Ashley Judd Reveals Naomi Judd Died From a Self-Inflicted Firearm Wound
Judd died on Saturday, April 30, and her daughters, singing partner Wynonna Judd and actor Ashley Judd, turned to social media to share the heartbreaking news with fans, attributing her death to her longtime struggle with mental illness.
"Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness," the statement read. "We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory."
In a stunningly emotional interview with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America on Thursday morning (May 12), Ashley Judd said her sister, Wynonna, and Naomi's husband, Larry Strickland, had "deputized" her to speak about the manner of her mother's death in public so that it wouldn't "become public without our control," even though they felt it was too early to talk about.
“She used a weapon. My mother used a firearm,” Judd revealed in a tearful interview. “So that’s the piece of information that we are very uncomfortable sharing, but understand that we’re in a position that if we don’t say it, someone else is going to.”
Judd added that she visited her mother and her husband every day when she was in Tennessee, where Naomi, Wynonna and Ashley Judd all lived just minutes apart from one another. She says she treasured the moments that she had with her mother all the more because she knew they would eventually come to an end, either because of her mother's long struggle with mental illness or by another cause.
Ashley Judd was visiting her mother when Naomi asked her if she would stay with her, and after replying that she would, she went downstairs to let in a friend who had also come to see Naomi.
"I went upstairs to let her know that her good friend was there, and I discovered her," Judd revealed, adding, "I have both grief and trauma from discovering her.”
The Judds shot to fame beginning with the release of their debut single, "Had a Dream (For the Heart)," in 1983. Their second single, "Mama He's Crazy," gave them their first of 14 No. 1 hits, and they would go on to become one of the most successful and awarded country acts of all time.
Naomi Judd walked away from their career at the height of the Judds' success, revealing that she had contracted Hepatitis C, forcing her to retire from her music career.
Wynonna Judd continued into a successful solo career, but that was not the end for the Judds. They reunited for the Power to Change Tour in 2000, and again in 2010 for what they said would be their final tour, the Last Encore Tour.
Naomi Judd was very open in her later years about her long-term struggles with depression, especially during the period following that tour. In her 2016 memoir River of Time: My Descent Into Depression and How I Emerged With Hope, she revealed that she had been so badly impacted that she was virtually immobilized for two years and experienced suicidal depression before ultimately finding help. She was later diagnosed with treatment-resistant severe depression.
"It’s so beyond making sense but I thought, ‘Surely my family will know that I was in so much pain and I thought they would have wanted me to end that pain,’" she recounted to People.
The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday, May 1, just one day after Judd's death, and her daughters were both on hand to celebrate their mother's life and accomplishments at an unusually emotional Medallion Ceremony.
“Our mother couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by her peers,” Ashley Judd told Diane Sawyer on Thursday. “That is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her, because the barrier between the regard in which they held her couldn’t penetrate into her heart, and the lie the disease told her was so convincing.”
Judd urged anyone who might be experiencing suicidal thoughts to seek help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
The Judds had announced their Final Tour in early April; they were slated to hit the road on Sept. 30 in Grand Rapids and wrap a month later in Nashville. At a private memorial service in Nashville on Saturday (May 7), Wynonna Judd revealed that she intends to honor those dates.