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Wynonna Judd Shares Grief and Process Of Facing Holidays Without Her Mother

"I realized ... I'm now the matriarch. And I think the pressure of that alone was like, 'Oh my gosh, my mom isn't here this year."

Wynonna Judd is facing another milestone – and it isn't one she's fond of.

Over Thanksgiving, Judd had to host the first Thanksgiving dinner without her mother, Naomi. She told grief specialist/expert David Kessler that she started preparing for the dinner early and that she got up the morning of the event – which wasn't on Thanksgiving – and reminded herself to breathe.

"Of course, that (peace) lasted for all of 38 minutes, and then I went into panic," she told Kessler, who founded grief.com. "Because I realized something, and that is that I'm now the matriarch. And I think the pressure of that alone was like, 'Oh my gosh, my mom isn't here this year. And I made her favorite foods, and I did it really well.'"

Judd said she "cried and cried" on Thanksgiving Day, stayed in her pajamas and went through old scrapbooks. 

"It was painful," Judd said. "It was, 'How could you do this?' I went there."

Celebrating Thanksgiving on an alternative day felt better to her because it allowed the singer to view it as more of a typical day than a national holiday when she had to dress up and make sure her lipstick was perfect. Still, the singer said she went numb when the sun went down the night of her dinner but felt better as people started to arrive. She said the pressure to be all things to all people sent her scurrying for a breather in the bathroom. But she pulled herself together.

"I said, 'Okay, you're gonna have to stop this because this is your holiday as well,'" she said. "I think we forget that it's our experience as well as being the hostess with the mostess."

Judd explained that Naomi, who died this spring from suicide, liked for everyone to wear matching sweaters and even made sure that her guests had individual salt and pepper shakers. While Judd didn't ask her guests to coordinate clothes, her daughter-in-law helped her get the spices in order in Naomi's honor.

"So my daughter-in-love went out and bought shakers for each person at the table… and we sort of did the whole, Naomi Judd, this is what she does," Judd said. "The rest of it was my doing, but we also wanted to remain traditional enough to say, 'We're passing it forward.'"

While she managed Thanksgiving, Wynonna said she couldn't bring herself to attend her stepfather Larry Strickland's Christmas party. She said she feels selfish but found it "too painful."

"It's easier to say 'I'm working on it' to my fans than it is my family," Judd said. 

Kessler reminded Judd that no is a complete sentence and that grief doesn't need a lot of time, but it needs dedicated time.

Judd told Kessler that her mother's suicide "rocked my foundation in a way I can't describe, at times."

"Other times, I'm relieved the pain has stopped, and it's crazy because it's a roller coaster ride that I never thought I would take," she said.

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