Why do I feel so guilty?


For my daughter’s 21st birthday she was informed a trust fund was being set up in her name by her grandfather (my father) but she would not be able to access it until she showed more maturity and interest in attending college. My daughter, feeling it was unfair that her brother got to access his right away (because he has made better choices and had “proven” himself) found a way to access the money anyway. Apparently there was some loophole she found out about (I have no idea how) where she could override the stipulations put on the fund. It wasn’t illegal what she did, but was probably unethical.

While I understood her feeling like she was being treated unfairly, at the same time I understood my father’s concerns and agreed with him she wasn’t mature enough to handle such a large sum of cash and it would have been better to wait until she was older.

We were right. She wasn’t ready to handle it. Within less than two months, almost all the money was gone and she can’t even really say what happened to it. My father’s wife (my “evil stepmother”) is impossible to deal with–cold, condescending and intimidating (although she does take good care of my dad). She is a narcissist who scares both me and my children to the point we are all hesitant to call my father. She acts as a kind of gatekeeper and talking to him means going through her first, so none of us ever call him, although we’d like to. She also intercepts any mail or email that is sent to him. Nothing gets to him unless it goes through her first.

Anyway, after Molly accessed the funds, my stepmother was so livid that she wrote me a letter letting me know she would never speak to my daughter again. I think her rage was not only due to my daughter’s dishonesty (anger which I can understand), but also because, as a narcissist, she hated knowing she’d been “outsmarted” by an upstart kid. My stepmother has always taken great pride in thinking she knows more than everyone else.

It’s incredibly sad that this malignant, heartless woman has managed to separate me and my children from my father (and their grandfather) through her intimidating, condescending words of judgment and disapproval. But that’s what narcissists do–they divide and conquer. Unfortunately this sort of thing is nothing new in my family: my entire family is splintered and fractured like a broken platter, with factions of relatives not speaking to or intensely disliking other relatives due to the rampant narcissism that runs like a cancer throughout the bloodline.

A few of us, such as my son, yearn for unity and healing in the family. My son, very touchingly, recently expressed to me his wish to initiate a huge family reunion one day when he can afford to do that. I didn’t want to tell him this would probably never work, since even if everyone attended (which everyone would not), the drama would be as thick as tar. He is so naive sometimes! But he has also made contact with some distant cousins that even I barely know through social media and is now good Facebook friends with one of them. I commend and admire him for this.

This morning I received an email from my father, which I’ll paraphrase. First of all he thanked me for my Thanksgiving wishes (I didn’t dare call him because I’d have to deal with his wife, so I just sent him an email). Next, he told me I would be receiving a check in the mail soon (I have no idea for how much). That made me wonder if he is about to pass on (no one in the family informs me of such things). After all, he is in his 80s and suffers from worsening Parkinson’s disease and is almost completely physically disabled. He also has had heart issues. His wife is his full time caretaker and narcissist or not, he would be in a nursing home without her. Although his mind appears to be intact, he sometimes has trouble translating his thoughts into coherent words, and he physically he is completely dependent on her.

Frankly, I was gobsmacked I would be getting anything at all. Although I believe he does love me in his own way, I was under the impression I was being totally cut out of any will (due mostly to his wife’s influence and her ability to turn others against me, the same way my real mother does).

But the next part of his email made me feel like I’d been punched in the stomach. In it, he said my daughter (his granddaughter) is a slimey, sneaky liar and will never change. He said his wife wants nothing to do with her (which I already knew but makes me wonder if he feels the same). While I already knew how my stepmother felt about my daughter, seeing the child I love described this way hurt me A LOT. I can understand their anger toward her, (and I myself have often wondered if she is a narcissist herself but I don’t think so) but seeing these words in print was not only horrible but also, inexplicably, made me feel overcome with guilt and shame. Sure, I wasn’t a perfect parent (and sometimes a pretty lousy one), but I tried my best. Her father is an MN and I believe he really did a number on her mentally. But I still feel guilty as if her behavior is MY FAULT. I feel a shame so deep I didn’t even answer his email — I simply didn’t know what to say.

Since my divorce, I’ve been in terrible financial straits. I work extremely hard and hate living like this, but due to my Aspergers, PTSD, and pervasive self esteem issues that keep me from being able to “pull myself up by my bootstraps,” I constantly struggle to just keep the bills paid, never mind having any disposable income to do the sorts of things that normal, middle class people do. So the news I will be receiving money that might relieve some of these problems should make me happy. *

But it doesn’t. It’s not because I don’t think I “deserve” an inheritance or gift, but because of how ashamed these two make me feel as a human being: ashamed for having a daughter who has “wronged” them and keeps getting in trouble and never seems to learn from her mistakes (although I think that is changing), as well as for other mistakes I have made that were unacceptable to them (such as allowing my MN ex-husband to move back in with me for 7 years, until I finally gained the courage to kick the malignant jackass to the curb last year). They are extremely judgmental people and judge me and my daughter harshly for our poor choices, but I have not gotten much credit for anything I’ve ever done right.

It’s very complicated and I can’t even talk about my feelings in a coherent way. I feel like I’m in some kind of emotional labyrinth I can never escape. It’s all so confusing. I feel so guilty right now and I don’t even know why. I long to call or write my father and ask him about his health (because I do love him and care very much) but am terrified of my stepmother’s interception and harsh judgment and how profoundly he’s been influenced by her. He may pass away soon, but I’m afraid I might not even be informed when that happens. Somehow, I feel like I’ve been bought off…maybe I am wrong. I can only hope.

But on the bright side, at least I can reassure myself that feeling this much guilt and shame means I have a conscience and am not a narc. Because sometimes I think I inherited the family disorder too.


I really need to stop caring so much what my FOO thinks of me. It really doesn’t matter, does it? I just need to approve of myself.

* This really didn’t belong in this article because of its focus, but I want to use the money (or some of it) to take classes in web design, CSS, SEO and how to blog professionally. I would love to be able to quit my day job to be able to write full time.

Followup: The email I wrote back to my father.

14 thoughts on “Why do I feel so guilty?

  1. I discovered that if you live your life to please others, ultimately what happens is you are miserable and everyone else is unhappy too.

    Live for yourself. As long as you can look yourself in the mirror, then live to be happy about yourself and the decisions you make in life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Intellectually I know I only have to make myself happy. But after a lifetime of being judged, gaslighted, triangulated against, condescended to, and made to feel like the scum of the earth by those who were suppose to be supportive and loving, it’s so hard to reconcile logic with all these toxic emotions. I’m working on it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This blog has been a great start to changing, and is my primary source of therapy. It’s such a relief to get these toxic emotions out on “paper,” and find I am not alone and there is much healing to be had just through blogging and reading blogs by others in the ACON community.


  2. Is there any chance that it was actually your stepmother that wrote the email, and she threw the part about herself in to conceal that she wrote it? Does it seem out of character for your father to say? I am learning to remove myself from my family members who has narcissistic personalities. But how do I approach the people who allow themselves to be continually controlled by the narcissist? It is certainly tricky ground to navigate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve considered that couldbe the case, but am not sure. She has been with my father for 30 years now and their minds have kind of melded–so that his views pretty much just parrot hers. I can’t tell which is her head and which is his, because he seems to be so much in thrall to her (he is a narc too, but not malignant and really serves more as narcissistic supply to her. He does have the ability to love and feel compassion. But he’s a terrible enabler and has no mind of his own anymore. It’s really sad. Of course, his being physically dependent on her makes it pretty much impossible for him to be anything but in thrall to her.


  3. You tried tough love and that sounds like it was the right thing to do. Sometimes however people have to learn from their own mistakes and I am certain a day will come when she regrets having wasted away an opportunity that could have changed her future x

    I understand that you may not have much spare time but I wonder if you would spare a moment to read my most recent post about my cyber week. It is irrelevant to this post but I would appreciate your views as you are obviously far more educated on the subject discussed. I understand if you are too busy

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The stepmother sees you all as competition for your father’s money. Hate to be this blunt, but narcissists serve themselves. Your daughter made mistakes too of course but his wife is going to town to make sure that money is hers, and that his generosity won’t be focused on your daughter. People like this are very judgmental of those of lesser means.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you. I think you hit the nail on the head. After tonight’s conversation with him though, I don’t think he’s completely lost his ability to think for himself though. 🙂


  5. Your post made me cry, I see the parallels in yours and my life.

    I also suffer the same pain of judgement from my family regarding my son. It hurts so deeply. For whatever reason (narcissism??) they (the family) don’t get it.

    I am still on intermittent contact with my family. I usually talk to my brother and his wife on the major holidays. They called on Friday but I could not talk because I was working. It is now Monday and I still have not called back.

    My mother too, I still have not called her yet either. I still talk to her because of her advanced age of 95. She has calmed down on her judgement or at least she keeps it to herself. She knows better and she no longer has anyone around. All of her friends have died or moved in with their family. My mother would never live with me because I do not have adequate accommodations that are up to her standards. ( lucky me?)

    It takes a lot of strength to talk to these people, but I think you are right to just be honest and talk from your heart.

    I feel life is very complicated and not all black and white (good and evil).

    I see it as one big mass of grey area in varying shades of dark and light grey. It is up to us to figure out how close the grey is to the black color or to the white color.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you, Family relationships can be so complicated, and sometimes blood doesn’t run thicker than water. Just because people are your family doesn’t mean they are your friends or you will feel comfortable around them.

      My mother is like yours. I don’t talk to her, but she would never live with me because of my “low rent” living situation which would be offensive to her upper middle class pretensions.


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