Short answer: you grieve
When a person you love ceases to exist, you suffer a loss.
When a person you love ceases to exist in the way you once perceived him or her, you suffer the same loss. You’re left with only memories of who you thought they were.
So you grieve.
You grieve the loss of the person you thought you knew.
It’s a sad proposition when you are faced with a reality that alluded you for so many years- reality that you chose to live in, but became unsustainable.
Once that veil is removed and the true narcissist is revealed, you can’t go back. To go back requires you live in denial. To live in denial will result in misery.
There is a difference between living in denial and being blissfully unaware. (We all wish we could live in the latter sometimes). Denial provides temporary relief perhaps, but it will cause greater damage. Denial is poisonous.
It’s better to accept the loss of a perception of a person than to force yourself to believe that perception is reality.
Grieving the loss of a perception is difficult because the person is still alive. Their presence is a constant reminder of that loss. You might even wish you could change them back to who you thought they were. Maybe therapy, maybe medication. But no. They are who they are.
Your discovery of that person’s true nature is your burden. The best way to move forward is to accept the loss of who you thought that person was and accept the fact that person is a narcissist.
Only then can you begin a grieving process.
Take time for yourself. Concentrate on your self care. Protect yourself from future manipulations and gaslighting. Above all, write. Write your feelings on a personal journal. Many who read this will attest to its cathartic nature. Writing has a strong positive effect in the healing process.
So what happens when you discover a narcissist in your life?
You recognize, accept, grieve and protect yourself.