liberating” myself from the past and my reminder of all that I have already overcome, and that I don’t need to “survive” any more, I am victorious! I survived my childhood. I survived 30+ years of abuse by my primary care giver. And, yet, I still needed that powerful reminder to NEVER GO BACK. My tattoo is strategically placed– it’s for me, not for showing off– and is barely visible if my arms are down by my side, or crossed, or many other ‘natural’ positions.
      Also as part of my grieving process, I buzzed my hair off with clippers (I had short hair already, but this was clippers w/ a size 2 comb–very short). I could do this because my hair grows twice as fast as average, and it’s very thick, and it was very hot. Shaving/cutting of hair is an ancient practice of grief. This was good for ME. It may not be for everyone. If my hair were long, I would have donated it for charity. There were stronger reactions by people around me to buzzing my hair than getting my tattoo (I did both in June)!

      The above I share, not to say “you should do it, too,” but because I am still processing the grief, and I am in mourning; I am a highly sensitive and creative person with a strong need to express myself–who I am as an adult, as a survivalist, as a military disabled veteran, etc. Maybe these ideas will spark an idea that will work for you.

      Anyway, all best to you.


  11. I feel it is a good thing to believe there is a good chance that maybe there will be no change in the abuser, ever, and perhaps going back will never be an option. Always having the what-if in my mind at all always lead me back to my abusers because they’d find different ways to fake change. I’ve witnessed my father physically and emotionally abusing my mother since I was 5, and then he started in on me when I was about 13 years old. Then, my sister. He didn’t really abuse my two younger brothers. Being the eldest child he focused on me the worst because I was the first one to recognise what he was doing/saying as wrong and speak up against it. When he would attack my siblings or mother, I would stand up for them and defend them. They never did the same for me. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I finally realised my mother was perpetuating abuse as well, and I had to start no contact with both parents. They will not change. If I give them the chance, they will abuse me. They always have, and they have no reason to change. They just fool more people into thinking they’re good people and loving, great, Godly people…and people buy into it. So why would they change when sooner or later the next sucker will come along to use and abuse?

    My only defense so I could start healing, and to protect my kids from them (and from further damaging their already screwed up mother) is by abandoning hope for reconciliation. I get no justice out of the situation. I don’t get a biological family full of love aside from my own legacy: my children. My siblings are distant from me because we were always pitted against one another. I grieved for quite some time about how I should have had this, could have had that, and having any hope for them to change only served to screw everything up more. Since I’ve given up that hope I’ve had a much easier time coping and healing. It will never be safe to go back to them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree that understanding that they will never change–that is, understanding that your role in the family will never change, facilitated no contact for most of us that have taken this route.


  12. Headache, Stomach Aches, Physical Pain, Panic Attacks…thats what emerged two years ago when finally i could no longer push my inner voice down and had to start saying the truth about my childhood/teenage years and young adulthood.
    No one was able to help me, when I finally went to a psychiatrist even he told me that my point of view is totally distorted and wrong. It’s the same over and over again. You reach out and everybody cuts you off, telling you, you are the mad one. You feel guilty, abandoned, stressed, sad, alone, depressed…but mostly guilty…like 100% of the time.

    So I stopped trusting in other people and began to tell the truth to myself, being totally alone. And it helps. As soon as you get to the truth of whats going on in the moment, or about a memory or something, all symptoms vanish within seconds. Its just so hard to get to the truth for it is burried so deep inside of you and it takes so much courage to tell it…after all, no one believes you…but you.

    This site brought up a totally new thought…the idea of being able to forgive myself. That in the end it wasn’t my fault and I couldn’t have done anything any better. That opens up the possibility of just sheding my whole life, start anew and living my life…and then guilt overwhelms me once more.

    Thank you for everything and thank you that I can just throw out my thoughts here for the first time in my life. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you so much for your blog, I am learning and resonating with so much here. You know, 15 years ago I read all of Alice Miller’s books, studied liberated anti-authoritarian child-rearing and could connect my pain and suffering to schools, society, the larger issues, but not my mother. Right now, concerning the emotional abuse by a narcissistic parent that I suffered until just last week, I feel so baffled by the nature of awakening and then going under again and then re-awakening to the reality of this type of abuse that has been my adult journey! It is beyond me that I have gone back to her time after time wanting the love that has never been and never will be there, letting her tear me down in a way I would never accept from a partner or friend. It’s preposterous, right? I am going to take all of your advice and commenters’ advice to heart and start my list of memories today. Because I fall under the category of ‘underachiever’ rather than ‘overachiever’ (and being newly divorced from an emo/pscyh abuser where I was an isolated housewife/stay-at-home mom for 9 years) I have a few fears that try to rise up about supporting myself. I have to admit this to someone: because financial support is basically all she has ever given me and accepting that help from her is a big part of how she hooks me in to continue the push-pull cycle I get afraid she will cut me out of her will or my children. I really am working on releasing this fear and trusting and having faith that as I heal I will continue to make choices that will support me and my family financially, independently from her toxicity. Thanks again for your important work on this blog – I find precious few friends in this day and age still who know what I am talking about unless they happen to work in the mental health fields.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It sounds preposterous, but we all long to be love and accepted and our psyche moves toward that, at all costs. For me, the awakening process was not straight forward either. Sometimes, I took two steps forward and one back. Other times, I took two steps forward and three back. Psychologically, it’s difficult to grapple with. The important thing is you’ve begun the awakening process. Your eyes are open.


  14. I write this with LOVE and heartfelt GRATITUDE to the site creators and all the contributors.

    I wrote my first (and until now) my only account of my toxic relationship with my parents in October 2013 and posted it to this wonderful site.

    I typed it in terror at the kitchen table. I’d said how I felt in therapy and in private conversation with my husband – but never committed it to the written word . and only my beloved husband read it and knows I wrote it. I was so worried I would be “found out”!

    I reread it today 18 months later and I marvel at how I did not even see, recall, remember and take into account the absolute horror of my childhood in it’s entirety but writing it was the start for something beautiful for me.

    It was the beginning of the rest of my life, the formal acknowledgement to myself (even after loads of therapy) that my Mother is a Malignant Narcissist who sexually, emotionally, psychologically and physically abused me from my earliest memories. My Father is a Narcissistic alcoholic with grandiose tendencies who also sexually, physically, emotionally and
    psychologically abused me too. But even during his worst behaviour he was actually less devious than Mommie Dearest – not that I excuse him either, but it’s my truth.

    I want to share my NO CONTACT letter with you all. I wrote it in January but on the advice of my wonderful therapist waited until the Spring Equinox to send. I am sending it tomorrow. I am sharing it here first because it is released into a compassionate and loving community where I know it will be read, seen and heard with respect and love and genuine appreciation.

    I don’t send it in anger. I send it in LOVE. Love for me, love for my inner child – and love for the child she couldn’t be, and love for all of us who have been traumatised by parents in their turn too traumatised to love us how we deserve to be loved. I send it for my parent’s inner child.

    I send it all for all of us who have been violated, used, abused, villified, lied to, deceived, gas-lighted, invalidated and I send it to all the parents who so betrayed their role as being loving caregivers – with the sad awareness they just didn’t understand the very basics of their job. I send it because my 6 year old deserves it. I am standing up for her now in all her innocent loviliness because no one else did.



    We last spoke on the phone in October 2013 and I requested you not call me again until you felt able to at the very least acknowledge the pain and trauma you have repeatedly caused me over the years.

    18 months have passed and you have made it clear you have no intention of doing so. Your opportunity to attempt a reconciliation has now ended.

    In light of the sadistic sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse I suffered at your hands from when I can first remember – the age of 6 onwards – I am morally obliged to revoke all connection between us.

    You violated the primal bond of motherhood consistently. Therefore you forfeited any right to be known as my mother when you premeditatedly and deliberately encouraged and participated in abuse and violence upon me, especially as a helpless, innocent and dependent child.
    You systematically and sadistically delighted in terrorising me by beatings, force feeding, shaming, blaming, silent treatment, scapegoating, sabotaging, favouritism, triangulation, pathological lying, smearing, corrupting, ignoring, isolation, humiliation and threats.
    By the grace of God I withstood your attempts to destroy me without any need for revenge. I know Natural Justice will prevail without any vengeful action from me.

    I am severing and dissolving all genetic, societal, emotional, mental, physical and spiritual links between us. Any mother –daughter covenant is hereby declared null and void. Any perceived obligations between us are terminated. I owe you nothing. I want nothing from you.

    I am instructing you that I am imposing a formal and immediate cessation of any further contact between us. This includes telephone calls, visits to my home, letters, emails and intercessions from third parties. I revoke the social obligation to be informed about ill-health or death in the family or social circle. Your treatment of my husband after his years of unrelenting kindness and generosity to you and your sons was in keeping with your true character. Your connection with him is also dissolved and no longer valid. No relationship exists.

    For the avoidance of doubt all possible future eventuality of contact is covered by this termination of relationship notice. Any repeat attempt, in any medium, of a smear campaign of false accusations, lies and insinuations designed to discredit me – or my husband – will swiftly be followed by legal action. Be under no illusions of a less than swift legal response.
    A Copy of this No Contact letter has been given to xx xxx for safe keeping and as a record of my testimony. Any attempts to communicate with them, as with me or my husband, will be rejected.

    I wish you no harm or ill-will. This is your life to lead now without any involvement from me. I thank you for giving birth to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this letter. “I send it all for all of us who have been violated, used, abused, vilified, lied to, deceived, gas-lighted, invalidated and I send it to all the parents who so betrayed their role as being loving caregivers.” This letter brought tears to my eyes. It could easily have been written by me to my mother. Everything that you write is so relevant to me, but especially the part about being morally obligated to revoke all connections. God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m glad to hear this. May the rest of your life be surrounded by love and kindness for the rest of your life. Sharing part of your story gives the rest of us hope.


  17. Thank you for writing on this topic. I’ve always had a toxic relationship with my mother and it never changes. I stay in contact with my father even though he never stood up for me. My mother fits many of the characteristics that you write about and has had a few times where she was particularly awful. I still can clearly put myself back to the time I had half of my big toe nail removed. No pain killers were prescribed for later. As I lay in agony moaning from the pain she walked by and told me to stop moaning and get over it. I was only 11 but that moment has never faded. I use it to remember what my mother has always been to me.


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