My Family Didn't Tell Me My Mother Died—What Should I Do?

Dear Newsweek, I am 74 years old and the second-born of six siblings. My late mother was a narcissist, and while she was alive, my family had gatherings and took photographs without me—I didn't find out she had even died until the day of the funeral.

My eldest sibling also passed away recently, and although I heard about this funeral, I was unable to get there due to the distance and COVID-19. I viewed the video of the funeral and amazingly I was not mentioned...either as someone who was unable to attend, or even just another sibling.

I feel they are deliberately isolating me. For example, one of my brothers comes to my town several times a month, but never texts or calls to say they will be in town. I guess I would be considered the black sheep...

Jennette, New South Wales

My family pretend I don't exist
A stock photo of a pile of sepia-toned, vintage family photographs. Newsweek asked two experts on narcissistic personality disorder to advise a reader being "scapegoated" by her family. vgabusi/iStock/Getty Images Plus

'This Is Not Your Fault'

A narcissist assigns roles to their children. The "golden child" is molded in their image. Typically, this is the oldest child, but it depends on what the narcissist values most and whether that child has those qualities.

The "scapegoat" is a role normally assigned to the second child, or the most outspoken one. The whole family is encouraged to see this child as the "problem" and will be encouraged to dump their rage and shame on this child and to isolate them.

It would appear this is the role you have been assigned.

Being "scapegoated" as a child can cause problems in future relationships, particularly regarding attachment and a fear of abandonment. If you've managed to overcome these issues, and to live a fulfilling life without a supportive family, then you should be proud that they have overcome such challenges.

If you're continuing to struggle, I'd advise seeking professional counseling from someone with a background in narcissistic personality disorder. Many counselors don't understand narcissism and can do more harm than good, so you should seek a specialist in this area.

No one can control how other people behave, you can only control your own response to that behavior. You have clearly tried to repair the relationship over the years, but it has failed, no doubt causing you considerable pain.

You have to accept that it is not within your power to change things. Instead, focus on your own life and on healing from the trauma caused by your family. Know that this is not your fault, and you've shown remarkable resilience in having got this far in life.

Emma Davey is a certified counselor and narcissistic abuse recovery specialist based in the U.K.

'Take Care of Yourself'

I imagine this has been a very painful and confusing time for you. It sounds like you may be on the receiving end of two common tactics narcissists use called "The Silent Treatment" and "The Smear Campaign."

Narcissistic parents don't like it when we try to be our own person or have our own minds and they will try to regain control of us quickly. They use the silent treatment because they know it will naturally make us feel desperate to restore the relationship, begging them to talk to us again and even apologizing when we haven't done anything wrong.

You may be surprised to know that the silent treatment is actually a form of emotional and psychological abuse and that is why it is so painful, while the smear campaign is used to make us look like the bad guy so everyone takes the narcissist's side.

The victim of a smear campaign will usually find themselves isolated and ostracized by family, and this may be why your siblings have turned against you.

I know it's hard. You could consider reaching out to your siblings and a therapist could help you to navigate that. Ultimately, I advise spending time with people that treat you well, try to build a good support network (if you haven't already done so), and take care of yourself.

Mel Crowe is a certified counselor and narcissistic parent recovery expert based in the U.K.


Newsweek's "What Should I Do?" gathers experts to advise a reader on an issue they're having in their personal life. If you have a WSID dilemma, let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice and your story could be featured on Newsweek.