My memoir, Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival, and Transformation, can be pre-ordered. It is a #1 new release in several categories. I would love your support. My aim is to help make near-death experiences more mainstream and to bring more healing to this world.
The Love of God: One of the most shocking experiences of my near-death experience was feeling the love of God. This love of God accepted me exactly as I was—all my thoughts and feelings. I did not have to change my thoughts to please God. I did not have to worry about whether God liked the look on my face or my interpretations of the world.
God loved me infinitely just as I am. I didn’t have to change or pretend in any way. God didn’t call me names, hit me, lock me in a closet, or invalidate anything about me. God loved me without end. I felt completely supported and without a single worry, experiencing only bliss, peace, and deep understanding. God immediately forgave me for all self-harm and showed me how to love myself more deeply. God did not make me relive or see any of the abuse I had survived in life. I had never known a love like this growing up or what it felt like to be supported.
One of the most common attributes of a narcissistic father or mother is the inability to understand or care about their child’s thoughts and feelings. This parent is not able to validate their child’s feelings as real or important. Empathy is simply out of the question. If the child of a narcissist expresses displeasure with a parent, the parent will often explode with fury, threaten, storm, or rage. The parent might become violent, beating or confining her child or otherwise engaging in classic physical abuse. Once the child is strong enough to fight back, coldness and verbal abuse are usually the tactics.
My Story: Growing up, anything that I thought or felt, especially if it was different from my mother, made her angry, withholding, cold, or critical. Often, this abuse was even spiritual in nature because she used the Bible as a reason to beat me.
However, Mom allowed and encouraged reading, so that was the way I could escape my lonely life. I read at a 12th grade level by second grade, and I devoured any book I could get my hands on in the library or garage sales, often fantasizing that I might be sent away to a boarding school or that I might magically encounter a nice couple who would mentor me.
In the isolation of my home as an only child in the country, Mom painstakingly taught me to worry about her sadness, her depression, her angry feelings about my dad, her physical complaints, and her thoughts about the world and everyone in it. She coached me on who to like in her family and who not to like in her family. If I liked someone she didn’t like, she rolled her eyes. If she stopped liking one of my few friend’s mothers, then I was told that I no longer liked this close friend of mine either. She taught me to be her counselor, her best friend, and her confidant. I pretended as best that I could to survive my childhood, but honestly, at best there were only fleeting moments of fun.
No one really witnessed the full extent of my mother’s abuse. My father was rarely there, and I’m an only child. When my father’s parents stopped by unannounced, mother made us hide in the closet to avoid them. They loved me so completely as their only grandchild, and she didn’t like it when I received that kind of adoration. I remember a moment when she argued with my grandmother that I didn’t need a toy that I wanted. My grandmother looked at her and said, “I want this child to know that we love her.” The moment felt powerful to me, and I remember feeling excited at the cash register. We didn’t see them as much after that moment.
Around Mom’s family, she controlled of the narrative and talked about everything she sacrificed for me. Mom certainly worked soul-crushing, blue-collar jobs to pay for my private Christian education through seventh grade. The problem is that I would have rather had more food, decent clothes, trips to the doctor, and a public education where there were more people in my class than three or four students. I longed for more socialization.
Mom presented herself as a loving, doting mother, but in private I felt sucked dry. She wanted me to make up for all the love she felt she didn’t receive from her own mother and her husband, but this scenario seemed a setup for a dramatic failure. When did I get my needs met? I don’t doubt that she feels that she loved me, but from my perspective most of what I experienced didn’t feel like love. I feel compassion for the young, lost woman who raised me, but my biggest lesson in life has been learning how to feel great compassion for myself.
Mom rarely considered my honest needs. Sometimes, I got lucky and wanted the same things that she wanted. We both enjoyed walks in nature, fresh fruit, and dogs as pets. We both enjoyed a few of the same movies, though my tastes eventually changed and different from her always meant wrong. For a few years in childhood, I experienced the bliss of owning a horse, and that freedom to ride fast and far away from my life meant everything to me.
Since Mom was all I knew of love, I thought love meant sacrificing every one of my feelings and ideas to make someone else feel a little better in their miserable life. When her mental illness took a turn for the worse when I was in high school, I realized that she needed help; however, she refused help from the people I told about her frequent suicide threats. There were many nights when she was alone with that pistol in her drawer, and when she threw the door open suddenly I always ran out of the house to put distance between us. I didn’t know if she was going to shoot me first before she shot herself, and that level of terror changed something within me.
Though I had good grades, I didn’t realize how broken I was emotionally by the time I left for college, and I had no idea how to work on healing. By the time I had my near-death experience my senior year of college, so much inside of me felt devastated and then in a single instant—-healed.
The near-death experience granted me a huge dose of optimism, love, and connection to God and angels. Immediately, I felt whole and alive inside, despite my wounded body. During my physical recovery Mom took care of me, and we got along better than ever before. She had remarried, changed jobs, and seemed much happier. I wish I could say that the near-death experience completely healed our relationship, but I can only say that the near-death experience eventually helped heal the gaping hole inside of me. We don’t choose our family, but we can choose supportive friends.
And, no matter what happened in life, I could always remember and return to what it felt like to be loved by God. No matter who validated me or didn’t validate me, that moment in the presence of God showed me my worth. I never knew that I was worthy of even an ounce of that love and consideration.
I’m sure my mother doesn’t realize she is worthy of that level of love. Her religious beliefs are ones that validate her narcissism and deep need to feel superior to others. In her mind, only she, and a few select others, know the “truth.” The way everyone else interprets the Bible and God is incorrect. She owns the market on being right as she stockpiles food and fears the apocalypse is around the corner. She’s been fearing that since the 1980’s. I wish she felt less fear and more connection to a loving God.
I’ve seen interviews with other near-death experiencers whose parents felt blessed to hear their stories of the afterlife. My mouth dropped open in amazement at what it might have felt like to have a mother who learned something from me. There were snippets of time when Mom understood the power of that love I experienced on the other side, but ultimately she tried to convince me that I had experienced a lie—tricks from the devil. How ridiculous! Most of my life with her felt like a trick, not love.
When To Tell Your Story: Many people wait until their abusive parents die before they talk openly about their experiences. Tony Robbins waited and describes deep love and forgiveness for his abusive mother. However, several others have decided to not have contact (or minimal/harmonious contact) with abusive, narcissistic parents and speak openly to help others come to the best, safest conclusion for their lives. I am enormously grateful to the work and teachings of Lisa A. Romano who speaks openly about her experiences and helps so many people.
The sooner people begin a healing process after surviving an abusive home, the sooner they can begin to heal and have healthier relationships. Abused children sometimes don’t have children of their own out of fear, but if they start healing work soon in life they realize how different they probably would be as parents than their own parents.
During my NDE, God told me to return and to work as a teacher. Since that time, I have been a mentor and caring person in the lives of many of my students who have survived abusive homes. Abuse of many varieties is all too common in family units. Telling a snippet of my story to students who were in pain allowed them to tell me what was occurring in their lives so that I could get help for them. One of the greatest gifts of pain is the ability to point others in the direction of healing.
I know that many spiritual people want to center love and peace in all situations, no matter how toxic their family members might be. For those who can do this, I honor that ability. I tried to do this with my mother, but I recently had a defining moment when I realized that my life, my health, my well-being, and my trip to the emergency room didn’t matter as much to her as the contents of her refrigerator. She endangered my life and did not care.
When I realized how little my life mattered to my mother, I knew I had to take a break from her. I don’t know the future, and I don’t know what healing might be possible in her life. Maybe a rebirth can occur and a different type of relationship between us can manifest, but this might also be the death of our relationship. I know people with childhoods like mine who haven’t spoken to their parents in ten years. All I know right now is that I want people to pray for her. I want other people to center love and peace in her life. I want her to know the love of God that I felt in the afterlife, and I want her to know that I wish our story was a different one.
Your story might offer a different outcome with a toxic family member. There might be a way for you to calmly listen to your family member and center kindness without putting yourself in danger. Your love might transform this person over time. I hope so, but if you decide not to have contact with someone in order to heal yourself from narcissistic abuse there are many support groups online and otherwise. Choose the sanctity and healing of your own life. Life isn’t a “who is the most spiritual contest.” In fact, if someone is playing that game, that person is probably a narcissist. Love who you can authentically love. Love is not torture; rather, it is easy as breathing when it is right.