It’s been nearly twelve years since I went no contact with my covert narcissist mother, thirteen for my malignant narcissist father. After a lifetime of trying to reason and cope with the abuse, I made a choice to leave in order to survive them. I am now a voluntary orphan. It’s been the hardest and best decision of and for my life.
Being human, there is nothing that makes no contact with both biological parents easy. It goes against all of my biological, physiological, and social programming. I am perpetually broken-hearted. I long for connection and understanding from my narcissistic parents, past, present and future. Alas, there was never, is not, and never shall be.
I ache for the child in me who missed out on not having loving, safe, supportive parents. I ache for the adolescent and young adult who had no positive parental example, no guidance, no support of any kind. I ache for the grown woman with kids of her own who struggles forward, hoping to carve a better path the next generation. I ache for my parents who missed out. I ache that they never knew, and will never know their own daughter and grandchildren. Sometimes, aching for them is so unbearable that it makes me consider contacting them. Alas, I know from years of hard-earned recovery that as much as I want them to have as much empathy for me as I do for them, it will never happen. I go through a vicious cycle of pain, grief, guilt, and remorse, sometimes all in the same day.
Cutting myself off from my abusive parents also means cutting myself from my narcissistic, antisocial brother. He is not a nice person. He is dark and scary, and his mental issues are serious enough to make me fear for his wife and children. He is the most biologically similar to me, and yet we are polar opposites. Even so, I feel a sense of responsibility for him. Perhaps it’s our genetic connection, or perhaps it’s because I was conditioned to take responsibility for the actions of my abusers. It’s probably both. And yet, my heart longs for what it never had. A sibling. A confidante. Our shared childhood experience was not designed to bring us together, it pitted us against each other. Or rather, him against me, in spite of my own best efforts.
Being a voluntary orphan means that I am cut off from much of my extended family, too. Some chose to believe the lies of my abusers and think I am the one being selfish and cruel to them. Some don’t know what to think, but because they are in contact with my abusers, it means I have to severely limit how much of my life they know about. Some just don’t care. Abuse runs deep and wide in my family, and much of my extended family struggles with all the same toxic dynamics. I have let go of those who fail to understand what it’s really like, but the grief of it all still haunts me.
Because I am a voluntary orphan, the constant question of whether I am doing the right thing hangs over me. Unlike a physical death, it is still possible to pick up a phone and call them. Sometimes, I feel shame and guilt over the fact that they are still alive. The old programming kicks in, telling me I should have tried harder to get along. The old programming tries to make me believe it is my moral failure, not theirs, that created this divide. After all, I am the one who chose this. But here’s the thing. Even if I called them today, nothing can change the fact that they are abusive. Nothing I say or do will cause them to suddenly understand. Nothing will make them feel empathy or remorse. No magic words will cause them to see the error of their ways. When it comes to all matters of the soul, they are as dead as dead can be. To offer them my heart only ensures that my heart will be broken. And all they have to offer me is psychological trauma.
I can accept there is no hope for them. I can accept that my hope is better placed in my own recovery and better choices. I can accept that hope exists in the form of boundaries, rejecting false projections, and reprogramming my own thoughts. I can accept that much of my grief comes from a tender-hearted longing for love and connection that I will never receive from them. Orphans carry pain, but we can use our pain for good. We orphans may struggle to connect with others, but when others prove themselves safe, we are fiercely loyal. Being a voluntary orphan, I realize that my love and commitment to family is not broken, it’s all-important to me. I am willing to do anything for the ones I love, and I will especially protect them from abusive people.
One thought on “A Voluntary Orphan”
I bow to your courage. I know how hard this is, to cut off contact and acknowledge the deep longing for a loving relationship with an abusive parent. I honestly don’t know if I could have done it if my body had not been so adamant in reaction to my mother’s abuse (she was always consistent, I’ll give her that.) The last time I saw my mother when she touched my arm (not in an aggressive way) my body collapsed, just hit the floor like a dead weight grazing the glass topped coffee table on the way down. I was calm, psychologically okay (after years of therapy) but it didn’t matter- my neurology lit up like a Christmas tree, silently screaming “predator” and did the only thing it could do when I was a young child- collapsed. And I got it. This was never going to change. There was nothing I could do. And the impact on me was dangerous (if only because I drove home on the highway in different degrees of dissociation.) I wonder if I could have seen it if my body had not been so dramatic in its response. As much as I grieve what was not possible I am grateful to have seen the truth.
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