Jane Fonda Gets Candid About Her Mother’s Suicide In New Documentary: ‘You Always Think It Was Your Fault’

The actress was just 12-years-old when her mother took her own life.

Jane Fonda at a public event.
Jason Kempin / Getty Images

The actress was just 12-years-old when her mother took her own life.

She may be one of the most well-known actresses in the world, but Jane Fonda had a rough time growing up.

Recently, Fonda opened up about her mother’s suicide in her new HBO documentary titled Jane Fonda in Five Acts. The tragedy happened in 1950, when Fonda was just 12-years-old. Her mother, Frances Ford Seymour, was diagnosed as being bipolar and was in a mental institution when she slit her throat, taking her own life.

Fonda opened up to People about the incident, saying that it took her a long time to get over the feeling of guilt, feeling like it was her fault.

“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.”

At first, Fonda’s father told Jane that her mother had died of a heart attack. But later, Fonda learned the sad and tragic truth of her mother’s suicide when she was reading a magazine. After that, the actress did some research on bipolar disorder, and was better able to understand her mother’s state of mind. Eventually Fonda came to grips with the fact that it wasn’t her fault.

“When you go through that kind of research… if you can come to answers, which I was able to do, you end up being able to say, ‘It had nothing to do with me,'” she shared.

“It wasn’t that I wasn’t lovable. They had issues,” Fonda added. “And the minute you know that, you can feel tremendous empathy for them. And you can forgive.”

But, it did take a while for Fonda to heal and to come to the realization that she was not to blame. She told the magazine that when you have a parent who is unable to show up, and not capable of “reflecting you back through eyes of love,” it really has an impact on the way that you perceive yourself.

In 2005, Fonda wrote a memoir entitled My Life So Far, and dedicated it to her mother in hopes of trying to come to grips with what happened.

“When I wrote my memoir, I dedicated it to my mother because I knew that if I did… I would be forced to really try to figure her out,” she said — while also stating that she never really got to know her mother well because she was so young when she passed.

In the upcoming documentary, Fonda also talks about the relationship that she had with her father, Henry Fonda, as well as her three marriages and divorces. She also delves into the subject of why she no longer wants to date.

Jane Fonda in Five Acts premieres on HBO September 24.