Hayden Panettiere described signing away custody of her child as the “most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.” The actress sat down for a recent episode of Red Table Talk and opened up about the moment when her ex Wladimir Klitschko got full custody of their 7-year-old daughter Kaya.
“Because of the way that it was done, it was very upsetting,” she said, per PEOPLE. “I mean, it was the worst signing those papers, the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever, ever had to do in my life.”
It wasn’t what Panettiere, who struggled with an addiction to opioids and alcohol, had in mind for her future. “I was gonna go work on myself, I was gonna get better, and when I got better then things would change and she could come to me and I could have my time with her but that didn’t happen,” she explained.
Panettiere has been candid about the impact her dependence on drugs and alcohol had on her parenting abilities. “I never had the feeling that I wanted to harm my child, but I didn’t want to spend any time with her,” the actress explained in an interview with PEOPLE this year. “There was just this gray color in my life.”
In 2018, Klitschko and Kaya moved to Ukraine, Klitschko’s home country. “It was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” Panettiere said. “But I wanted to be a good mom to her — and sometimes that means letting them go.”
Panettiere went to rehab for eight months and, these days, she’s in a very different place. “It’s an everyday choice, and I’m checking in with myself all the time,” the actress noted. “But I’m just so grateful to be part of this world again, and I will never take it for granted again.”
She spends time with Kaya on a regular basis now and — in 2020 — shared a sweet photo of a custom How To Train Your Dragon cake, baked to celebrate her daughter’s sixth birthday. “6 years ago today, I met the most amazing (not so little anymore) creature,” the proud mom wrote. “Can’t believe my baby girl is getting so big!”
We can’t imagine the heartbreak that Panettiere has been going through over the past few years or the incredibly difficult steps she’s taken to get to a healthier place. It’s moving that she’s sharing her pain with the world — there must be lot of people out there who are listening and feel much less alone.