Bernadette McGinley Stabler, a widow of Joe and mother of four sons and two daughters. Bernie always felt different- she was eccentric and never saw a Doctor. Her mother called her 'fibbertigibbet". She has been accused of being implusive, irresponsible, flightly, among other things. Bernie had Bipolar disorder by was undiagnosed. Joe tried to commit Bernie after they had a fight and his gun (that she was holding) went off. The hospital tied her down and forced pills down her throat- Bernie felt like an empty shell like her soul was scooped out by someone. She would rather be dead. One time Bernie hitchhiked to Santa Fe to meet Georgia O'Keefe because she was a genius and then cops picked her up on the side of BQE while she was wearing a slip as a cocktail dress. Whenever Joe would "crush" her fantasies, Bernie would go to bed for 3 days.
During the 27 years of Joe being a cop during their marriage, he would suddenly pull a double shift whenever he didn't want to so something and chase after nurses. As a mother, Bernie did the best she could but Elliot wanted a convential mother; she believed that Elliot has never really needed her but he did. Bernadette was a Catholic, she had 10 Madonna and child necklaces. But after Joe died, she didn't want to spend the rest of her life on her knees with her rosary praying for her immortal soul as he sure as hell needed it. That life wasn't for her, Bernie felt she was suffocating so she told the house in Queens and moved to Long Beach Island, New Jersey where she could breathe.
The relationship between Bernadette and Elliot became estranged; whenever she would visit the city, she would see Kathy and the kids but Elliot would never be home. Elliot would be out working while Bernie believed that he was avoiding her. As of 2008, they hadn't seen each other in 3 years. In the 10 out of 12 years that Olivia and Elliot have been partners, he has never talked about his mother to her. Olivia always thought that Bernadette was dead. Elliot made sure that the subject about his mother never came up as he played it pretty close to the vest as he got it from his father. The year prior, Kathy had called Bernie to let her know that Eli was born.
It wasn't until Kathleen got into trouble with the law and was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder that Kathy called Olivia to inform her about Kathleen in jail (thanks to Elliot) and mentioned Bernie. Elliot tried to ask his mother for help to tell the Judge that she's sick like Kathleen but Bernie refused to admit she's sick. So Olivia met up with Bernie for the first time and took her to see Kathleen in prison. Kathleen agreed to get help and take medication. Bernadette was a painter, selling her paintings on the Broadwalk. She was also close to Kathy, who told her about Olivia (who scared the pants out of her).
Ellen Burstyn only signed on to appear in one episode; she has said that she would have liked to come back again. However in 2011, Chris announced he was leaving the show.