Aging Narcissistic Mothers: Elinor's Last Stand
By: Beth McHugh 2010
We have looked at Elinor's story in two separate articles as she fought to regain control of her life against her narcissistic mother. Today's article is about what happened when Elinor gave her mother the greatest gift of all and was rejected in a cruel and vindictive way.
As we read earlier, Elinor spent decades of her life devoting herself to trying to please her mother. She didn't realize her mother suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder and so kept trying to win her love and approval, hoping that one day her mother would literally "wake up to herself" and see that Elinor was a wonderful caring daughter and individual.
Fortunately, through counseling, Elinor did come to learn what her mother was suffering from and gradually broke away from her, both emotionally and physically. It was a long but worthwhile process. But as Elinor's mother aged, the narcissistic demands became more frequent and more unreasonable. Diagnosed with cancer, Elinor felt at a loss as to how to deal with her mother. She was caught between trying to keep an emotional distance to save herself, but also felt a need to be humane to her mother. Many of my clients battle with this very problem on a day to day basis.
As Elinor's mother became older the subject of going into a home became paramount. But Elinor knew she could not live in the same house as her mother. She felt it would be the death of her and the death of her marriage and neither she nor her husband could cope with the overwhelming demands of this self-centred woman.
As the mother progressively lost her faculties but lied consistently about the intensity of her health problems, which were far less than she made out, Elinor and her husband made a decision to save this old lady from a home and offered to build a cabin in their back yard so that she could live out her last few months with her family and not endure the regimentation of an institution.
When Elinor asked her mother would she like to move in with her, a generous offer indeed given the circumstances of the mother's personality, the result was not what was expected. Elinor's mother snarled at her daughter : "You should have thought of that earlier" and hung up the phone.
Elinor was upset for several days after the incident, feeling that she had tried to do her best for her mother all her life and this was the final reward that her mother could summon.
Fortunately for Elinor, this action by her mother was an epiphany for Elinor. In her own words, she has nothing to give her mother any more, and wants nothing more to do with her. The relationship has ended. Her mother will die alone and Elinor has decided to go no contact, comfortable in the knowledge that she did all she could, but it was never going to be enough.
Elinor's life began the day her mother rejected her for the last time.