Ashley Judd spoke out during a new interview on the “Healing with David Kessler” podcast.
Ashley Judd is offering new insight into her relationship with her late mother, Naomi Judd, who died by suicide in April at age 76. During an interview on the Healing with David Kessler, Ashley opened up about her mom's struggle with mental illness and how that affected how she and her sister, Wynonna Judd, were raised.
"I look back on my childhood and I realize I grew up with a mom who had an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness," Judd told grief expert David Kessler. "And there are different behavioral expressions, interactions, flights of fancy, choices that she made that I understand were an expression of the disease and I understand that and know that she was in pain and can today understand that she was absolutely doing the best she could, and if she could have done it differently, she would have."
Ashley went on to share that she hopes Naomi was at peace with her past before her death.
"My most ardent wish for my mother is that when she transitioned, she was hopefully able to let go of any guilt or shame that she carried for any shortcomings she may have had in her parenting of my sister and me," she explained. "Because, certainly on my end, all was forgiven long ago."
During the podcast interview, Ashley noted that she knows she "didn't cause" her mother's battle with mental illness, and also that she "couldn't control it" or "cure it."
As for how she, Wynonna and Naomi's widow, Larry Strickland, have been dealing with the loss, Ashley shared, "One of the things that I think we have done well as a family, meaning my pop, my sister, Wynonna, and me, is we have really given each other the dignity and the allowance to grieve in our individual and respective ways. And yet we've been able to completely stick together. So we can be at the same supper table and recognize, 'Oh, this one's in anger, this one's in denial, this one's in bargaining, this one's in acceptance, I'm in shock right now.'"
Ashley has channeled new routines with Strickland to get through their feelings. "We don't try to control or redirect or dictate how the other one should be feeling at any particular moment," she said. "And I have had some of the most sacred and holy experiences with my pop. He, you know, my mom and pop and I are neighbors, and sister looks over the hill, and pop comes over every morning. I take care of myself first. I wake up and I do my readings and my writing and my meditation practice and connect with my partner. And then pop comes over and I make his coffee and his breakfast and we sit and we grieve together."
The 54-year-old actress explained that their grieving "looks like different things on different mornings — he might cry, I might cry, we might just talk." Ashley said she gave Strickland a "journal one morning and now he's got his practice of writing and I mean, it's just those times are so holy and we may be in slightly different places and yet we're in community."
As for her relationship with Wynonna, Ashley said, "She's in a pretty different place than I am right now. And we don't have to be congruent in order to have compassion for each other and I think that that's a really important grace that family members can hopefully learn to give each other."
"I had to let go of this controlling notion that your [grief] needs to look like mine," she later added. "I mean, that's really egocentric, isn't it? All my feelings are valid and appropriate by virtue of being mine, and everyone else's feelings are valid and appropriate by virtue of being theirs, and I don't need to add anything or take anything away from another person's experience."
News of Naomi's death was confirmed on April 30. During an interview with Good Morning America which aired on May 12, Ashley confirmed that she had been the one to find the country music legend who died from a self-inflicted firearm wound.
"When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important to be clear and to make the distinction between our loved one and the disease," she said at the time. "It’s very real, and it lies, it’s savage."
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).