Ashley Judd Opens Up About How Her Family Is Dealing with Naomi’s Death

by Alex Falls

Actress Ashley Judd recently opened up about the perspective she’s gained about mental health. Earlier this year, her famous mother Naomi Judd, known for her extensive contributions to country music, passed away by suicide.

Ashley appeared on the Healing with David Kessler podcast to talk with the grief expert about what it was like to lose her mother so tragically. She said she’s learned to understand her mother’s pain was a product of undiagnosed mental illness.

“And there are different behavioral expressions, interactions, flights of fancy. Choices that she made that I understand were an expression of the disease,” Ashley said. “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.”

One lesson Ashley has learned since the loss of her mother is not to blame herself. In her mind, she reinforces the fact that she didn’t cause her mother’s mental illness. Nor could she control or cure it. But most of all, the actress hopes her mother felt some kind of peace before her passing.

“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,” Ashley said. “Because certainly on my end, all was forgiven long ago, all was forgiven long ago.”

What Ashley Learned From the Experience

During the podcast, Ashley discusses with Kessler the language behind suicide and how the word “committed” brings a poor connotation to the conversation. They agreed referring to the act as “committing” suicide should be dropped in favor of “died” by suicide as it implies some kind of crime.

“I believe that the person who suffers from mental illness, they are trying to have some relief or escape from something that perhaps we cannot fathom or conjure or imagine for ourselves, and how fortunate are we,” Ashley said. “She managed to keep a lot going for herself. Even while I saw what was going on behind the scenes at home. And it was exceedingly torturous for her.”

Naomi took her life away the day before she and her other daughter, Wynonna Judd were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Wynonna and Ashley accepted the honor on behalf of their mother even with her suicide still fresh in their minds. Days later, Ashley honored her mother in a piece published by USA Today.

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” Ashley wrote. “I was supposed to visit her on Sunday, to give her a box of old-fashioned candy, our family tradition. We were supposed to have sweet delight in each other’s easy presence. Instead, I am unmoored. But my heart is not empty. It is replete with gratitude for what she left behind. Her nurture and tenderness, her music and memory.”