Will My Narcissistic Mother Ever Apologize?

Updated on January 1, 2019
Gail Meyers profile image

Gail is a mother, grandmother, JD and advocate in Kansas City.

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


Children of narcissistic mothers often long for the validation of an apology, but do narcissistic mothers give sincere apologies? In pursuit of the answer to this question, the narcissism spectrum is discussed first, followed by defining the elements of a sincere apology. 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-action apology, and self-recrimination apology avoidance verbal gymnastics. In conclusion, the discussions turns to the possibility of a deathbed apology, and whether forgiveness is possible if an apology is never received.

Elements of a Sincere Apology

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

The Narcissism Spectrum

While some experts claim we all have some narcissism or we would not even get out of bed and brush our teeth in the morning, others claim narcissism is not a desirable characteristic to possess. That translates into there really not being any such thing as "healthy narcissism," which is the view taken in this article.

In keeping with the habit of defining and verifying terms, narcissism is defined as: excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one's physical appearance.synonyms:vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism "his emotional development was hindered by his mother's narcissism.

The higher end of the narcissism spectrum includes but is not limited to narcissistic personality disorder, and malignant narcissist. First the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 diagnosis criteria for narcissistic personality disorder, followed by a definition of malignant narcissist.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a Cluster B Personality Disorder within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5, which is used by mental health professionals for diagnosis purposes and billing. Narcissistic personality disorder is an Axis II disorder, which are sometimes referred to as the "untreatables." These are personality disorders that are generally fixed conditions that do not change. Cluster B is called the dramatic, emotional, and erratic cluster. Cluster B personality disorders include:

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) released the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) in May of 2013. Criteria for diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder includes:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy and behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends).
  7. Lacks empathy; is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. Show arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

The traits are persistent and enduring, not just an individual going through a difficult period in their life. Additionally, the diagnosis is generally not made prior to 18 years of age because some of the traits are a normal part of development at certain ages. It is also important to note that none of the above are due to drugs, alcoholism, or brain injury. It is also not uncommon for an individual to be diagnosed with more than one personality disorder.

A licensed professional should make the diagnosis, but as a practical matter the initial priority is to protect yourself and your loved ones if there is someone in your life abusing and manipulating you. Then, at a safer distance and with the help of a qualified professional, you can concern yourself with a precise diagnosis.

Malignant Narcissist

There is some confusion online regarding the term "malignant narcissist," which appears to be an attempt to invalidate some of the older work that used that term, such Dr. M. Scott Peck and Anna Valerious. In continuing the process of verifying terms, malignant narcissist is roughly narcissistic personality disorder with antisocial personality disorder features.

What is an Apology?

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.

Elements of Sincere Apologies

A sincere apology includes:

  • taking responsibility,

  • expressing remorse, and

  • repenting of the offending behavior in the future.

    Equipped with the clarity of what to look for in a sincere apology, it is time to examine what may masquerade as an apology.

Elements of a Sincere Apology Quiz

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Narcissistic Mother's Non-Apologies

Based on my experience and survivor comments over the years, there may be the rare occasion a narcissistic mother puts on a performance that masquerades as an apology. I say rare because even the non-apology is not generally presented unless she is going to gain something from it.

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, but she is not actually issuing an 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. 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 kinds of communication can sometimes leave someone on the receiving end confused because the non-verbal communication does not match the words being spoken. However, most of us will believe non-verbal communication over the words. In other words, you know the apology is not sincere. Otherwise, the apology may appear sincere or even dramatic, but it is because narcissistic mother is on stage with an audience she's playing to.

This is also a common game that narcissists play, pretending to apology to you, especially with an audience, which is who they are really playing to. This manipulates the audience, leaves you in a position of looking as if you are nitpicking or unforgiving should you not graciously accept this performance.

Self Recrimination as Another Apology Substitute by Anna Valerious on Narcissists Suck on Blogger  Image: CCO via Pixabay
Self Recrimination as Another Apology Substitute by Anna Valerious on Narcissists Suck on Blogger Image: CCO via Pixabay | Source

Apology Avoidance

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.

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 during her two years of terminal illness prior to her death, acknowledge or at least present some type of resolution for the lifetime of abuse. . 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 this topic in a coming article, 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, frustration, and disappointment.

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.

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 apology avoidance maneuvers.

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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