Why The Young And The Restless' Dina Mergeron Really Left Her Family

Dina Abbott Mergeron was first introduced to "The Young and the Restless" viewers in 1983 as John Abbott's (first) ex-wife. She is the mother to legacy characters, Jack Abbott, Ashley Abbott, and Traci Abbott — though she shucked that title quite early, having abandoned her three children when they were still young.

Dina has been played by actress Marla Adams since the character's inception. In addition to many other appearances on primetime TV and in film, Adams also starred in several other soaps. She was Mildred Deal in one episode of "General Hospital" in 1963, well-known villain Belle Celemens on "The Secret Storm" from 1968 to 1974, Helen Mullin on "Generations" from 1989 to 1990, Beth Logan on "The Bold and the Beautiful" from 1990 to 1991, and Claire McIntyre on "Days of Our Lives" in 1999. However, it's her role of Dina on "Y&R" that makes Adams most recognizable to contemporary viewers and which earned her a Daytime Emmy nomination in 2018 and her first win in 2021.

When Dina first arrived in Genoa City in 1983, she only remained in town until 1986. She made brief appearances in 1991, 1996, and 2008 before returning full-time in 2017. Adams returned to the show at that time to give her character closure, as Dina's goal was to reconcile with her children. The Abbott family would end up caring for her until she passed away from complications due to Alzheimer's disease in 2020 (via CheatSheet). Though her three children ultimately welcomed Dina into their lives as adults, they all struggled with feelings of rejection from being abandoned children. So why exactly had Dina made the decision to leave her family all those years ago?

Dina felt stifled by domestic life

When Dina Mergeron appeared on "The Young and the Restless," the children that she had abandoned were already grown. As actress Marla Adams told Soap Opera Digest, "When I first came on as Dina [in 1983], she had returned to her family after years of all her cavorting around Paris and her kids hated her. It was a disaster for her." After Dina had abandoned her family, her husband John Abbott had been left to raise the three children along with their housekeeper Mamie Johnson whom the kids looked up to as a mother figure (via Soap Central).

It wouldn't be until many years later that Dina's reasoning behind leaving Genoa City for Paris came to light. Dina had come from high-class society and always had aspirations of becoming a successful businesswoman, but her husband John Abbott — whom she married out of high school — preferred her to be a more traditional housewife and mother. Eventually, the small bubble of Genoa City and her domestic responsibilities became too claustrophobic for Dina and she ran away to Paris to explore a different life. By the time she returned to town in 1983, Dina had experienced the glitz and glamor of romance, wealth, and business overseas. She had been widowed by the death of her second husband, was thus the owner of the prominent Mergeron Enterprises, and was hoping to buy out the family business John had created for their kids to carry on, Jabot Cosmetics (via Soaps in Depth).

The Abbott children struggled to accept their mother back into their lives

Dina Mergeron's return to Genoa City was difficult for the Abbott children to swallow, especially since she wasn't exactly groveling for their forgiveness. In the few years she was in town, she managed to get involved with a man named Eric Garrison (Brian Matthews) who was also dating her daughter, Ashley Abbott (Eileen Davidson). It was also revealed that Ashley had actually been fathered by Brent Davis, not John Abbott. Dina tried to shoot Brent and ended up hitting her friend Kay Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper) instead (via Soaps in Depth).

After the shooting, Dina left for Paris once again. She returned in 1991 for her daughter Traci Abbott's (Beth Maitland) wedding to Brad Carlton (Don Diamont). After trying to reconcile with John, it was revealed that Dina was broke after several failed relationships with wealthy businessmen — skepticism of her intentions sent her away with her tail between her legs (via Soap Central).

In 1996, Dina came back to Genoa City once again and made an effort to reconcile with her children. At the same time, she and John also became involved again since he was on the outs with his wife Jill Foster (Jess Walton). Jack was pleased that his parents were back together, but Ashley and Traci were vehemently opposed. It didn't take long for Dina to realize that she wouldn't be fully accepted back into her family and she left for Paris a third time.

In 2008, Dina returned for her friend's funeral where she encountered her daughter Traci, who was livid with her mother for her absence in her own daughter Colleen's life — though the confrontation wasn't enough to make Dina stay and Colleen would tragically die the following year. 

Dina's Alzheimer's disease brought the Abbott family back together

In 2017, Dina returned to Genoa City for good after selling her business and it wasn't long afterward that her children discovered that she was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Jack, Ashley, and Traci agreed to care for their ailing mother, though it wasn't easy on them. There were moments when Dina was lucid and kind and explained moments of her past which helped her children understand some of her past actions, but at other times Dina was cruel and lashed out which reminded them of the trauma she had inflicted on them (via Soap Opera Digest). In one heartbreaking scene, Dina revealed that Jack was not John's son, which turned out to not be true.

In an interview with the Alzheimer's Association, "The Young and the Restless" executive producer and head writer Mal Young said, "Dina came back to Genoa City to mend the rift between her and her children, and though it was not an easy journey, Dina became a readily accepted member of the Abbott family." Dina's portrayer Marla Adams agreed with that sentiment. She told Michael Fairman TV, "[The Alzheimer's storyline] was wonderful because it showed her lifetime of sorrow and regret, and what was so wonderful was the fact that the hero of the whole thing is the kindness and respect that she really did have for her whole family."

The Abbott children continued to struggled with their relationship with their mother

Though the Abbott children did come together in their mother's final few years and proved that they loved her deeply, as did she in return, that didn't simply erase all of the past hurt between them. Mal Young told the Alzheimer's Association, "Dina has a complicated relationship with her children, and the Abbotts place a large emphasis on their family legacy and name, and to watch those ties be affected and challenged in an emotional way will help us to portray many sides to such a complicated and relevant issue."

Even as Dina was clearly dying, it was difficult for her children to compartmentalize their feelings toward the mother who had abandoned them so many times. Of Traci's relationship with her mother, actress Beth Maitland told SoapHub, "It's such a definitive thing, your relationship with your mother. I feel like there are still open wounds. Having someone say they love you is not forgiveness. I think the wounds are still there." Jack's Peter Bergman also told Michael Fairman TV, "One of the powerful parts in this whole thing is that Jack wanted to scream at Dina every bit as much as he wanted to hug her."

The Abbott children have a memento to remember their mother by

During the time that the Abbotts were caring for their sick mother, Traci Abbott began showing Dina old family videos in hopes that she might recognize something or at least find some joy in watching them (via Soap Central). During one viewing, Dina had a visceral reaction to seeing herself wearing a large emerald necklace and Traci decided to look into it. It turned out that the necklace was called The Teardrop of Love and could be dated back to the Italian Renaissance period. John Abbott had purchased the emerald for Dina on the black market back when they were first married, but it had been stolen years later.

Jack Abbott then went on a mission to find the necklace and give it back to his mother before she passed away. He was ultimately successful in tracking the jewel down, with the help of his nemesis Victor Newman, and was able to present it to Dina just before she died (via Soaps). She accepted it tearfully and in a moment of lucidity told her children that she was sorry, she would always be with them, and to not make her mistakes. After Dina's death, Jack had the Teardrop of Love broken up into smaller pieces and made into jewelry, cufflinks, and a tie tack for himself and his sisters so they would always have something to remember their mother by (via Soap Opera Spy).