The Grief We Face – Dealing with a Narcissist

Facing the Grief of Co-parenting with a Narcissist

The Harsh Reality We Moms Face

By Grace W. Wroldson the author of;

Book 1: Co-Parenting with a Narcissist: 7 Self-Rules to Stay Sane

Book 2: How To Fight a Narcissist In Family Court and Win

Book 3: Co-parenting with a Sociopath: Survival and Sanity Guide

Book 4: How To Survive a Custody Battle with a Narcissist: When the Family Courts Force You to Co-Parent

Books are: Available at Amazon

Let me ask you:

  • Have you faced your grief?
  • What about the utter unfairness to you as a mom?
  • How do you deal with all the losses?
  • Are you processing your pain or running from it?
  • Too busy to even cry about what’s happened or happening?
  • Feeling guilty about feeling so depressed during your child’s only childhood?
  • Is co-parenting a chore that you hate more than your ex?
  • Are you so broken-hearted that you’re not able to be fully present in your child’s life? (Does having that awareness hurt you even more?)

Know that you are not alone with the struggles and stress of co-parenting with a narcissist.  (Watch on YouTube instead of reading.)

See if you can relate to this reality. These are only some of the many dreadful situations we moms are dealing with when forced to co-parent with a narcissist. While some of us don’t grieve at all, others of us may be grieving too much, too often, and all the time. We must be mindful and careful not to inadvertently create “sad and sorrowful homes” with our grief – as we don’t want our pain to rub off onto their little lives.

A special note: The grieving process is a very personal experience. It’s often as unique as we are. Therefore, it needs to be honored and properly treated with respect and non-judgment. We must show ourselves self-compassion and be considerate of our trauma, PTSD, and sensitivities. When we are ready, if we are ready, we can create the space to grieve. We can generously give ourselves the amount of time that we need to grieve in our own, individual ways. We must find/learn ways to self-soothe that are healthy and keep us productive, stable, sane, and strong. When we overcome our grief, if there’s a way to transform our woe into wisdom, we must strive to find the lesson and take away the “gold” of wisdom. In this way, we can find purpose in our pain. On the other side of our grief process can be our inspiring “survivor-story” – where we share our valuable-to-others “survivor-wisdom” which can be enormously helpful to other moms and give them tremendous hope. 

Narcissists Cause More Problems and Pain

It’s horrible when your ex becomes your enemy. When it comes to co-parenting with a narcissist, there’s often tremendous grief and loads of problems. At times, we are purposely tormented by the narcissist. Other times, our own pesky trauma bonds tug on our minds and hearts. The immense grief we feel can become overwhelming when we watch our children suffer, too. In addition to this, we have to face all the losses and failures of our divorce, break-up, separation, pain, and shame. Some of us fall into fits of anger directed at ourselves asking; “What was wrong with us!? Why didn’t we foresee that he would be such an awful father to our children?” But we can’t go back in time. We are here now, “in it.” And sadly, so are our dear children. 

“Unprocessed grief can cause us to be stuck in life, unable to feel joy or be truly free.” -Grace

We need to talk about our grief. It’s real, we feel it daily, and it’s here. We are living through a personal tragedy – stuck communicating with our toxic ex for 18 years or in an ongoing, high-conflict custody battle. We anguish and languish – especially when the family courts get it wrong and sentence us and the children to the misery of incorporating a narcissist into our everyday lives. We are asked to be kind, nice, and civil to our abuser who continues to abuse us in subtle and undetected ways. There’s a whole other world of agony when the judges, GALs, and lawyers are corrupt. Or when the family courts issue an unfair, unfavorable ruling, placing us or our children in harm’s way. The sleepless nights add up to a tired, drained, shell-of-a-mom who hangs on by threads that keep unraveling. We have visible damage and invisible emotional scars from all the wounding, and so do our children. But we know that if we are going to list our losses to a narcissist, we also must list our blessings.

Why Co-Parenting with a Narcissist is More Abuse

No one truly understands this dreadful task. Imagine trying to get “order” from disorder. Just try getting cooperation from a rival, competitive, non-sportsman-like opposing team. That’s not happening! By nature, we learn that narcissists are personality-disordered, difficult on purpose, high-conflict, drama-filled, immature, competitive, easily-angered-bullies who take everything personally and lash out. What’s worse? Then we discover that they are pathologically jealous, easily triggered, and seek revenge on others. When we witness them take things out on our kids, our heart shatters. Then, we uncover that our exes are chronic-blamers and are oppositional and defiant to authority. The narcissist won’t follow the court order or signed agreement, and so we lose hope of ever “working together” – as we are expected to do and required to do by the courts who don’t get it. Problem after problem piles up with a narcissist until our documentation overwhelms us and makes us cringe. We realize that we are doomed to work apart and separately using the “parallel-parenting method” and our kids are caught in the middle of this awful conflict. (Read my blog: 3 Keys to Creating Peace When Co-parenting with a Narcissist)

While we work hard and do our best as moms, we get constantly criticized by the narcissists for our parenting and “mother-blamed” – on a regular basis. (See my Co-Parenting Abuse List). We have learned the “hard way” that this is not the type of person that you would want to share children with. We see their sad faces. Our children are young, vulnerable, easily influenced, and defenseless. And, we are not there to shield and protect them on the narcissist’s unsupervised parenting-time. Then, sometimes, we wonder if leaving was the right thing to do. But it’s only a matter of time until the narcissist plays another nasty trick and we CLEARLY remember why we couldn’t tolerate one more subtle slight (verbal abuse) or one more second of their disrespect. (Watch my free video, “What Drives The Narcissist”)

Getting Through the Grief

Sometimes we cry so much that we get dehydrated. There’s the loss of a life we were living and of the love we had. We have so much to grieve when co-parenting with a narcissist and raising our children as a single parent. We grieve the family we didn’t have and the one we wished for. We grieve for our children who don’t get a stable, loving, solid, united-family home with two healthy parents who love them. We cry tears from all the lies, betrayal, and disappointment in our former partner who supposedly loved us. At times, we cave into self-pity and cry about how hard it is for us and that no one really understands the extreme hardships/difficulties we face. We cry for the life we wished for ourselves. We know that facing our grief is healthy.

Just getting out of bed or trying to fall asleep at night with a worried mind is near-impossible most days. We cry with our children as they leave to spend time with their narcissistic father and cling to us with severe separation anxiety. Behind closed doors, we cry when the narcissist ruins the holidays, cancels the kids’ vacations to punish them, or forgets their birthdays and ghosts them completely. We don’t want our children to see our tear-stained faces, so we hide it as best we can. We don’t want them to think it’s their fault, as we cry on the kitchen floor hoping they don’t hear over the sounds of us cooking and cleaning. We cry because we know that the narcissist doesn’t care. Our children deserve better—much better. We need a hug and a box of tissues. Our children are hurting, so we hurt more. Read my blog: 8 Ways to Help Children with a Narcissistic Dad

Sometimes the pain of separating from our child is too much to bear and we can barely breathe. Some of us get paralyzed, immobilized, and unable to move or function without our little ones at home safe with us – in our care. Our children become our world, job, and give us meaning and purpose. It’s a mom’s biological mission to raise them well and protect them. We feel strong urges to protect them from their own father. So, it’s a sheer, abject horror to hand over young, vulnerable children to selfish, irresponsible, and untrustworthy narcissists and sociopaths. However, we’ve learned from experience that the U.S. family court system requires this of us or we lose our children completely. So, we set aside our pain (or stuff it) and do what is necessary to survive and stay in our children’s lives—even if it’s only heartbreakingly half the time. Is there any justice in this corrupt family court system? No. “It’s not a justice system, it’s a legal system,” my mentor reminds me. Is there fairness with an unfair person? No. There’s no common sense to that thought. So what are we moms left with? And then sometimes there’s the pain that no one wants to talk about. Where do we bring that pain when it involves serious, scary child abuse or child sexual abuse? A special note to the moms with the worst cases of child abuse: Allow no one to pass judgment on how you feel because they aren’t you and they don’t know all the details of your situation, circumstances, and case. Often, it’s wiser not to share all the ugly details with everyone we know and rather practice privacy. No one can tell you how painful or not painful your situation is. Only you know. Guard your heart. P.S. I am so sorry this has happened or is happening. Borrow some strength to hold on. Seek support of other survivors.

Read or watch my “25 Best Tips for Dealing with Narcissists as Co-Parents”

Without our children, we feel utterly alone. We dread being childless on nights and weekends- to face and feel our grief. We are lonely–so lonely. We attempt to process the shrapnels of shock with friends, family, therapists, and other moms in similar situations. We need to vent – to let the anger out. Sometimes the pain of injustice is too much for us to face. There are those of us who run from it, into distractions like a new relationship to fill the void or turn to workaholism. However, we learn later that these are only temporary bandaids that can make things worse. Our hearts are bleeding and we need more than a bandaid for that. Sometimes we get off-track from what we need to be doing for our children or how we need to be prioritizing/preserving our custody case. Because it sucks being on “edge” all the time, nervous, anxious, and in a heightened state of alert. We can’t shut off fight-and-flight mode when our children are in harm’s way. If we cave into distractions, we feel bad that we weren’t strong enough to face and process the whole awful circumstance and stay focused on documenting the pattern-of-behavior to expose the narcissist. We must remember that we are human and we have been put into a horrendous, unnatural position of sharing our little ones with a narcissist who generally neglects them, often exposes them to harmful things/people, and certainly doesn’t prioritize their safety, needs, and welfare. It’s our reality. It’s our children’s reality, too.

Many of us have turned to prayer after we have wrestled with our lawyers, therapists, and others about how to prevent child neglect and abuse at the hands of the narcissist we know. Where do we take our pain when there’s nothing we can do to spare or save our children? We find groups and share the pain with others who “get it.” They, like us, have been through the process and have a story to tell that while different and complex is eerily similar. Sometimes we read a news article about a child who was killed in a bitter divorce, and, with shame, feel temporary relief that ours is still alive. We feel survivor’s guilt and cry for them. We watch videos on narcissism and learn all we can about the devil we don’t trust and wouldn’t leave our goldfish with – never mind a small child. But we still get surprised by the unwarranted and undeserved Co-Parenting Abuse (which is really the typical post-separation abuse that follows the breakup with a narcissist). We wear out our friends, and sometimes, no one wants to talk to us or even pick up the phone because we’ve made hundreds of complaining crisis calls. We don’t like the person this dilemma made us become. We are a shell of a person at times unable to have fun or a good time without being weighed down by our constant fretting. We have valid reasons for concern. We are placed in predicament after predicament left to sink or swim in ice-cold, glacier water. Our hearts feel frozen. Our therapists, trying to help us unblock and get unstuck, prescribe us a baby step of a self-care weekend of grieving, but we can’t unthaw that quickly.

Our heads hang low when we think of all the unfair situations we are placed in. But we can’t fall into the deep dark hole and trap of self-pity. We are told that there’s no power when we are pitiful. We lose our jobs, houses, friends, reputation, and entire savings. We go into serious debt and completely ruin our credit scores. We often fantasize about running away or going backward in time to make a different choice of love partner and not falling for the love-bombing, breadcrumbing, and hoovering tactics of a narcissist—-all words we know now but didn’t know back then. The education has been very enlightening but has caused us to be very mad at ourselves. We know we can’t take this personally when it feels so darn personal.

We have to face our codependency, love addiction, and fantasies. A happily-ever-after wasn’t possible with a narcissist. Now we know for sure. We have to work hard and attempt to break trauma bonds so that we don’t dare go back to the abuse. We can’t allow ourselves to believe the flowery-words, fake-impressions, and false-promises of the narcissist who is just looking for an open door to get back in. We fight off urges and our weaknesses not to be manipulated. We have to give up all hope and belief that they can change to save ourselves. We fight off hate and anger. We spend days furious at ourselves. We spend years looking for solutions to the legal problems and escapes from the legal abuse. We feel crushed at the curbs when we have to say “goodbye” to our child and know that they are hostages and probably won’t be able to call us if something terrible happens on their dad’s time. Just knowing the narcissist is enjoying this torment we go through as moms, makes us hate them more. We feel the void of our empty children’s rooms at night and feel like we have crossed over into the Twilight Zone.

Then, there’s the appalling indifference of lawyers and judges who don’t care. There’s the inadequate, inept, ignorant family court system that doesn’t prioritize child safety as #1. They are not in the business of child protection like they ought to be. We watch the narcissist fight for the children they never took care of and bitterly try to get out of paying any amount of child support. We watch the narcissist hide their money and assets, quit jobs, and try to get some of our paychecks for themselves. We watch as the narcissist obsesses about taking stuff and stealing children from a loving mom—just to assert power, control, and dominance. We watch the narcissist get away with things in court, with co-parenting therapists, mediators, probation officers, GALs and the judge. We see the delight the narcissist feels in duping others and getting away with things. Their grin is seared in our memories. They enjoy the games. We don’t.

We walk away bruised, battered, and semi-defeated. At the tense and awkward child-exchanges, we often receive back into our care, injured and traumatized children. Heartbroken over their suffering, we tend to their external and internal wounds that will become their childhood scars. We do “emotional triage” for hours until we are exhausted. But we have to be strong. We have to help our little ones when we are hurting so much. We try to get our children therapists and the narcissist objects, blocks, and/or refuses to participate or even pay. We try to get our children into sports and activities while the narcissist refuses to bring the child to mandatory games and practices on “their parenting time.” We see that the narcissist’s ongoing anger with us gets taken out on our innocent child who is caught in the cross-fires of the war. It hurts our hearts. The paper bullets fly and hit our pocketbooks. 

Discouragement, depression, and ongoing disappointment follow our family story. Sometimes others mistakenly think we are to blame for the drama and saga when we know it only takes one high-conflict party to cause a high-conflict custody battle. Are we bad moms for not wanting our children abused, neglected, placed with pedophiles, sitting in the front seat of a drunk’s car or left home alone under the age of 8? Sadly, we are let down by friends who take the narcissist’s side and believe the smear campaigns. We are burnt at the pediatrician’s offices and disbelieved because the narcissist already got to the doctor first and told a few untrue stories about us. They ruined the chances of our child getting any medical care because they claim the children don’t have any of the issues we report. Then, we look suspicious when we bring our child in for a well-check and talk about their reports of headaches. No one believes us or our children. If they do, they blame us for whatever it is. It’s a no-win situation.

Meanwhile, we are sucked dry of funds to fight for our children by lawyers who are often narcissists themselves and make money whether we win or lose. We are often punished by judges for trying to protect our children and then get our rights stripped, removed, and forced into silence. We see how lies often win and the truth is too threatening for the liars. For us, it’s terrifying to fight a narcissist and/or a sociopath in family court since we aren’t the type to fight in the first place. We’ve never needed a lawyer before. We watch the narcissist get energized and enjoy the battles, while we get drained. We see them love the attention and relish/flaunt their wins. They ride their high horse with entitlement, rubbing it in our faces and approving of themselves. They make us sick.

How do we keep our balance/equilibrium through the legal process? How do we believe in God or any Goodness when we see corruption and people harming a child without a conscience? Why aren’t these narcissists diagnosed? Should the mentally ill get automatic parental rights? Or actually be required to pass a parenting class rather than attend a 1-hour webinar and get a certificate that qualifies them for nothing? We have so many questions on how/why this system is so dysfunctional!

Low Blows and Lies of The Narcissist

It’s like rubbing salt into a fresh-cut, open wound when we watch the narcissist move on to his next unsuspecting victim and the “new supply.” We realized that we were easily replaced. We are discarded and thrown in the trash of their minds while the new woman pretends to be a mother to our children and they come home smelling like horrible perfume and covered in dog hair. Or, we get our children back from a weekend with just dad in ripped, dirty clothes that are too small, filthy hands and faces, bruised bodies, severely hungry, with knots in their hair that we have to cut out with scissors. It’s unpleasant, to say the least. He’s not the man we hoped for. He’s not the father we want for our children. This isn’t a life we would wish on our worst enemy. We have a lot to grieve and it might take our whole lifetime.

We realize that we get nothing but disorder from a narcissistic personality disordered person. Yet, we are forced and expected to co-parent with a narcissist. We are ordered to communicate daily and so we get multiple, irrational, abusive, non-child-related, texts and emails. Or, we get the opposite—stone-walled and the silent treatment when we need cooperation and input to make a medical decision for our child. We go through evaluations we never thought we’d ever be subjected to. It adds up: two psych evals, six child protective services investigations, ten inconvenient, time-consuming, at-home visits of other strangers like hired GALs (Guardian Ad Litem) checking our home for hazards and drugs when we have never even had a parking ticket or a speeding ticket. It’s the IRS auditing us because our ex reported us and seemingly loves causing us problems. We see our ex laugh at our misfortunes and feel so appalled that we can’t believe we ever saw any good in them—ever. What were we thinking? We bite our tongues when our child repeats a common, nasty phrase of the narcissist. We take a deep breath in disbelief when our child tells us what the narcissist said about us that’s negative and untrue. We seethe with rage at the brain-washing being done to our innocent children. We feel hopeless.

However, we know we have to survive and stay standing. We wish we could thrive and move on but the narcissist can’t. We prioritize our children and often neglect our self-care because there’s no time left in the day. We feel hopeless, afraid, anxious and heavily burdened. We need help at every turn and yet help costs the money that we don’t have—money the narcissist stole, cheated us out of, and certainly won’t share. What can we do? Nothing? We sometimes wish for our children to hurry up and grow up? Then we feel sad that we are wishing our child’s childhood away and dreaming about them being 18—and us being free again. Our pain runs deep. Our despair is real. We need hope.

Is There Any Hope?

When we stumble upon a small slice of happiness, a good day with our child, a win, we are encouraged. We find another mom who writes her story and survivor-wisdom down and so we gain courage through connection and a little bit of borrowed strength we didn’t have. We see the new laws being pushed and passed that can change these horrible outcome cases. We learn about new foundations that help child victims. We read the books of other moms who surthrive, persevered, and eventually were awarded sole custody of their children. We note their resilience and the resilience of our own children who have learned their own coping techniques to deal with their dysfunctional dad. We learn about narcissistic abuse syndrome and terms like gaslighting and know we can heal. We realize there is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom about our abuser—and knowledge is power. We see our children get stronger and not break. We bond with our child, creating memories that the narcissist isn’t present to destroy or sabotage. We grow through this entire experience, not just go through it. We see that we have many blessings to count like healthy children. We have to look for and find the good and focus on that.

We hold onto the hope that when our children are independent adults they can escape completely and heal all the hurt. We hang onto moments of joy, happiness, and laughter with our children. We express our love and feel their love in return—as we save all their handmade Mother’s Day cards with messages of, “You’re the best mom!” We learn to self-soothe in the terrible times. We enjoy being called “Mommy” still. We step into a new version of ourselves that we never imagined we would become as warrior-moms in real-life battles becoming full-time heroines. We focus on attaining peace and using skillful means while we recruit an army and allies for the narcissist’s legal wars. We hold firm our foundations and fortresses of boundaries for self-protection and self-preservation. We stand on the sidelines and cheer our children on to hit home runs and make it home. We watch them build their self-esteem. We post pictures of their precious little faces on our refrigerators and are so proud of them. They are loved.

We Are Learning Our Lessons with a Narcissist

We learn lessons. We learn about us as much as we learn about them. We learn our weaknesses. We learn our strengths. We learn that appearances matter. For onlookers, we strive to look “put together,” yet allow our grief to process and validate our reality. We do self-work to process the pain and make space for our feelings and souls. We feel our feelings and seek compassionate people to hold a psychologically safe space for us. We are dealing with a crazy man and an insane situation. We connect with others and find helpful communities. We find our reasons. We check our motives. We make our mantras like “I am doing this for my child.” We don’t just adopt the age-old motto: “Keep busy and keep on.” We are not soldiers, we are moms. 

Self-Work Suggestions:

What can you do to feel your feelings and face your grief?

  • Ready to seek a book (with a title and message) that can help you thaw, process, and unpack emotionally? (Spend time at a local bookstore? Or browse Amazon by topic?)
  • Can you set aside time to grieve? (Go on a retreat?)
  • Want to start writing your story to help you heal?
  • Do you finally need to call to get a therapist, counselor, or coach?
  • Have you written an apology letter to yourself? Want to do this now?
  • Have you been mad at yourself long enough and are you ready to write a forgiveness letter to yourself? (From yourself)
  • Want to write a letter to your children that you seal for when they are 18?
  • Can you visit a church or spiritual place to talk/connect with your Higher Power?
  • Do you feel the need to confess with a safe person who won’t judge you?
  • Is there a support group you can attend? Anonymous: like CODA or ACOA? Or at a local DV agency for battered women? Or a family resource center group for single parents?
  • Have you not cried? Do you need to play a song that you know will help you release and feel your feelings? What will unlock your heart and help you to let go?
  • What does grieving mean for you?
  • What would grieving look like for you?

If you resonate with my words or can identify with this pain and need more assurance that you are not alone, pick up any of my books available at Amazon to read my tips, tools, and strategies that I created and adopted to survive.

“Hang on and have hope! I write for moms who are forced to co-parent and/or stuck in a high-conflict, custody battle with a narcissist. If this is you, you are not alone!

My books can validate what you might be experiencing and give you creative ways to improve your co-parenting conditions. In my books, I include all of my tips, tools, and strategies for moms to grab onto like life rafts. Sometimes, it’s solely about survival and staying afloat.

I believe that there are healthy attitudes we can adopt, mindsets to make solid, sanity to hold onto, as well as, beneficial perspectives to take that can help us to endure this dilemma and survive a custody battle. We can learn to use what I call “skillful-means” and strategies to navigate and neutralize the narcissist. (Find my video program!)

Learn all that you can from my “survivor-wisdom” because knowledge is power. Let the chapters of my books be like self-help, “story medicine.” My goal is to leave you with tidbits of wisdom with lots of encouragement. Know that you can endure this (with support). You can be resilient in the face of the many challenges when dealing with a narcissist. The truth is that… our love for our child/children is bigger than the narcissist.

Believe in yourself as a mom. Remember to learn the valuable lessons in all the pain and problems so that you can come out of this smarter and stronger than before!

Like me, you can: 1. outgrow the narcissist, 2. become immune to his attacks, and 3. move on with your life—to thrive. Better yet, and so can our precious children. Use wisdom. Lead with love.”

xo- Grace


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