Jane Fonda has had more than her share of heartbreak and drama, but nothing can hold a candle to the trauma the actress and activist went through when her mother committed suicide.
The 80-year-old sits down with People to discuss the heartbreak of her mother taking her own life when she was 12, and the impact it has had on her, even as an adult.
"If you have a parent who is not capable of showing up, not capable of reflecting you back through eyes of love, it has a big impact on your sense of self," she tells People editor-in-chief Jess Cagle, in the latest installment of the Jess Cagle Exercise on PeopleTV.
She continues: "As a child, you always think it was your fault…because the child can’t blame the adult, because they depend on the adult for survival. It takes a long time to get over the guilt."
Her mother, Frances Ford Seymour, married Henry Fonda in 1936; together, they had Jane and Peter. Her mother took her own life at a mental institution when she was 42. Fonda didn’t realize she’d committed suicide until she read about it in a movie magazine. She’d been told her mother died of a heart attack.
"When I wrote my memoir 2005’s My Life So Far, I dedicated it to my mother because I knew that if I did…I would be forced to really try to figure her out," Fonda says. "I never knew her because she suffered from bipolarity."
She says she’s grateful for the research she did, because it enabled her to forgive herself, and her parents. "It wasn’t that I wasn’t lovable. They had issues," she adds. "And the minute you know that, you can feel tremendous empathy for them. And you can forgive."
Fonda is currently promoting the HBO documentary, Jane Fonda in Five Acts, out September 24th.