‘She was in pain’: Ashley Judd opens up about mother Naomi's suicide and mental health

‘She was in pain’: Ashley Judd opens up about mother Naomi's suicide and mental health
Actress Ashley Judd (L) said about her mother, singer Naomi that she was doing the best she could (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Ashley Judd's mother, Naomi Judd, 76, died by suicide on April 30, 2022, just a day before she was to be honored at the Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame. Speaking of mental illness, Ashley opened up about her mother's demise, her tribulations, and the importance of not letting mental illness go untreated.

On the 'Healing with David Kessler' podcast, she spoke of her experience with her mother and what she hopes happened to her as "she transitioned" in depth with grief expert David Kessler. The 'Double Jeopardy' actress had also given a tribute to her mother in a US Today essay.


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She said about Naomi's condition, "I look back on my childhood, and I realize I grew up with a mom who had an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. And there are different behavioral expressions, interactions, flights of fancy, and 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."

The 54-year-old explained that, unlike what she thought of before, neither did she cause her mother's mental illness nor could she control and cure it. She also wished her mother had finally attained peace and did not leave with any regrets or feeling guilty. "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. Because certainly on my end, all was forgiven long ago, all was forgiven long ago," she said.

David Kessler and Judd also shed light on the appropriate and sensitive terminology around suicide and why the phrase 'committing suicide' should be dropped permanently from our vocabulary. Judd said, "'Committed' comes from this hierarchy of punitive transgressions, and committed to an institution or an asylum. And 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."

They spoke about some happy memories of Naomi and how she put on a facade despite struggling so much. "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," Ashley added. Naomi and her daughter Wynonna were set to celebrate their induction into the Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame the day after the former died by suicide.

A couple of days later, on Mother's Day, Ashley had written how devastated they were that their mother " died just hours before her peers at the Country Music Hall of Fame could demonstrate to her how much they esteem her. She died just days before my sister, and I could show her again how much we love and honor her."

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