celebrity

"No matter how hard it can be, the bond between a mother and daughter is rarely fully broken."

Carrie Fisher and mother Debbie Reynolds had a complicated relationship, and for those of us who are mothers and/or daughters, we get it. The mother-daughter dynamic is naturally complex.

You start off adoring each other. In each other’s eyes, you can do no wrong. Then, as that beautiful little child whose world used to revolve around you enters her teenage years and attempts to form her own identity, she’ll inevitably take a step away from you.

Sometimes that step is more of a tip-toe, a gentle side-step aimed at gaining the space to do her own thing without hurting your feelings, like what I did with my mum. The other extreme is the stomping of feet as your daughter removes you from her life, sometimes for no reason except that she just wants to “find herself”. Don’t worry, once they snap out of that teenage funk they’ll drift back and then, like Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and myself and my beautiful mum, you’ll become best friends and will be inseparable until the day you die.

Carrie Fisher and mum Debbie Reynolds sing together on Oprah in 2011.

Video via OWN

For Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, their relationship was always going to be more complicated than most, owing to Reynolds’ fame and then Fisher’s entry into the spotlight. While most famous for her role of Princes Leia in Star Wars, Fisher got her start in showbiz through her mother, starring alongside her in Broadway musical Irene in 1973 when she was just 17.

But even before then, family life had been rocky.

Carrie Fisher’s father, the late singer Eddie Fisher, left her mother for Reynold’s then best friend Elizabeth Taylor, divorcing when Carrie was only two. Fisher says she and brother Todd Fisher grew up not seeing their father. Her famous mother was their world. She told classic movie channel TCM, “I thought it as a kid and I still think it now. My mother Debbie Reynolds has so much talent, it’s insane. When I was little I couldn’t believe my luck. This beautiful, funny well, movie star, was my mother. I mean, walking down the street with her was like being in a parade. In public, I had to share her. She belonged to everybody.”

Still, Reynolds did her best to be a good mother, despite her fame and the constant demands and attention that came with it. She married millionaire businessman Harry Karl in 1960 and for a time stopped working on Fridays so she could take Carrie and stepdaughter Tina Karl to Girl Scout meetings. Reynolds and Karl divorced 13 years later in part due to Karl’s financial problems. She then married real estate developer Richard Hamlett from 1984 to 1996 and it was during this time that she and her daughter became estranged.

ADVERTISEMENT
carrie fisher cause of death
Debbie Reynolds with husband Eddie Fisher and their two children, Carrie and Todd. Source: Getty.

Her father eventually got back in touch and Carrie says she and brother Todd developed a "warm" relationship with stepmother Elizabeth Taylor, before she dumped their dad for Richard Burton. Fisher married for a third time, giving Carrie and Todd two half-sisters from his union with Connie Stevens, Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher.

While her relationship with her father had its own challenges and wasn't always smooth sailing, it was her mother who bore the brunt of her teenage dramas.

As a child, Fisher says she became known as the family bookworm, saying she "hid in books" which contributed to her love of writing later in life in the form of biographies, novels and poetry, including biography Wishful Drinking and semi-biographical novel Postcards From the Edge ,which was made into a movie starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep. After beginning in showbiz in 1973 Fisher famously battled substance abuse for years before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She became an outspoken advocate for mental health, to which her website was devoted.

During this time, Carrie Fisher stopped talking to her mother for 10 years, refusing to have anything to do with her.

Debbie Reynolds told Oprah in 2011 about the pain she felt during that time. “It’s very hard when your child doesn’t want to talk to you but then you want to talk to them and you want to touch them, you want to hold them,” explained Debbie. “It was a total estrangement."

ADVERTISEMENT

"She didn’t talk to me for probably ten years. That was the most difficult time of all. Very painful. Very heartbreaking.”

Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher in 1972. Image via Getty

Fisher explained she took a deliberate step away from her relationship with her mother following their "volatile relationship" in her early twenties and not wanting to live in her mother's shadow. "I did not want to be Debbie Reynolds' daughter."

She felt the estrangement was necessary and in some part due to their closeness. In order to form her own identity, she had to completely separate herself. She told her mother during that Oprah episode, "This is a very powerful person and in order to have my own identity I have to forge some kind of character out of nothing. I wanted my own life. And her life was crazy at that time and I was in it. I was your confidante, and it was chaos and it was hard for all of us.”

"At least they were close at the end," my mother told me over the phone after ringing me distraught upon hearing the news one of her favourite actresses, Debbie Reynolds, had died, just a day after only daughter Carrie Fisher had passed away.

"Do you think Channel Nine will play all of her movies?," she then asked me. I suggested she tune into Foxtel's TCM.

Mum and I spoke about the pair for quite a while. Carrie Fisher was one of my favourite people for her acting, her writing and for how outspoken she was about substance abuse and mental health. In her own brilliantly honest way she made it okay to not be okay.

And through her relationship with her mother, she showed me that no matter how hard it can be sometimes, the bond between a mother and daughter is rarely fully broken.

debbie reynolds carrie fisher
With Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd in 20011. Image via Getty
ADVERTISEMENT

Carrie Fisher was married to musician Paul Simon and later had a relationship with talent agent Bryan Lourd who left her for another man. They had a daughter together, Billie Catherine Lourd, 24, who is an actress and recently starred in Scream Queens with Emma Roberts.

Lourd thanked the public for their support following the death of her mother and grandmother, writing on Instagram, "There are no words to express how much I will miss my Abadaba and my one and only Momby."

Carrie Fisher's daughter Billie took to Instagram to thank the public for their support following the death of her mother and grandmother. Image: Instagram @praisethelourd

Fisher, 60, died in hospital following a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles on 23 December, 2016. She died on 27 December and her mother Debbie Reynolds, 84, died a day after her daughter following a severe stroke suffered while preparing her daughter's funeral.

ADVERTISEMENT

So close were the mother and daughter that Carrie Fisher's half-sister Joely Fisher said she knew Reynolds would not live without her daughter. She told Good Morning America, "I sat with Debbie and she said to me that she said she was praying for more time. She kept saying that she wanted more time and I knew that if Carrie wasn't going to survive this that Debbie would not," Joely said. "You knew it. You could feel it in her tiny, little, beautiful body. You could see it in her face. She would not last without her on the planet. She wouldn't and she didn't."

Joely Fisher says she and sister Tricia-Leigh are now focused on being there for niece Billie Lourd. In a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter she wrote, "My sister Tricia Leigh and I vow to be whatever our niece Billie needs us to be. We will pick up the saber, use the force ... whatever. We will honor these two magical people who have left the tribe in the way they lived, with grandeur and grace. I want them back but since I know that is not possible, I will soldier on. I have changed my shoes and will keep dancing to honor these magic people."

Rosie and Laura dissect Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Mamamia podcast The Binge.

In life and in death, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher were and are inseparable, and while their relationship was at times rocky, dramatic and estranged, they ended with incredible love. As both mothers and daughters it gives us endless hope that no matter how hard it can be to navigate a mother-daughter relationship, it will all work out in the end.

The door is never fully closed.

A joint private funeral will now be held on 5 January, 2017 with a public memorial being considered at a later date.

"I hope they bury them together," my mum said.

I explained they only do that with mothers and infant children. "But they'll probably be next to each other," I assured her.

Some beautiful memories of Carrie Fisher and mother Debbie Reynolds ahead of their funeral this week.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and talk to someone who can help you figure out what steps to take to stay well.

00:00 / ???