Will My Narcissistic Mother Ever Apologize?

Updated on January 21, 2018
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Gail is a mother, grandmother, JD and advocate in Kansas City. Nothing on this site should be considered professional advice of any kind.

Will My Narcissistic Mother Ever Apologize? by Gail Meyers
Will My Narcissistic Mother Ever Apologize? by Gail Meyers | Source


The short answer is "no." Of course that depends greatly on how far up the spectrum your mother's narcissism rises. Those with narcissism high on the spectrum, such as with narcissistic personality disorder, just do not seem to sincerely apologize, ever. That has been my personal experience, even on her deathbed. That has been the experience many of us have shared on Narcissistic Personality Disorder Mother Facebook Resource Page since its creation in 2011, and that is what the experts we have promoted generally say.

There are some things to ponder and to watch out for regarding apologies in this context. First, we need to define our terms, especially since narcissists so often redefine terms and impose double standards. Since the narcissist in this instance is your own mother, these are double standards and definitions you probably grew up with and will continue to use until it is pointed out. When it is pointed out, then we can take it out and look at it. This is a process I personally have undertaken most of my adult life, and plan to for the rest of my life. In my experience, it is just part of having grown up with narcissistic parents. To define our terms, the elements of a sincere apology are discussed. This is what a sincere apology looks like.

Secondly, after defining what a sincere apology looks like, some favorite verbal gymnastics that masquerade as apologies are discussed, including the non-apology, the lights-camera-apology apologies, and self-recriminations presented as apologies. None of these contain the elements of a sincere apology, but may be offered as apologies.

Lastly, if our narcissistic mother is not going to give us a much deserved apology, should we demand a proper apology from her? Is that not the least she could do after all of the years of pain? What about our recovery? Can't she see how much an apology might aid in the recovery process and help usher in such freeing processes as forgiveness? Can I ever forgive her if she does not ever apologize?

Elements of a Sincere Apology

Elements of a Sincere Apology
Elements of a Sincere Apology | Source

Elements of Sincere Apologies

A sincere apology includes:

  • taking responsibility,

  • expressing remorse, and

  • repenting of the offending behavior in the future.

Google defines an apology as "a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure." See the following for definitions of the keywords.

  • Regret is "a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done." My narcissistic mother never expressed any regret or remorse concerning any of the pain and destruction she caused. She certainly never repented or even claimed to repent.

  • Acknowledgement is "acceptance of the truth or existence of something." This is validating your perceptions and feelings while taking responsibility for her actions, which is the polar opposite of what my narcissistic mother did. My narcissistic mother spent her life avoiding responsibility for her abuse while invalidating every aspect of her scapegoat children's existence. She did not care about the truth, except for keeping it concealed behind the facade.

  • Offense is "something that causes a person to be hurt, angry, or upset." Rather than validate that fact and take responsibility for the offense, she will invalidate both your perceptions of what you believe was an offense, and the resulting emotions of hurt, anger or upset.

    Now we have defined what it is we are looking for in an apology, what elements a sincere apology contains. Next, we will look at some of the verbal gymnastics that may masquerade as apologies.

Elements of a Sincere Apology Quiz

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Narcissistic Mother's Non-Apologies

There may be the rare occasion a narcissistic mother puts on a performance that masquerades as an apology. I say rare because in my experience even the non-apology is not presented unless she is going to gain something from it. Of course, there is an ulterior motive when a narcissistic mother presents a non-apology.

Stand back and look at the situation. Listen carefully to what is being presented as an apology. Look at the bigger context, and you will see the possibilities. Listen for a subtle shifting of blame away from the narcissist. This is the "non-apology." She will not take any personal responsibility, express any remorse, or repent of the behavior. What she may do is give an appearance of apologizing, which she is not actually doing with the non-apology.

  • She's sorry you are so sensitive.

  • She's sorry he did that, but fails to acknowledge her part in it.

  • If she did that then she probably shouldn't have.

The Lights-Camera-Apology

Another instance is when a narcissistic mother gives the "apology" not for your benefit, but for the benefit of an audience who happens to be the narcissistic supply and flying monkeys. This is an example of an apology or non-apology with an ulterior motive. Again, she is not truly sorry, but will pretend to be if it will cost her in the eyes of her all important narcissistic supply, or somehow impress the flying monkeys. These apologies may appear sincere or even dramatic, but that is only because narcissistic mother is on stage with an audience.

Self Recrimination as Another Apology Substitute by Anna Valerious on Narcissists Suck on Blogger
Self Recrimination as Another Apology Substitute by Anna Valerious on Narcissists Suck on Blogger | Source

Self-Recrimination as Another Apology Substitute

First of all, if you have not yet read Anna Valerious on Narcissists-Suck on Blogger, you are in for a real treat. This is a fabulous blog that I have promoted for years now. She once again nails it with the observation of self-recrimination as another apology substitute.

This is the non-apology that may end with you trying to make the narcissist feel better. This was my narcissistic mother's favored response. If I tried to bring up the subject at all, she would go into a tangent about how she was the world's worst mother, on and on, way overboard.

Of course, this is your cue to begin telling her she wasn't that bad, and that's not what you meant, etc. It was an effective tactic to avoid discussing the issues like adults, or taking responsibility for her behavior or lack thereof. This one was never very convincing from my narcissistic mother.

Demanding an Apology from Narcissistic Mother

I do not believe my narcissistic mother even possessed the empathy to be remorseful about the pain she inflicted on my late brother and I. She was not sorry. On the contrary, she plotted and schemed to do what she did. She was annoyed or angry that she got caught, even more so that anyone dare imply or state she owes anyone an apology. But, she was not sorry for doing whatever she had done.

Good luck if you attempt to demand a sincere apology from a narcissist. You may get a non-apology or witness a temper tantrum. What you won't get is a sincere apology. However, she will pay you back later for daring to demand one, either directly or by slandering you behind your back.

This is exactly what our narcissistic mother did to my late scapegoat brother who insisted she respect his wife, family, and boundaries. He insisted our narcissistic mother apologize to his wife for a hateful, slanderous comment she made. They went around and around and our mother finally gave a couple of non-apologies after being unable to wiggle her way out of it. He kept calling her on her sarcastic tone and verbal gymnastics, which caused her to do everything but throw herself on the ground and start kicking her feet. She was infuriated he insisted she apologize, and she immediately stepped up her ongoing smear campaign against him.

Do Narcissistic Mothers Give Deathbed Apologies?

The question of whether your mother will ever apologize often haunts adult sons and daughters of narcissistic personality disordered mothers. I know the feeling. This can be especially true if she is terminally ill or dying. I thought my mother would apologize, acknowledge or at least present some type of resolution for the lifetime of abuse during her two years of terminal illness prior to her death. You think if you are ever going to get an apology, this will be the time.

You think surely she will at least acknowledge the lifetime of abuse and apologize when she knows she is about to meet her Maker. Surely there is some mercy or compassion in there somewhere down deep that impending death will cause to surface. Surely she will not continue in her charade until the last moments of her life slip away and she is gone. Oh, but she will, and she did. More on that in a later chapter, but for now suffice it to say letting your guard down expecting a deathbed apology from your narcissistic mother can leave you wide open for more abuse.

Recovery without Receiving an Apology

What if I never receive an apology from my narcissistic mother? It may be easier with a sincere apology, but you can still recover and even forgive your narcissistic mother without ever receiving one. So, while an apology would be nice, it is not required in order for you to recover or even to forgive your narcissistic mother. Forgiveness takes one, you. It is reconciliation that takes two.


Those high on the narcissism spectrum just do not seem to apologize, ever. When considering apologies from narcissistic mother remember to check your understand of the terms. As adult sons and daughters of narcissists, we need to sort through the erroneously redefined terms and double standards that were instilled in us as we grew up. So we defined the elements of a sincere apology so that we recognize what one looks like.

The other types of verbal gymnastics often presented as apologies do not contain the elements of a sincere apology. Watch for the non-apology with the subtle moving of responsibility away from the narcissistic mother, the lights-camera-apology apology given not for the benefit of the recipient but for the audience, and self recriminations masquerading as apologies.

Demanding an apology from a narcissist is generally not a good idea as it generally does not result in a sincere apology as requested. While an apology might help with the recovery journey and forgiveness process, it is not required. Forgiveness takes one, you. It is reconciliation that takes two. So you can still recovery and even forgive your narcissistic mother without ever receiving any apology from her at all.

There was no confession of the truth, remorse or apology for the lifetime of jealous fits, abuse, gaslighting, slander, smear campaigns, broken relationships, damaged reputation, etc., from my narcissistic personality disordered mother, even on her deathbed. There were more accusations, lies, and manipulation resulting in a mobbing by the flying monkeys as the puppet master's final carefully orchestrated earthly gesture before stepping into eternity.

Characteristics of a Narcissistic Mother


© 2017 Gail Meyers

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