Ashley Judd shared new details about her mother’s death in an emotional interview on Thursday morning (May 12). Naomi Judd, country music icon and half of mother-daughter duo The Judds with Ashley’s sister Wynonna Judd, unexpectedly passed away on April 30 following a long battle with mental illness. She was 76.
Ashley opted to begin the Good Morning America interview “by thanking everyone for their outpouring of love and condolences, and that my sister and I, we have a depth of gratitude.” She spoke for the family, in agreement with Wynonna and their stepfather they call “Pop,” explaining that the family wanted to speak “before things about the 30th of April become public without our control, whether it’s the autopsy or the exact manner of death… Otherwise, it’s obviously way too soon. And so, that’s important for us to say upfront… And I’ve thought about this so much because once I say it, it cannot be unsaid.”
The Judd sisters announced on April 30 that they “lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness.” During her interview with GMA, Ashley further revealed: “…I will share with you that she used a weapon. Mother used a firearm. So, that’s the piece of information that we are very uncomfortable sharing, but understand that we’re in a position that, you know, if we don’t say it someone else is going to.”
Ashley emotionally recalled the details of the day Naomi died. Ashley went to visit Naomi and Pop every day when she was home in Tennessee, including on April 30. “And, mom said to me, ‘will you stay with me,’ and I said, ‘of course I will.’” When Ashley stepped away to greet a friend who had arrived, she returned to find her mother. “I have both grief and trauma from discovering her,” she said. With that, she added, she hopes the public will understand the family wants to keep further details private to honor Naomi’s “dignity and her privacy.” Ashley added, of her mother and her experience with mental illness:
“My mother knew that she was seen and she was heard in her anguish… 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. It’s very real, and it is enough to… it lies, it’s savage, and my mother — our mother — couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the (Country Music) Hall of Fame by her peers. That is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her. The barrier between the regard in which they held her couldn’t penetrate into her heart, and the lie that the disease told her was so convincing. [It’s the lie that] you’re not enough, that you’re not loved, that you’re not worthy. Her brain hurt. It physically hurt, and I’m tasked with an exceedingly difficult task in disclosing the manner of the way my mother chose not to continue to live.
“I really accepted the love my mother was capable of giving me because I knew she was fragile. So, when I walked around the back of their house and came in the kitchen door and she said, ‘there’s my darlin,’’ ‘there’s my baby,’ and she lit up, I savored those moments… because I knew there would come a time when she would be gone, whether it was sooner or whether it was later. Whether it was by the disease or another cause.”
Remembering Naomi as “an unfailingly kind, sensitive woman,” Ashley concluded her interview by reading a letter from Wynonna, reading, in part: “…I thank God we have each other. I need to take some time to process, and I need this time to myself. I’m not ready yet to speak publicly about what happened. …We have each other, and I’m grateful we’re connected as we walk together through this storm. I just cant believe she’s gone…. I love you, dear sister. I’m proud of you, and I’m here whenever you need me.”
The public will have an opportunity to pay their respects to Naomi during a televised memorial service, hosted at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. CMT announced plans to work with Sandbox Entertainment and the Judd family to honor Naomi with NAOMI JUDD: A RIVER OF TIME CELEBRATION, a public memorial service beginning at 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT on Sunday, May 15.
Watch Ashley’s full Good Morning America interview here.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide or is in emotional distress, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.