Wynonna Judd Honors Mom Naomi With CMT Awards Performance, Details Grieving Process (Exclusive)

The late country star died by suicide last year.

Wynonna Judd told ET on Sunday that her return to the CMT Music Awards is "bittersweet," adding that she would use this weekend's award ceremony as an opportunity to help others struggling with their mental health. 

During her performance of "I Want To Know What Love Is" with Ashley McBryde, Wynonna pointed to the sky and said, "Mama, you need to be here."

Wynonna and her late mother, Naomi Judddelivered their first TV performance in two decades at last year's CMTs. The performance turned out to be the duo's final one together; Naomi died by suicide weeks later. 

"I'm going to use my time to talk to anyone out there who is struggling," Wynonna told ET's Cassie DiLaura of her appearance at Sunday's awards. "It's an opportunity to help somebody." 

"It's a bittersweet time," Wynonna continued, adding that her granddaughter will turn one later this month. "I've got both agony and ecstasy happening." 

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for CMT

Wynonna dressed to the nines for the red carpet occasion, wearing a velvet tuxedo embellished with green gemstones. She accesorized with two Streets Ahead belts to complete the look, and stopped to pose with many of her fellow music stars before heading into the ceremony.

The CMT awards marks a year since Naomi's passing, with Wynonna telling ET following her emotional performance that this kind of anniversary is not a unique one.

"It's an anniversary and we all have anniversaries. I'm not terminally unique," Wynonna said. "We all have something that we look at and go what the hell? What's going on? I don't understand and that was my 'I don't understand.'"

She continued, explaining the decision to give a special shout-out to her late mother, "I went back and forth between hitting a really high note and being a diva or saying what was on my heart, and it took over, so here we are."

Wynonna also touched again on the importance of mental health, adding, "I want to help people. It's like. look at my face. Look at this face, if you're having a crappy day, and just think, 'If I can do it so can you,' because it's not easy."

ET last chatted with Wynonna and her mother ahead of the 2022 ceremony, and Naomi spoke about why the time was right for her and Wynonna to perform together again.

"Technology has helped destroy our families and our culture, the bullying things, what’s going on in school with COVID, people losing jobs because they're downsized, there's so many problems, and country music somehow, almost in your deepest core, in your soul, still talks about family," Naomi said. "If we can get along anybody can."

At this year's ceremony, The Judds are nominated for CMT Performance of the Year for the resulting performance of "Love Can Build a Bridge." 

"We're honoring the past...and looking to the future," Wynonna said on Sunday of her upcoming performance. She is now back in the studio working on new music that she describes as "part of the grieving process." 

"It's part of the shedding of the guilt and the shame, and it's also hope," she added. "So it's all happening at once." 

Naomi died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in her Tennessee home on April 30. She was 76 years old.

During a sit down with CBS Sunday Morning that aired in September, Wynonna shared that she still felt anger following the loss of her mother. Wynonna said that her anger stemmed from not being able to help her mother before she took her own life.  

"I did not know that she was at the place she was at when she ended it," she said.  

Wynonna said that although her mother is gone, she still felt her presence.  

"I feel her nudging me and sometimes," she said. "I laugh and sometimes I say 'I really miss you, why aren't you here so we can argue?'"

The 2023 CMT Music Awards airs live on CBS and is streaming on Paramount+. For more coverage of the big event, including all of the night's winners, keep checking back with ETonline.