Ashley Judd is sharing how her family is dealing with their grief following the unexpected death of matriarch and country singer Naomi Judd on April 30. She said that she, sister Wynonna and their stepfather Larry Strickland, whom they call Pop, are grieving differently.
"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," Ashley said. "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.'"
She explained they don't try to control or dictate how each other should feel in the moment and that she has had "some of the most sacred and holy experiences, with Strickland.
"He, you know, my mom and pop and I are neighbors, and sister looks over the hill, and pop comes over every morning," she explained. "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 actress said their grieving processes look different depending on the mornings. She admitted that she might cry or that he might cry, or they might just talk.
"I gave him 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," she said.
The youngest Judd said that she and Wynonna were in different places with their grief, but they were still working through it together. They even recently had a sleepover.
"Sister came over yesterday and spent the day with me and spent the night, and we talked about mom, we talked about social issues," Ashley said. "She gave me a foot rub and 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."
She explained she had to let go of the idea that each person's grief is supposed to look the same and calls the notion "really egocentric."
"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," she said. "I don't need to add anything or take anything away from another person's experience."
When the sisters revealed Naomi's death the day before the Wynonna and Naomi – The Judds – were set to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, they said they "lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness."
"We are shattered," they wrote. "We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory."
The Judds performed their hit "Love Can Build a Bridge" on the CMT Music Awards earlier in April. It was their first performance on an awards show in more than 20 years.
Throughout their storied and sometimes unpredictable career, The Judds celebrated 14 No. 1 songs, and every single of theirs became a Top 10 hit on Billboard's country charts. Their hit songs include "Mama He's Crazy," "Why Not Me," "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Ole Days)," and "Have Mercy." The duo sold more than 20 million albums and is the first all-female group to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, a ceremony that went on as scheduled.
The country music community joined the Judd family at Ryman Auditorium on May 15 to honor Naomi with "NAOMI JUDD: A RIVER OF TIME CELEBRATION."
CMT televised "NAOMI JUDD: A RIVER OF TIME CELEBRATION," which emotionally began with the audience hearing from her daughters, actress Ashley Judd and Naomi's duo partner Wynonna Judd.
Ashley tearfully told the audience of her mother's harrowing background, calling her an "icon and a legend who left country music better than she found it."
"She was every woman," Ashley said. "Perhaps that's why everyone felt they knew her. She was a nurse. She was a single mom who sometimes relied on public assistance. She was traumatized by early childhood abuse, intimate partner violence and rape. She was fired by a boss for refusing to go away with him for a weekend. She was Mamaw to her grandchildren. And she was totally extraordinary."
If you're struggling and need to talk to somebody, you're not alone. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a free, confidential conversation 24/7.
For more ways to take care of your mental health and support others, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness at NAMI.org.
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