Recovery from narcissist abuse is very difficult and can take years. The reality that narcissists often refuse to leave their victims alone means that the abuse is hard to escape even after the victim physically leaves. The fact that narcissists often round up flying monkeys to further abuse their targets can bring extra layers of ongoing abuse. The split from a narcissist is unlike a normal break-up. It is usually far more traumatic and dramatic. A narcissist’s target will usually be re-abused or re-victimized long after they leave the initial relationship. And…these survivors need our support to carry the emotional burden!
So, what are some ways you can help a friend or loved one who is escaping a relationship with a narcissist?
1. Listen: Listen, listen, listen…and listen some more. Many of us are so traumatized and haunted that we need to poor out dozens of stories for someone to validate reality and support us in trying to cope with what we’ve endured.
2. Be patient: Being supportive of an abuse survivor is a big job! Sometimes you might get tired of hearing about it, but on the survivor’s side, they might not be done sharing or needing someone to hear them. Take care of your needs, but please try to be patient and remember that trauma is not easy for us to process.
3. Include us: One good way for survivors to recover is to get back into life and building a new life. It’s easy for us to get depressed and stuck at home. Try to remember that, and include us in social activities with you. Sometimes, it’s wonderful therapy for us to get out and remember what was good about ourselves and our lives!
4. Honor our feelings: Anger, sadness, frustration…they are uncomfortable! But, they are also honest and real. We can’t just deny we feel them, or push them aside, nor should we. Help use put our feelings into words and process just what is going on.
5. Give us a dose of reality: In a nice way! It’s easy for us to get caught up with negative thoughts and beliefs that only perpetuate more sadness. Remind us when we are wrong and help us see that things aren’t all bad.
1. Compare: No one will react or heal the same way or on the same timeline.
2. Spy: It’s easy to wonder what the ex-abuser is doing. It’s toxic to find out. We already know how they are, so you don’t need to keep track for us. It will only keep us upset. Don’t enable us!
3. Let us wallow: It’s very easy to get stuck in a rut after abuse. Even when our heads understand everything and know it’s time to feel better, we still need to jump to the next level. Don’t push us, but do politely let us know when we are hurting our own recovery.
These are just a few ideas, and by no means everything that could help or hurt. The number one thing I can say is: surviving a narcissist is easiest when we have a really good emotional support system. Please give a shoulder and an ear to your friends who are hurting.