Ashley Judd is speaking out about mother Naomi Judd’s cause of death — to get ahead of the news.
The actress and humanitarian, who announced The Judds singer’s death due to “the disease of mental illness” on April 30, said on Thursday’s Good Morning America that Naomi died by suicide. She said she had been deputized by her family, including sister Wynonna Judd, to speak out before specifics “become public without our control.”
“I’m tasked with an exceeding difficult task in disclosing the manner of the way my mother chose not to continue to live,” Ashley told Diane Sawyer. “She used a weapon. Mother used a firearm.”
She said revealing the manner of the singing legend’s death was very uncomfortable for the family, but they “understand that we are in a position that if we don’t say it, someone else is going to.” She said the details would soon “become public without our control, whether it’s the autopsy or the exact manner of her death” and that was the only reason she was speaking out so early in her grief.
Ashley said she visited the five-time Grammy winner’s house every day when she was home in Tennessee. The day of Naomi’s death was no different. She said Naomi’s mental wellness that day was “mixed,” and generally she was “fragile.”
“Mom said to me, ‘Will you stay with me?’ I said, ‘Of course, I will.'”
A friend arrived at the home to provide comfort to Naomi, and Ashley went to greet them.
“I went upstairs to let her know the friend was there and I discovered her,” she said. “I have both grief and trauma from discovering her.”
Ashley the public is respectful of the private details beyond what she has shared.
“My mother is entitled to her dignity and her privacy,” she said. “So there are some things we would just like to retain as family. And I want to be very careful when we talk about this today that for anyone who is having those ideas of those impulses, to talk to someone, to share, to be open, to be vulnerable,” pointing to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, which can be found below.
Ashley spoke about the “Love Can Build a Bridge” singer’s long battle with mental illness.
“My mother knew that she was seen and heard in her anguish, and that she was walked home,” she said. “When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important to be clear and make the distinction between our loved one and the disease. It’s very real. It lies. It’s savage. Our mother couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the [Country Music] Hall of Fame by her peers,” scheduled for the day after her death. “That is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her … The lie that the disease told her was so convincing: That’s you’re not enough That you’re not loved. That you’re not worthy. Her brain hurt. It physically hurt.”
She called her mother “a brilliant conversationalist. She was a star. She was an underrated songwriter. And she was someone who suffered from mental illness — and had a lot of trouble getting off the sofa … She was very isolated in many ways because of the disease and yet there were a lot of people who showed up for her over the years, not just me.”
Ashley also read a letter from Wynonna, who wasn’t ready to give a TV interview. In it, Naomi’s singing partner said, “I just can’t believe she’s gone.”
A public memorial service for Naomi Judd, who was 76, will air live on CMT this weekend. The event is being called Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration and is set to air Sunday, May 15 at 6 p.m. PT / 5 p.m. CT.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.