It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Monday, September 14, 2015

What happens when you send your N “The Letter”

When we begin to toy with the idea of going NC (No Contact) with our Ns, the first thing that comes to mind is wondering how to do it.

A good number of us want to write a letter with a litany of the N’s sins both as a justification for going NC and as a last-ditch plea for the N to realize just how much s/he has hurt us. This desire for the N to realize how much damage s/he has inflicted is rooted in an expectation that if the N just understood, s/he would feel remorse, apologize, and then change in such a way that a reconciliation and normal relationship could then ensue.

Few of us are attracted to the idea of writing the terse, legalistic letter that gives no reasons for the decision to go No Contact. We either project our feelings onto our N and feel guilty in advance for hurting them (we would be hurt by such a letter and want to know the reasons so we could fix it) or we want to explain ourselves, justify our decision. And more than a few of us hope our letter and decision to disconnect from our parent(s) will be that magic key that finally opens the door to our N’s heart.

So what happens when we send that letter, full of heartbreak and examples of insensitive cruelties both big and small? Does it work as a way to finally break down our Ns and make them realize that their behaviour has hurt us in the most profound way possible? Does it stir up feelings of remorse and a desire to soothe our hurts and make everything right? Does it spark that protective parent mode that sends them to our sides with sincere apologies and earnest amends and heartfelt promises to do better in the future?

In a word—No.

What you will get back will be more of what you have endured. If your N is the overtly cruel, verbally abusive type, you will get more verbal abuse; if your N is the pathetic martyr, guilt-inducing type, you will get more guilt-tripping. But you will get it in buckets.

You will probably get something back in writing, too…something that denies everything you said or excuses and justifies or rationalizes anything that they couldn’t deny. You will be gaslighted, you will be blamed, you will be discounted, denigrated, and possibly even called a liar. Every point you make in your letter that your N chooses to address will be treated as if you didn’t understand or your perception was intentionally faulty. You will be treated to a display of pathos and/or bombast, your N pathetically hurt by your accusations and/or furious and outraged at your temerity…how dare you accuse your N of doing anything but wanting the very best for you and anything s/he actually did was for your own well-being.

Your N may take a few days or even weeks to respond. This is calculated to make you anxious. When your N finally does respond, don’t be surprised if s/he informs you that a copy of her letter to you has been shared with the rest of the family…and don’t be surprised if yours has not been shared at all—or if it was shared, it was kept under wraps until the N had crafted a rebuttal to every point you thought you made, and that rebuttal was shared with your letter. Most of all, do not be surprised if your letter unleashes a flurry of contacts from family members you have had little contact with in the past, contacts that range from “counselling” you to make up with your mother to outright attacks on your character for treating your mother this way. Expect no sympathy and no support because your N is not going to share with anybody s/he does not expect full support from.

One thing we tend to forget is that, for the most part, these other family members have known your NParent longer than they have known you. Their relationships predate your existence. Their bonds were in place before you were born. They are invested in their relationship with your N, both in terms of family ties and in terms of being right or wrong: if they take you at your word and agree your NP is in the wrong, then they are going to have to re-evaluate their entire relationship with your NP and, if they agree to support you, they are going to have to admit they were wrong about your NP for all these years. Most people are simply not going to do that. Not only do they not want to admit they were wrong the N, depending on who the N is to them, they may have to acknowledge wrongdoing of their own.

You may think, for example, that your grandparents will have your back. They adore you, they indulge you, they have always seemed constant and unconditional in their love. But this NParent you are distancing yourself from…this is their own child! Do you think they will readily and easily believe a lot of negative accusations against their own child? Do you think they will turn against that child on your behalf? Or do you think they will defend their child? What if they perceive your “attack” their child as an attack on their parenting? Then where are you?

Unless your NM has a toxic relationship with her own family, guess who she is going to turn to for support? Do you think the loyalty your grandmother and aunt feel towards you is a stronger the loyalty they feel towards their own daughter and sister? Do you think the fact that she had hurt you and that you are the injured party will make a difference? It won’t because when they feel they are being forced to choose between you and your NM, it is very unlikely they will side with another relative (you) over a first degree relative like their own child or sibling.

I have read many reports of the aftermath of sending that heartfelt NC letter that contained a long list of the narcissist’s hurtful behaviours and words. I have never heard of a favourable reaction. Not once have I heard of a narcissistic mother suddenly finding her heart and feeling it squeezed with pain for her suffering child. What I have heard of…and experienced myself…it receiving a scathing letter in return, full of denial, gaslighting, twisting of the victim’s words, projection, accusations, and outright lies. I have heard of letters full of fauxpologies (“I am sorry you feel that way…”) and verbal attacks, accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the victim, and threats. I have heard of letters accusing the victim of being mentally incompetent, expressing sorrow and concern for the victim’s children (thinly-veiled threats about the victim’s competence to have custody of those children) and outright threats of ruining the victim’s name in the family and community, even in her workplace. I have heard of letters in which the NM pretends a breakdown because of the letter, in which she claims to have become emotionally overwrought and her health negatively affected by the cruelty of the victim’s letter. I have heard of letters in which the NM vows that she will never be shut out and letters in which the NM shuts the victim out. I have heard of virtually anything you can imagine short of promising murder…or making a sincere apology and heartfelt promise to do better.

And it gets even worse. By sending such a letter to your N, you have just handed over a blueprint of how to hurt you. Every example you give, every hurtful word you cite, is another piece of ammunition your N now possesses. S/he knows now that one approach didn’t hurt you but another struck gold. It allows them to fine tune their future assaults for maximum damage.

Why would they want to do that…to create maximum damage? Because their stream of Nsupply is in jeopardy if they don’t have a way to control you. It is about power…their power over you. It has nothing to do with love…their power to control you ensures they will continue to get what they want from you, which is Nsupply in whatever form your Ns want it.

Your letter will give them a lot of Nsupply. First of all, they get to feel hurt or outraged by what you have said. Then they get to share it with all and sundry. If they aren’t sure how your accusations will be received, they will craft the rebuttal first, then send both your letter and their rebuttal so that the recipients can see the error of your ways. They will receive an abundance of sympathy and support, see people outraged on their behalf, hear you disparaged as a cruel and unnatural child. The letter, without any further input, will provide them with plenty of drama, and once shared, the drama multiplies melodramatically. The only thing that sending such a letter absolutely guarantees is that your N will get months…even years…of Nsupply from it and it will not have the result you are after.

Such letters will be viewed as an attack. No amount of logic or proof will change that, no amount of witnesses and even third party documentation will change a mind that is preset against you. You will be accosted with people admonishing you that you should “honour your mother,” or telling you that you will be sorry when she is gone (mine’s been gone 18 years and I am not sorry yet), that you should be the “bigger person” and “take the high road” and “bury the hatchet.” They will try to guilt and shame you into putting yourself right back onto the narcissist’s rack, then walk away, blind and deaf to your cries of pain. Not a one of the people who advocate for your NP have your best interests at heart. Not one.

Writing such a letter than enumerates the N’s sins and identifies your own pain is a good, healthy thing to do. Allowing your N or any of her flying monkeys to see it…not a healthy thing to do. It will merely open up a can of chaos that you won’t be able to close for a long, long time. Keeping a journal and filling it with these letters both purges the toxic feelings from your psyche and provides you a record, written in your own words, for those inevitable times when you start second-guessing yourself. Was it really that bad? Am I blowing this out of proportion? What did she do that was so wrong? Reading those letters will remind you of the reality of being in contact with your N and it does not expose your vulnerabilities to people who will not respect your feelings.

I have been writing this blog for more than three years now and operating the Facebook group, which is very active (more than 200 members), for nine months. Not once, in all this time, in all the comments and correspondence, have I heard of someone getting a good result from sending the honest, heartfelt letter that listed the N’s transgressions. Not one time.

If you write and send such a letter be prepared for a shitstorm of retaliation.


  1. This is an excellent article. The advice you give should save a lot of people time and energy wasted on the aftermath of such an effort. They are going to think the worst of you no matter what. If people ask questions of you later, you don't need to explain or elaborate. It is your pain to tell or not tell. Own it, be strong and silent when you need to be.

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  3. Thank you for this posting. My mom is a narcissist, and I have always held back from directly confronting her. I have taken years off with no contact, and no comment about it one way or the other. I always thought of myself as a coward for not confronting my mom, but this has helped me see my choices in a far healthier light. You are absolutely right - my mother's real-life response to such a confrontation would be awful. Now I call sparing myself her drama an act of self-love, and self-respect.

  4. Sweet Violet, my heart started racing when I read this. It it EXACTLY what I went through. I wish that I had read this before I sent the letter. I wish every day that I didn't send the letter. The fall out was horrific. Family members were lied to. My work place was contacted. I received threats that the letter I wrote would be sent to my friends. I received threats that my children would be contacted and told "what their mother is really like". Siblings who rely on her financially cut ties. Legal action was threatened.

  5. Sweet Violet:

    I gain so much from your posts. Every one of them has had, at the minimum, one sentence that is a greatly appreciated revelation. This post, it was “Do you think the loyalty your grandmother or aunt feel towards you is a stronger loyalty than they feel towards their own daughter or sister?”

    One aunt has been repeatedly fed so many vicious, ugly lies about me that she cannot stomach to be in the same room with me; will not look at me, and displays a contempt that is mind-boggling. She takes my mother out shopping or to lunch once a week, which cannot be pleasant. Over the 30+ years I have been NC with MN mother, I’ve noticed how miserable and unhappy this aunt has become. A steady drip of my mother’s toxic personality has that predictable effect on people. I occasionally run into her at weddings or funerals or visiting other relatives. I have always hoped that someday, my aunt would see the evil in my mother and apologize for the way she regarded me. But unlike me, my aunt has the incredible capacity to overlook my mother’s toxicity, even though at one time she cut my mother off for a few years after catching her in a cruel lie on a particularly sensitive matter. Then she decided she didn’t want to go to her grave being “mad” at anyone, and reconciled. The only exclusion to not going to her grave “mad” at anyone is despicable me.

    I never understood the loyalty factor pertaining to my MN mother and her sister (my aunt) until I read your post.

  6. Thank you for this post. I strongly agree and have long questioned this practice of The Letter. A NC Letter is an attempt to justify and to explain but the N will never see the light, find repentence and ask forgiveness. Perhaps for some the letter is a means to escape guilt but I think the response it will trigger will over-power.

    I grew beyond feeling the need to explain or justify; my feelings were valid and sufficient to justify my actions of NC.

    I hope your post helps some people tempted down this path.

  7. I sent a letter to my narcissistic in-laws after tolerating more than 10+ years of bad behavior. What you outlined above was exactly what happened. They flatly denied they ever did anything wrong, that I was the bad person. They lied and turned most of the family against me to the point where no one would so much as send us a Christmas card. I stood my ground and went no contact for 17 years. Only after my narcissistic FIL passed away last year did I reestablish contact with any of the family. Now they all act like nothing ever happened. No apologies were given and none were received. I still don't trust my MIL as far as I can throw her, but am trying to give her a chance. At the beginning of any nasty behavior I am prepared to go no contact again. I am being polite, but I am done done done with being a doormat. Sign me "Older but Wiser"

  8. Even though NM's family knows what she's done to me, they still side with her. This reminds me of the time NM had her first (out of three) heart attacks. I was at the hospital with one of my Aunts, and she was furious with me because I wouldn't tell NM that I loved her. I told my Aunt that I wasn't going to say something that wasn't true, no matter what the circumstances were.

  9. My N in-laws (and my N husband) began emotionally abusing me 20+ years ago. Last year, my husband crossed a line by betraying not just me but also our two oldest sons. I asked him to move out so the kids and I could have some peace and he could consider his actions and sorry attitudes. When FIL found out that my husband was sleeping in a van in our driveway (his choice!), FIL advised my husband to get a lawyer, know his rights, and cover his own tail. . . FIL never asked how our children were doing or admonished my husband to make amends and do the right thing.

    It was at this point, I clearly realized two things: (1) FIL didn't care about our children's welfare and (2) FIL wanted my husband to divorce me. My husband, yes a narcissist himself, has some deeply rooted issues related to his childhood experiences. So when Gramps decided to encourage my husband to walk out on our marriage (despite husband being the perpetrator of the harm) and hurt our children, I decided Granny and Gramps Narcissist could just get out of my life.

    I wrote them two separate "honest" and "heartfelt" letters. . . one for Granny and the other for Gramps. Granny, in particular, had been very cruel to me. I won't go into the details of those offenses, but yeah, I did list them out. I listed them out in a very forceful, all-knowing sort of tone that hopefully let her know that I saw myself as her equal (even though I'd just been a young woman, age 20, when all this began). I used a similar tone with Gramps. I turned their condescending tone back on them.

    I was at a point that if these people wanted to smear me to others and their flying monkeys, I didn't care. I'd already lost enough of my dignity to these bullies. These people had underestimated me, and they needed to find this out and be baffled.

    I only sent my letters when I felt convicted that they were never going to express remorse. They can't, I get it. . . it would destroy them if they had to. Their self-esteem and confidence is built on shaky foundations and values. They believe their good works will save them. They believe their accomplishments will save them. They believe they have proven themselves to be worthy and more important than others. My values are different. . .

    I told them I was dead to them. And I mean it. I don't care about losing any inheritance. I only wanted freedom and safety for my family, especially for my kids.

    They will continue to pretend their lives are better than anyone else's. They will try to continue making us feel like we're missing out. I'm not an envious person, and I think that always foiled them in their attempts to build up themselves and their "important" friends/family.

    There's nothing they can possibly do to make me wish I was part of that circus anymore. I'm done with that. Frankly, I enjoy basking in the warmth of that charred bridge. I wish this all had never happened, but when the circumstances piled up, I handled it the best I could. I sometimes chuckle over the letters I feel better and like I'm regaining control over my life. No regrets.

    (They are still in contact with husband with their brag letters. It's one-way communication. And they send bad gifts to our kids.)


  10. This post is very timely. I will try to make this as brief as possible. My husband is the scapegoat in a N family where the recently deceased mother was the chief N, the father assisted, and the siblings were the golden child & flying monkeys. Now that the parents are deceased, one of the siblings has taken over the mother's role of sending condolences to family members after a loss on behalf of the whole family including the parents who are no longer living. It is weird!

    All the children are now in their 60's and 70's. Over 30 years ago we started sending our own expressions of sympathy and have continued to do so. Well, today my husband got a letter from his sister stating that she had sent things after 2 recent funerals "from the family" and hoped he approved.

    We both want to send a letter detailing our reasons for not participating and not wanting to be asked about this again, but your post makes me think that anything he or I would write would be further ammunition and would not be worth it. It's hard not to respond, but I think it sound like the right thing to not do.

    1. I think it is probably the right thing to do as it will only cause more drama and stress. However, I would just go on and send my own condolences.

  11. My husband is the scapegoat for his N mother. We bent over backwards for years to try to make her happy. Before I saw how toxic she was, I actually encouraged Justin to be "nice" to his mom. She "loved" me for it. Eventually, I saw the truth and I feel horrible for the years that I tried to encourage him to have a relationship with his mother. My mom is wonderful, I share everything with my mom, so I couldn't imagine the abuse my MIL was capable of until I experienced it for myself.

    The was a recent "straw that broke the camel's back" and we are trying to figure out what to do. I want to go no contact, block her completely from our lives. After seeing the truth of what she's done to my husband, I want to run as fast as I can away. Justin is having trouble with it. As it is his family, I don't want to make any decisions for him. I will support him in any decision he makes.

    That being said, I'm encouraging him to do some research before deciding how to proceed. I may show him this post and your "no contact letter" post. Maybe it'll help him. I hope. Prayers and happy thoughts are much appreciated.

    1. Yes Ive been in the same situation with my husband. His parents (as punishment to us) went NC with us when we confronted them over an incident we also refer to as the last straw. It was the best thing that ever happened because as much as my husband disliked his parents he wouldn't make the decision himself and I certainly wasn't going to. In fact like you I tried to hold on to the relationship over the years. The other day we actually collated all the letters/emails between us over the years and my husband became angry at me for constantly apologising to them and trying to mend things. There is no way that he would ever enter into a relationship with them again. However, he has lost a relationship with his siblings who rely on them heavily.

  12. There is really no point in telling the NM the harm she has caused. She will justify everything.

    My older sister, who struggled through life because of our upbringing, would always try to be an oracle of the truth about my mother. I tried to be sympathetic to my sister. I agreed with her, but she would engage in many of the abuses she learned from my mother to me. I couldn't be around her.

    You see, until I came along my NM had scapegoated her other children. It's what my family called "the pecking order." (As if being older than someone else gave a person the right to abuse!) My brother and sisters would scapegoat me as well to deflect from getting the abuse themselves.

    Anyway, my older sister couldn't make it on her own because she was taught to be critical of everyone and she would get mad at work because people couldn't read her mind, exploding out of nowhere, like my mother would do to us. She was fired from many jobs. She had to unfortunately move back in with her abuser because she couldn't support herself. It wasn't a happy situation because my sister felt so much anger towards my mother. I told my mother that they should go to family therapy but my mother wasn't interested in that. She would say to me "I know what the therapist will say...blame your mother... I don't want to take all the blame. I was a good mother." Eventually, my NM found an excuse not to care for my sister when my sister's dog bit another neighbor's dog. Oh the horror! My NM couldn't face the neighbor! She kicked my sister out. She made her homeless. She said, "I really think your sister is bi-polar." I told my mother that she should have gotten therapy with my sister (and with all of us for that matter.) I told my NM that she was not qualified to diagnose someone and one thing that is in a dog's nature is to bite. I told her that she needed to have faith in the forgiveness of her neighbor. Well, she was having none of that. She doesn't understand the concept of forgiveness.

    I didn't go about things the way my sister did. I didn't demand that my mother acknowledge and atone for her abuse. I would have been content enough for her to acknowledge it to herself and to discontinue the abuse. That will never happen. I know my NM won't change. I wonder if she is so brainwashed in her thinking, that she doesn't have the capacity to change. She had a NM herself -- but in this case I think the student outstripped the master. The perpetuity of dysfunction stops with me.

    I myself no longer have any contact with my NM and her flying monkeys, as you call them. (I prefer to call them minions.) A recent event glaringly exposed my mother's abuse to me to the family, though no one has acknowledged the fact to me. My younger brother still contacts me (for her) and we are cordial, but I don't trust him because he doesn't acknowledge the issues. I feel it's just reconnaissance or him going through the motions to make her happy. I think, like the rest of her children, he is afraid of her wrath and afraid of being ostracized. And brainwashed as well. You live in the parallel universe. You think this is how the rest of the world lives. Anyway, he doesn't rock the boat. And he's a psychologist. Maybe it's harder to see things when it's your own family.

    No one chooses not to have a family. I think that was why it took so long for me to severe ties even though I took some seriously emotional beatings. It got to the point that I couldn't respect myself if I didn't go off on my own. These people may look like me, but they are not MY FAMIlY.

  13. Why oh why hadn't I found you and your blog a year ago before I sent my N a letter?

  14. Great article. I'm a way on with my NM free life, thankfully, and my two older sisters and now our dad have recently begun their journey of NC. I'm so proud of our little family and how far we've come, and how quickly. Sadly, I see a repeat (albeit much less physical violence) with my partner's 17 year old daughter and her NM, my partner's ex wife, hence the anonymity of this comment. I feel trying to tell her what I think her mother is may damage our relationship, and more importantly, hurt her and add to her confusion. Plus, I'm not a professional with authority to diagnose, of course. So far I think I'm doing OK with advice and support and giving her coping mechanisms and strategies, but if anyone's got any experience/advice of this kind of situation, I'd be really grateful for the share �� love and happiness x

  15. I chose to go NC without notice. The first time my NM treated my daughter the way she had always treated me was the last time we visited her. She has begged for me to bring my daughter back both directly to me and through family members. I refuse to give her approval to verbally abuse my child. It has been the best decision I've ever made. Now if I could only get rid of NexH, my daughter and I would have it made.

  16. I wrote my version of a NC letter about two weeks ago, and it's been received with more of the silent treatment I'd already been getting. My GC brother had already rallied his adult children to do the same, and there's been the Facebook shunning and other slights going on for some time. Not something I can fix. And I know that.
    But being who I am, I thought I'm going to be as ethical as I can and lay it all out for him. That allows me to walk away and feel clean.
    LC was not working for me because I'd have something like aftershocks for days or weeks. That confused, grieving state of mind would descend on me like a wet blanket. It just isn't fair to me or to my own husband and family to wait for it to lift and be myself again.
    I think my brother knows the score now, that I'm no longer a utility for him to use and abuse. No value. No interest.
    Best of all, not my responsibility. I am free.

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  18. Good for you! However, as good as it is to "lay it all out", I can tell you from experience that what they hit back with can be very frustrating. Usually remarks like "what planet are you on", "now I know who causes all the shit in the family", "you're crazy". So as long as your prepared for them to take absolutely no ownership for their actions, blame and slander you, and if you can ignore that, and walk away feeling better about getting it all off your chest then Id say go for it. However, do not reply to their insults because they will only hit back with more. Good luck.

  19. I did get a reply from my brother, after about three weeks. He takes no responsibility, tells me it's up to me to repair my relationship with his family, and says it's all in the past. He'd like to move forward on his terms, which are dismissive of my pain and hardship. It's a long story, but I was primary caretaker for our NM who died after about two years of severe illnesses. He did virtually nothing to assist me, aside from a few hospital visits interrupted by trips to a nearby bar. When his oldest daughter challenged my responsibilities he said he would help me mediate the situation, but put it off. That's the gist of the betrayal. It was messy, bewildering and caused a rift that apparently has no resolution.
    It should be easy to write them all of and get on with my own family, which are all healthy relationships, but this haunts me and I know I need to let go of it. There is nothing of value there, and like I said above, any kind of contact with my brother makes me feel that confused and grieving state.
    Now I wait for it to pass and hope I've learned to leave it alone now.
    These N people we love because they are related to us would not be chosen as friends if they were not related to us. There is nothing to build a friendship on.
    I ramble a bit here. Sorry. That's my state of mind today, but I know it will pass in a week or so.

  20. Dont apologies, I certainly understand your state of mind. I had a very similar experience. My dad was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 58. He declined rapidly and (because Im a nurse) I cared for him. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. My brother didn't help at all however, in his defence he lived in another state. A week before he died I was exhausted physically and emotionally. I called my brother to let him know that he should come and see dad sooner rather than later. When he was on his way down, his wife called me and wanted to know why my brother had to come down to see dad when he wasn't even sick enough to be in hospital. I explained that it was dads wish to remain at home. Im a clinical nurse specialist and the type of cancer my dad had was in the field I specialised in. The professor that looked after dad was my boss, so my father had excellent treatment. A good friend of mine is also a psychiatrist and visited my dad who was severely depressed due to his poor prognosis. He started him on medication and within days my fathers mood changed. He was peaceful and happy. Sorry, now Im rambling a bit, but I guess what Im saying is that my dad got excellent care. However my brothers wife told me during her phone call (a week before my dad died and I was so depleted) that I shouldn't be looking after him and leaving it to the palliative care "professionals". I lost it. Not once did she ever call to see if I needed a break or if I needed someone to look after my 3 small children while I had a sleep or a good cry in private. Not once. So yes I lost it and told her in no uncertain terms to mind her own business. She called my brother and told her what I had said to her. A few days later dad died. They have never forgiven me but I apologised to them and to this day never received an apology back. That was nearly 10 years ago and I have only really just moved on. The last time I saw my sister in law (only last year) she was a tired looking bitter women. I have a lovely relationship with their daughters and one of them has decided to become a nurse. So what goes around comes around. Thanks for sharing your story and please know that Karma takes care of things in the end. You are so correct in that these people are not people we would normally choose to be around. xo


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