Caring for an Aging Narcissistic Mother

by Michelle Piper

Caring for an aging narcissistic mother is hard.

As the child of a narcissistic mother, chances are that when your mother needs you most, your compassion has already been worn threadbare by her ever-changing demands long before she approached her frailest years.

You may have had to tend to her needs for as long as you can remember. She always came first, and certainly came before you. If her needs went unmet, it was followed by a narcissistic rage that could move mountains.

If you wanted or needed anything, it didn’t matter.

Unless, somehow, it served her needs.

But now she needs you due to the challenges of her age. Perhaps just as you’re barely meeting multiple demands of your own family, health or career.

You hoped your aging narcissistic mother’s drive to be the center of attention and make everything about her will subside, at least a little bit. Yet, this is often not the case.

Narcissism can worsen with age, especially when she may need your assistance to help her through her daily life due to illness or the general wearing out process. Caring for an aging narcissistic mother is a complicated process on both a physical and emotional level.

Paradoxically, an elderly narcissistic mother can pull at your heartstrings because you see she doesn’t have the capacity to manipulate or fight as she did in the past as her physical energy or mental ability decreases.

She may become less rigid due to the humbling nature of the aging process. When this happens, it may appear she has “mellowed with age.”

You may have a resurgence of feeling responsible for the lack of closeness with your narcissistic mother. If so, avoid focusing on guilt about, or longing for, a relationship with your mother that never worked as you’d so badly hoped.

An intimate relationship is beyond the will or capacity of a narcissist.

Sometimes, we can’t help our mother as much as we’d wish because we need to protect our own emotional safety. Perhaps you have long accepted you will not be truly cherished by your mother and she’s incapable of respecting your needs. Maybe all you can do is feel empathy from afar because you are too angry when you are close.

Regardless of your mixed feelings regarding your narcissistic mother, you may allow yourself to feel compassion, but not responsibility for, her needs or suffering. It is the opposite of narcissism, after all.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie January 23, 2017 at 11:53 am

UPDATE FROM MY EARLIER POST….My mom still hasn’t gotten an appt. with her pulmonary dr…..really thought she would get in last week. I still haven’t left the state yet to see her as I am getting things in order around here and waiting for the Dr’s report. No matter what happens, my health and mental well-being are important. Just in the last 5 days I have had some serious melt-downs over her cruelness to me on the phone. After that 5 year separation I said that I will, under no condition, let her do this to me again. So, here’s my plan. First of all I haven’t decided to buy a one-way ticket or pre-determine my length of stay. Once I get there this is my plan. It’s a three-fold one with each piece carrying the same emotional weight.. #1 My mother’s condition…is she more humble in person or cruel or the worst ever? #2 My sister and brother despise each other, both with slight narcissistic personalities, both value money above anything or anybody. How sad. All of us together in one locations..who know what I will be like. Them fighting, me crying. #3 How am I feeling. So with that…..If ANY of these conditions starts to turn BAD…..I’m out of there and heading home. To never look back again WITH NO REGRETS. I truly envy anyone who has a normal mom…because a normal mom would not treat her children like this. I love to work with elderly people and often am rescuing abandoned cats or dogs. My advice. Take care of yourself and do something that allows you to get love in return. My current rescue effort with 8 cats warms my heart and theirs every day I am with them…..I saved their life and they saved mine.

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Shelagh January 27, 2017 at 9:25 am

Good luck xxx

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Marc May 27, 2017 at 4:41 am

Wow! I feel your pain. My mother-in-law, a narcissistic mother- in-law ALWAYS talking of money non-stop. Her vocabulary consists of: Doctor, Attorney, Lexus, Cadillac, prominent, prestige, $500,000 home, private schools etc. For the lack of profanity, it’s rather boring and self-centered. She’s one of 3 daughters; she’s never worked full time in her life. Her two sisters, one retired from Ford Motor credit and the other from Bank of America always worked full time. In fact, check this out, both of her sisters worked in high school so my mother-in-law could go to her Senior prom which the 2 sister’s paid for her dress! Deep seated problems with money, no formal education, married to a controlling man (deceased). Demands respect from her 2 daughter, one is exactly like her: self centered, manipulative, thinks she’s an Rockafeller on $14000/yr. My wife who is “normal” is my mother-in-law’s go to person for anything related to her: medical appointments, holidays, going to church etc. Ironic, how my mother-in-law has NEVER given my wife a dime yet her “cloned” daughter is always getting money for fear of suicide threats. Things exploded over Mother’s day as we had our daugther’s First Holy Communion service. My NMIL is telling me how much her female cousin is allowed to spend on monthly hair, nails etc. to the tune of $1000/month! I told her to change the topic as we where in Church! She proceeded to tell me where my wife and I where going to send our daughter to school, what kind of job I’m getting (transitioning out of Military) etc. Therefore, I told her this Christmas, DON”T expect us to drive 3.5 hrs on Christmas day to see her, rather the “cloned” daughter can entertain her. She exploded on me threatening NEVER to come back to my house ever again. She is stuck in an ever cycle of despair and materalisim yet refuses to go get clinical help. I’m suggesting my wife and I go to Marriage Counseling just to talk of this issue and I’m suggesting Limited Contact boundaries. I’m fearful she’ll poison our daughter’s way of thinking with her materialism and self-centeredness.

Military Officer dealing with Family Malarkey in Tennessee.

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V February 1, 2017 at 10:48 pm

I recognise so many of these stories, finding out about narcissistic mothers recently was like a light bulb moment for me, and explained so much. Finally, it’s her not me! I’m nearly 60 and am the only surviving child of an 90 year old narcissist. My late father was her enabler. My sibling died in childhood, and was the “golden child”, who of course is for ever perfect being dead! I’ve often thought that she thinks the wrong child died. I’ve been supporting my elderly mother’s emotional needs all her life, and now she’s elderly and frail, everybody expects me to support her, it’s so difficult trying to explain I have never had a normal mother, when others see her as being a “sweet old lady”. I live a hundred miles away from her, but she carries on as if it’s just around the corner, she’s been a hypochondriac all her life, and it’s even worse now she’s old. Her favourite tactic is to get someone else to ring me, and tell me she’s ill, and she’s going into hospital, so I have no choice but to come and see her again. I visit every 2 weeks anyway, she’s been sent to hospital so many times, for it to be declared a “panic attack”. She has no guilt about wasting healthcare resources, and none about getting me running down the motorway again, because that was the aim of the game, attention, and then she can ring her friends to get even more attention for being “ill”. Her GP won’t take responsibility for her as she’s in her 90’s so sends her to hospital for the slightest issue. I’m a nurse and she thinks she can pull the wool over my eyes, one day she’ll be crying down the phone, I’m so lonely, I’m so depressed, the next day if a friends visited, her ” depression” has mysteriously gone! She forgets which symptom she’s complained of the day before, so I can often catch her out.She’s a fraud and a phoney, everything is always about her, if I’m ill, she will always tell me how worried she is about “my problem” so I never tell her anymore, as she’s incapable of empathy. She’s recently been hospitalised for pneumonia, and at one point wasn’t expected to live, I feel really guilty writing this, but it would have been a relief if she’d died, she survived, and my endless torture continues. I’m fortunate to have a good supportive husband, who knows how difficult it is, but doesn’t fully get it, when I say I want to go “no contact” he’s says she’s your mother, and she’s old, you can’t do that! He had normal supportive parents so doesn’t quite get it, he still thinks one day she’ll feel remorse, but she’s a narcissist, so it’ll never happen. I say that if your husband is abusive, you’re actively encouraged to divorce them, but if it’s your mother, society seems to say you have to put up with their bad behaviour because a mother’s role is sacrosanct, even if they’re a monster! She tells me constantly that she loves me, as she thinks this will keep me running, but there’s no love there, her hugs feel as cold as ice. My mum has said terrible things about me but conveniently “forgets” these outbursts . She recently told my husband I was always useless, and I’ve only achieved anything due to her efforts! I have a university degree, and have been a senior nurse for years – my mother has no academic qualifications, and I’ve achieved what I have despite her. The only reason I still support her is for me not her, I guess I’m trying to prove I’m not like her, and also all that grooming has paid off, I’m still that child who wants to please her, even though I know it’ll never happen.

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patricia February 17, 2017 at 1:27 pm

i went no contact my heart breaks for you

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Judy April 3, 2017 at 1:42 pm

I am so sorry for you, but I feel like I am reading my own words. Blessings to you. I understand what you are going through.

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Lucy April 6, 2017 at 4:05 am

I too take care of an 80year old mother. Your story mirrors mine. Thank you so much for sharing. I have been told many times what a “sweet lady” she is when I know the truth. Your words really help. Take good care – of yourself.

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Sofia May 4, 2017 at 6:59 am

I am so sorry for all of you.

My narcissistic mother is 94 an I am 65. Thank you for your words, you are helping me to support this neverending story and give me the power to set boundaries every day.

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Sofia May 4, 2017 at 7:00 am

I am so sorry for all of you.

My narcissistic mother is 94 an I am 65. Thank you for your words, you are helping me to support this neverending story and give me the power to set boundaries every day.

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Crabapple May 20, 2017 at 7:17 pm

Ditto! I, too, am a nurse, youngest of 4 and the only daughter , Mom is 91 and enabler dad died 5 years ago. She has sucked me dry and I am numb to her, and perform all tasks like a robot. I do not like having to turn on the ‘numb’ switch but do so to survive. Her needs will never be met.. it is her disorder and finally I am out to
preserve my health. I view my visits and tasks as ‘a job’ and there is a financial reward to it. But I can’t let her negative emotion drag me down. Be strong. Take long walks. Stay rested. You did not sign up to be her daughter.. it chose you.

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Gayle Holden June 26, 2017 at 3:20 pm

My narc mil is 95 and has had her hooks into my husband for over 60 years. She is also a hoarder of the most severe type. Her golden child daughter (a clone of her) died 5 years ago from leukemia and her “lost” youngest child, a son, is autistic. He was good for pity and for money. She has spent her whole life baiting and manipulating my husband and he responded thinking good deeds would win him favour . Wrong. He took his mother to court 5 years ago and became legal guardian of his brother. 6 months ago his mother was hospitalized and my husband was finally able to move his brother into a nice group care facility with a private suite for him. He has POA and is disposing of the hoarding mess and preparing the property for sale. My mil is refusing to leave the hospital for long term care even though she needs 24/7 care so they’re stuck with her. Our 30 year marriage is in tatters and I don’t know if we will ever recover from this decades long assault. My advice: sever all contact with narcissistic people, whether they are family members or marriage partners or friends. Starve them of their blood supply. They suck you dry and they cause grief and harm to everyone they come into contact with.

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Glo August 3, 2017 at 7:36 am

Wow! I am 64 and my N mom just turned 95. I went no contact 2 years ago. Best thing I ever did. Too toxic for words. I wish I could recoup all the time and money I spent caring for that selfish non-motherly woman. It’s all about narcissistic supply. The more you hurt, the better they feel…

J May 30, 2017 at 7:33 am

They live so long. Because they have no guilt. Sad that you were not relieved and the abuse continues after the grave, no rest assured. She’ll leave it all to the golden child or a grandchild she may never see, and if you work your fingers to the bone taking care of her, she leaves you nothing, because the scapegoat gets nothing in the end. I have wanted to run away into the wild because of my NM and my EF. To never be heard from again. In my dreams, it was the only way to escape.

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Christine June 19, 2017 at 1:59 am

Oh my goodness this is me and my mother . I feel your pain . Its relentless . My mother recently had pneumonia and i felt the same way too . Its never ending .

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Youcef February 5, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Hi everyone,

My narcissistic mother is today 58 and I’m 29, I spent all my childhood being her confidant, with her all the time complaining to me about my father, my grandmother, the neighbors, etc etc.. she depicted herself always as a victim and a perfect person surrounded by bad people.

And I had no normal childhood with a caring mother who oriented me, all I was supposed to do was listen to her complaining and be her confidant, comfort her, agree with her that all those people (especially my father) were bad, etc.

Today whenever I meet her she would systematically use a very weak voice, claim that she is exhausted, that life is so hard (to make me feel guilty of not being with her), etc, then when her lover comes her voice suddenly becomes normal, she no longer looks exhausted, etc.. then I would understand that she is making her habitual manners of playing the victim in front of me.

She takes pleasure in looking like a victim and having people’s compassion, but I no longer blame her, her own mother was a narcissist who ignored her and she couldn’t have her attention unless she played the victim, so she kept that pattern during her whole life, even with her little children, seriously impacting their lives without realizing it.

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Lucy August 15, 2017 at 11:48 am

Thank you for your words. My 80 yr old mother will be talking to me normally at grocery…as soon as someone is near, she stoops down,puts on a weak voice,then tells strangers how I “never help her.” Most of the time people believe her and I am a “bad daughter.” I found you cannot do this without friends or a good therapist. The resentment will eat you up.

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Justme February 7, 2017 at 11:40 am

What a gift to have found this place! My VN mom has just moved to my town, and I have began to doubt my own sanity. Like some of you, my sister committed suicide. I am the only one left and I am beginning to understand the struggle she caused my sister.

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Justme February 7, 2017 at 11:58 am

Having relocated to my town, we’ve done the establishing new dr routine. Within first visit new Prmary Care recommends cognitive evaluation. We went to one appointment where she had to answer a long list of questions which she was noncompliance and ended up mad but completed. Only to be told she had to come back two more visits to correctly assess her? Needlessly to say she went home and canceled.
This was a psychologist what kind of dr do I need to get a diagnosis? I have POA, but I’m not sure how much real power that has.

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Grendle March 7, 2017 at 4:54 am

Hi Debbie, thanks for your reply. I’m so sorry about your situation. Reading your post gave me a little hope.NC means no contact. My mum is 82 and now has Parkinson’s along with numerous other illnesses. I have just gone NC after they abandoned me after I had my op and I had to get social services to help me. My son has also started emotionally abusing me so I’ve also had to cut ties with him as the continued abuse is affecting my recovery from my operation. I also have a sister who I haven’t spoken to for over a year cos she’s enmeshed in the ‘blame and shame’.My ‘parents’ and my son now collude together to find ways to make my life more difficult. I am devastated at this situation, I love my son dearly(he’s 25) and I can’t get my head round this new abuse. I’m not on Facebook but we could swap email if you like. You do NOT owe your abusive family anything, don’t let anyone abuse you anymore, it’s like slowly being murdered.I’m only in the early stages of NC and it is tearing me apart. I’m living from one hour to the next.When I tell anyone my story they cannot understand why my family would treat me this way. They’ve put my life at risk for the last time, all of them. Thanks for reading Debbie, I hope you’re ok. Wendy

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Grendle March 7, 2017 at 5:06 am

Hi Debbie, thanks for your reply. NC means no contact. I’ve already written this once but it didn’t post. I’m sorry to hear about your situation with your mum. I thought mine had mellowed with age but I was wrong. When I came out of hospital after the operation I was promptly abandoned and left to fend for myself, by all my family incl my son. I couldn’t walk properly so I had to get social services to help me. Since then I’ve gone no contact with all 3 of them, including my son, which has broken my heart, but he is now being so emotionally abusive I couldn’t stand it any longer. So I’ve been ‘managing ‘ alone, not very well cos this operation takes months to heal. I’m often suicidal due to years of abuse and now because my ‘family’ abandoned me. I’m only 2 weeks into NC so far so I’ll let you know how I progress. My ‘family’ have put my life at risk for the last time . I hope things are ok with you, my mum sounds a lot like yours; everything judged by how it looks and what it cost. Wendy

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Alex March 19, 2017 at 7:56 am

My mother had a stroke at a very early age. I was only 13 and became my mother’s caregiver. I had to assist in all her daily needs and even had to help her shower. I hated every second of it. Those days still haunt me and I often feel guilty. I am 42 now and over these years I have realized my mother is a narcissist. Always expecting me to take care of things without regard for my own family life and career. She will pull and pull until she gets her way. She always expected me to take off work to take her to doctor appointments when my dad could have taken her or she could have taken herself. She still drives. She would say my dad could not take her because he had to work. She did not find me being a single parent to three kids and a full time job as an excuse not to take her. One day I just stopped and didn’t do it anymore. Then she would be passive aggressive in very subtle ways. She eventually moved on to bother my brother. My brother had to take off work to take her because my dad had to work. As if my brother didn’t have to work. All those years she could have driven herself. But she enjoys being catered to and taken care of. Two years ago my father had a massive stroke and now he is more ill than she is. I believe she is jealous that she is no longer the sickest one. But I see that now my father is behaving more like my mother with all the attention seeking. Constantly calling me to go see them and sometimes I do not want to use my free time to go there where there is misery and complaining and negativity. My mother has driven almost all family away because she is passive aggressive when they do not do things her way. She enjoys getting ill so she can go to the hospital and get a break from caring for my dad. Then she wants me or my brother to take care of them both and I do not understand that. Can she not see that we have to work and have car payments and mortgage payments and kids to take care of? She does not care as long as she gets her way. It is a constant tug of war with this woman and she does not regard anything or anyone but herself and her needs. I have recently had to go no contact with them because of her trying to guilt me into something I was not comfortable doing… Like caring for them. I get anxiety and flashbacks and my blood pressure goes up just thinking about it. It takes me back to when I was 13 and I had to carry so much responsibility caring for her. I cannot do it again and I do feel guilty sometimes. But other times I just feel angry and the expectations. She has voiced very clearly that it is my brother’s and my duty to care for them now and I just do not like being forced into things. I could not deal with the 20 calls a day so I called social services on them and went no contact. Social services asked them to consider putting my father in a nursing home since he is bed ridden and it is taking a toll on my mother since she is also handicapped, but they both refuse. Instead they just leave us voicemails with passive aggressive comments like “I hope my phone call doesn’t cause you stress blah blah blah.” I have gone no contact before but only for a few weeks or so, but this time I am going on 3 months. I wrote her a letter to explain to her why I did so and because I wanted her to know how I felt and I know she read it because she has left my brother a voicemail with passive aggressive comments referencing “what has your sister told you about me”. He also went no contact at the same time I did because he had just had enough. She became desperate for attention with neither of us answering her calls that she came to my house and started banging on my door and ticking her keys to my windows. She was not just knocking, but banging. Then ringing the door bell over and over again for about 15 minutes until she finally gave up and left. Then she moved on to my brother and she did the same thing to him. She disrupted his peace and sleep at midnight and again at 3 am with banging and continuously ringing the door bell and leaving voicemails that she had to talk to him and “what is your sister saying about me”. She is not normal and I cannot handle that stress at this stage in my life. She will not dictate to me as she did when I was a child what I should or should not do. She cannot make my life decisions. I am done.

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Grendle March 25, 2017 at 4:12 am

Hi Debbie, I’m so sorry to hear about your mum. I don’t think us daughters of narcissists know quite how to react in response to the death of our ‘mother ‘.. I suppose it’s like others have said that we don’t just grieve for our mums but we also grieve for the family we never had and that we deserved. I’m in the process of trying to have a little contact with my son, my mum and her husband have sort of appropriated an apology but it’s, again, empty and they’ve tried to blame it on me for ‘overreacting ‘ but I’m standing up for myself this time and I don’t really care about them now I realise how destructive they are to my mental health.on the positive side, I have a new rescue cat who wants to love me and be with me all the time. The only social media I’m on is Twitter, my name is Wendy Nicola Cain on it so you can contact me if you like.
I’m so sorry for your loss and you are in my thoughts x

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M's April 20, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Does anyone else have a NM who also has Munchausen’s? This has been a life mind bombs and emotional torment.

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Bertie May 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm

After 25 years, I moved back closer to where I grew up. My elderly mother still lives alone in the same home I grew up in. She refuses to “move into town”. She has several, significant health problems, and has had, for many years. One day, I get a phone call from her. She speaks to me in a calm manner and says that “The ambulance is here, and they are taking me to the ER. I don’t feel right”. I call one of my brother’s. The two of us race to the town they are taking her. Naturally, we are thinking she may be dying.
We get there to watch her walk out of the ambulance and walk calmly down the hall to the ER. She does not have a medication list with her. Nothing. The ER doctor has never seen her before. I run around and call her regular doctor’s office and get her med list faxed to them ASAP. The ER doctor is not happy to have her as a patient and cannot find anything wrong with her. He tells her she should not be living alone and should not be driving anymore. She is to spend the night with one of the kids. Naturally, I get her. I ask my brother if he would please go and get her little dog. Nope, he will not do that.
I ask if her brother (who lives 2 miles away) will go and take the little dog. Nope, he will not do that. And so, with Mom in tow, we go and get her little dog and she goes to spend the day and night with us. The next day, I take her to her regular doctor. The doctor begins the appointment by saying to her that she can “kick me out of the room” if she wishes. I am standing there thinking, what the heck? (I later figure out it’s all about the privacy laws … but more importantly … I find out that Mom has bad mouthed us kids to anyone who will listen. Obviously, the doctor too). In the weeks that follow, I speak on the phone on a few occasions to mom’s home health care nurse (who goes and sees her at her home every couple of weeks). The nurse informs me that my mom has not given consent for anyone to know anything about her and she cannot tell us anything, or really, talk to us at all. The nurse informs me that she will try and get my mom to give permission for them to talk to at least one of us kids about her.
Once again, and for many weeks, I tried to be of assistance to my mom.
Eventually, I just plain stopped.
My mom still lives alone. My mom still drives a car. We know nothing about her condition.
Why did I write about this? I guess just because the blog is about “Caring for Your Aging Parent”.
I guess the only other thing to add is that my mom is like a “hot potato” with regard to the other siblings. NO ONE wants to help. EVER.

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Tanya stewart June 25, 2017 at 7:06 am

Hi, my sister and me really need some help with our narcissist mother. She is now 85 and is struggling with walking etc. She is constantly calling for help and claiming that her and my enabling father are ill. My father is ill. He has prostate cancer, but we’re now convinced that she is not telling the truth about what the doctors are saying and is making out things are worse than they are. She recently claimed to have fallen and my sister spent 4 hours in the hospital with her only to find out there was no evidence to support this. This weekend i have been on call to take my doctor to hospital for an urgent blood transfusion but when i call the hospital they know nothing about it. I would be really grateful to hear from anyone who has been in a similar situation and how they dealt with it. Both my sister and me are concerned we will end up ignoring them when they really do need help. Thanks. Tanya

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Helen July 21, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Encouraging to see others in this boat. My MIL was so lovely, so it’s especially hard for my partner to understand how much damage my own narc. mother has and can do. I went “no contact” when my kids were growing up – for their sake and mine – but when her husband died I felt sorry for her and was worried that she would kill someone while driving. So i moved her near us (across the country) and now back in the soup. I try to see this new chapter as an opportunity to set boundaries and affirm who I have, but as has been said so many times before, she can look relatively normal to others. Feel like I was damned if I did (non contact) and damned if I don’t (having her here). My mother also used health issues and the loss of her car (a joint decision) as a way to get attention but is wearing us out. I took my partner to a family counselor so we could strategize ways to set limits with her, and it has helped a little but I do resent how draining the constant need for vigilance around her is. In retrospect, the best thing I did was “no contact” for 12 years. It gave me the space to heal and fortify, which I need for this final chapter. I remind myself that there is no way to make her happy and/or better, there is only self-protection. The trick is to take care of yourself without guilt, and that means getting help from others. TTFN

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