The movie icon became a detective as she attempted to piece together the ‘puzzle’ of her life as she approached her 60th year – and one piece of information she found in her mother Frances Seymour Brokaw’s health records helped her to understand why the socialite was the way she was – and why she took her own life when the actress was 12.
In a candid TV interview with Oprah Winfrey, which aired in America on Wednesday (27Oct10), Fonda explains, “(I was) interviewing people… (but) both my parents were dead – that’s why it’s good to do it early enough. Always interview your parents separately, so the scenario that they’re used to telling isn’t gonna be the same. And be sure to ask about abuse – one in three women have been sexually abused as children and no one ever talks about it.
“It affects everything about your life… because the shadow of guilt is sprinkled over the next generation, so, to understand yourself, you have to really bring it out and oftentimes that can be very healing for your mother or father to talk about it.
“My mother was dead; I found out from her medical records that she had been sexually abused and the minute I heard that, it was like, ‘Ah, that explains so much – the promiscuity, the plastic surgery, the hating her body, all of that.’ I wanted to mother her and forgive her.
“It changed my life… I knew it (her mother’s suicide) had nothing to do with me… We have this idea that it’s all our fault and my mother killed herself when I was 12. Suddenly I realised these were her issues, bless her heart.”