Mother vs. Daughter: Kris and Gail

Smother Love?
Dr. Phil helps a mother and daugher address the heartbreak that led to their conflict.

Kris says her mother smothers her so much she feels stalked. "Dr. Phil, help me set up boundaries with my mom. She is sucking the life out of me. She calls me four or five times a day," says Kris. "I feel guilty saying I need space."

"I worry about her," explains Kris' mother Gail. After losing her other daughter Kelly in an auto accident, Gail says she is constantly fearful of losing another child and admits to driving by Kris' house at 1:30 in the morning and peeking in the windows to check in on her. "It seems like the right thing to do while I'm doing it," says Gail.

Dr. Phil asks, "By checking on her and calling her six times a day, what do you hope to accomplish? Isn't it a short-term fix? Calling, hearing her voice and knowing she's OK makes you feel OK for a few hours. But what is it fixing?"

He adds, "How is this working for you in your relationship with your daughter? Do you see that you are driving her away and creating the very thing you fear the most?"

Gail explains that she somehow feels responsible for her deceased daughter Kim's accident — even though she knows it doesn't rationally make sense. "I missed the first time. So I don't want to do it again."

"For 17 years you've felt you failed your daughter Kelly and are not going to let it happen again? How will calling Kris five times a day prevent her from getting in an accident?"

"This is not about Kris. It's about you," says Dr. Phil. "It's about your need and your hurt and not about what Kris is or is not doing."

"I don't want you to lose two daughters. You've already lost one. Forgiveness is a choice. Make the choice to forgive yourself and be here for the child that is still here. It is possible to love the person you lost, but let them go and move on. Don't make Kris pay for your guilt over Kelly."

Dr. Phil asks Kris and Gail to look at one another and encourages Kris to tell her mother what she needs from her.

"I know how much it hurts to have lost Kelly," says Kris. "It hurts me too. But I need you to stop what you're doing. I can't take it anymore."

Then Dr. Phil encourages Gail to forgive herself for her guilt over Kelly's death.

"I have to forgive myself from blame, go on with my life and let everyone else go on with theirs...and not think that I can save it all. Kelly, I will love you forever, but I have to let you go...until we meet again," says Gail.