In the wake of a narcissistic abuse cycle, what does a survivor do? How can they make sense of the indescribable pain that the narcissist has subjected them to? The narcissist has consumed months, years, or even decades of the victim’s life. Oftentimes the trauma the narcissist has caused follows the victim into their next relationships. How can a survivor of a narcissistic boss, parent, intimate partner, friendship, or even a sibling, control their traumatic experiences before it controls them? Can you get closure from a narcissist?

“I was so confused and hurt. I couldn’t understand why my mom did what she did, even after having narcissism explained to me by not one but two therapists. I spent years of my life blaming myself for almost everything. I wanted her to give me an explanation, I needed her to tell me why she did this to me. Sadly, it’s something I never got, no matter how many times I confronted her. To her, nothing had ever happened, and I was being dramatic.” Annabelle

As we mentioned in the past two articles of this series, letting go of the wish for things to be different is one of the most important things a victim or survivor of narcissistic abuse can do. Unfortunately, it also happens to be one of the hardest things to do as well. It’s a hard pill to swallow but survivors of narcissistic abuse will never get closure from the narcissist. 

Why Is the Answer to “Can You Get Closure From a Narcissist” No?

A helpful way to understand narcissism would be to define it as the projection of one’s own emotional instability onto others. While this isn’t the true definition of narcissism, it provides a better understanding of their behavioral patterns and why closure from a narcissist will never happen. 

Closure in a healthy relationship, whether that be between two family members, friends, or an intimate relationship, is an opportunity for the two to part on good terms. It requires both parties to take responsibility for their own actions in order to move on from one another. 

Can you get closure from a narcissist?

This cannot happen with a narcissist because they are terrified of looking within themselves. They spend their entire lives trying to hide their emotional instability in the most malicious ways possible, closure is not in their nature. 

Here are three different behavioral patterns that are almost guaranteed to accompany most narcissistic relationships. All three examples are ways a narcissist will project their insecurities, vulnerabilities, and overall emotional instability onto others. Hopefully this gives readers a better understanding why closure can’t happen in a narcissistic relationship. 

Gaslighting

Gaslighting is when a narcissist will manipulate their victim into questioning their own reality. A fantastic example of this can be found in How to Deal With Gaslighting. In this article we found out that 52 out of 67 of our participants who have survived narcissistic abuse had been convinced by their abuser that they were the actual narcissist in the relationship. This occurred almost immediately after they confronted their abuser about their narcissistic behavior. During the relationship our participants learned what narcissism was, confronted their abuser about their narcissistic behavior, and instead of accepting the indisputable evidence, their abusers convinced them that they were actually the narcissist. 

“You know what, maybe I’m the narcissist not them… I should go get some help…” 

Flying Monkeys

Flying monkeys are created to protect the narcissist from being exposed. A narcissist will typically go to mutual friends and family they share with the victim and spread lies about the victim to devalue their voice. Brie Robertson, one of our participants, had her voice muted because her abuser told her friends that she was bipolar. Therefore, every time she would speak out about the abuse, her abuser would just tell everyone she was off her medication. 

“Yeah, whatever she says don’t believe her because she’s probably off her medication… oh you didn’t know she’s bipolar?? Yeah, she’s crazy, don’t listen to her.”

Scapegoating

Scapegoating allows the narcissist to take what they hate most about themselves and project their anger onto another person. Without a scapegoat a narcissist would be forced to direct their anger at themselves. Scapegoating is crucial to the stability of a narcissist. There are many different reasons a narcissist could use a scapegoat like jealousy or insecurities so, check out Why Do Narcissists Need a Scapegoat? to learn more. 

“It’s not my fault that I got fired from my job for showing up drunk… I’m not a drunk… my dad was an alcoholic and I’m definitely not that…my kid stresses me out so much that I have to drink from time to time… so let me go take my anger out on him because it’s his fault.”

If I Can’t Get Closure From the Narcissist… Where Can I Get It?

“I don’t understand why I am so sad that the relationship ended, why do I miss him? I still remember how horrible he was to me, but I still find myself missing the way he would treat me sometimes. It’s so painful because ending the relationship is also a weight off my chest because I’m not constantly trying to lose weight, look a bit more beautiful, or trying to cook his meals exactly how he wanted. I feel lost and relieved at the same time” Annabelle 

The strategic placement of kindness that narcissists use throughout their relationships is precisely what makes this quote so relatable to many victims of narcissistic abuse. Leaving a narcissistic relationship can be so confusing for some survivors because part of them may miss the happy memories they have of the charismatic, intelligent, and charming version of their abuser. While the other half of them feels so relieved that they won’t have to be ignored, invalidated, and manipulated anymore. 

The tug-of-war between grief and relief is very normal for survivors of narcissistic relationships. The complexity of a narcissistic relationship can make grieving the relationship very confusing.

Conflict between grief and relief when searching for closure from a narcissist

“It is so hard to move on from narcissistic relationships. The cycle of anger, confusion, and missing them is exactly what almost threw me back into my abusers’ arms. I found myself wondering how I think about him so often if I made the right decision by leaving. I have found that keeping a journal of the abuse that I can remember has been most helpful for my recovery. When I begin to wonder if I’ve made a mistake by leaving the relationship, I look at this journal to remind myself of what I left.” Annabelle

When it comes to narcissism, closure has to come from within. Annabelle went on to tell us about one particular entry where she has a picture of her and her abuser on a cruise in the Caribbean. She looks incredibly happy in the photo but in her entry, she has written that a few hours before the photo was taken, her abuser had both hands around her neck because she forgot to charge his phone the night before.

She found the photo ironic because she used to use the photo to remind herself of the good times that she had with her abuser. She would do this to rationalize and justify staying in the relationship. She felt that if her therapist hadn’t asked her to keep a log of all of the abuse she experienced, she would still be trapped in the narcissistic relationship.

Don’t Lose Sight of Yourself Searching for Justice

Unfortunately, more often than not, narcissists get away with what they’ve done. After the survivor realizes that the answer to “can you get closure from a narcissist” is no, they naturally move on to wondering about justice. 

“I made my recovery phase ten times harder than it had to be by not letting go of the need for justice. He abused me for years and all he got was a slap on the wrist and new girlfriend, who happened to be my bestfriend. Not letting go of the need for justice drove me towards needing a need for revenge. Thankfully nothing crazy happened but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a possibility.” Eria

Having someone damage your mental health with absolutely zero significant repercussions can be devastating to someone. They have to watch the narcissist move on and start a new life while they are left broken, insecure, needing reassurance, less trusting, second guessing themselves, and walking around feeling that they aren’t enough. 

So, if the answer to “can you get closure from a narcissist” is no, and there is no justice… What can the survivor do? 

Recovering From a Narcissistic Relationship

We asked our 67 participants “What was the hardest part during the recovery phase of your narcissistic relationship?”

For the first time ever, we received the same generalized answer across-the-board, and that was the realization that they were living a lie. Yes, they had a tremendous amount of grief to overcome after the relationships ended and there were plenty of other hardships they had to endure but it was the The lies and self-doubt that followed, that were the hardest for them to overcome. 

Price victims pay when searching for closure from a narcissist

In intimate relationships this answer manifested in the realization that they were building a future with someone that was just using them. 

With survivors of narcissistic parents, it was the realization that they were living a lie because of what the parents made them believe about themselves.

For those with narcissistic coworkers, it was working their hardest only to be fired, demoted, overlooked, and ignored because of the narcissist manipulative tactics. 

Trying to comb through all of the lies can leave the victim in a state of rumination, which we covered in Why Can’t I Stop Thinking About My Narcissistic Ex?, which can make it very challenging for the survivor to understand how it’s possible that they could look happy in a photo or video but in reality be living a lie.

One of the most effective ways to heal from a narcissistic relationship is for the survivor to let all of their emotions out, let go of the wish for things to be different and confide in people who understand narcissism. 

It is imperative that victims do not lose themselves in the pursuit of justice or in the depths of rumination.


All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Unfilteredd’s 67 participants who have survived narcissistic relationships

Here’s What a Narcissist Does at the End of a Relationship

Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving A Relationship with a Narcissist by Ramani Durvasula

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