Ashley Judd is opening up about the new perspective she’s gained on mental health since losing her mother Naomi Judd to suicide.
In a talk with grief expert David Kessler that aired Tuesday on his Healing with David Kessler podcast, the Berlin Station actress, 54, said she has learned to understand that her mother’s pain was a product of her disease.
“I look back on my childhood and I realize I grew up with a mom who had an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness,” Judd said. “And there are different behavioral expressions, interactions, flights of fancy, 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.”
Ashley Judd (L) and mother, singer Naomi Judd pose following the launch of Naomi’s SiriusXM series
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images Ashley Judd and Naomi Judd
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Earlier in the conversation, Judd explained that something she’d learned over the years was that she “didn’t cause” her mother’s illness, “couldn’t control it” and also “couldn’t cure it.”
With that in mind, the actress said she hoped that Naomi’s death on April 30 at age 76 brought with it a sense of peace for the singer.
“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.
Healing with David Kessler Ashley Judd
Healing with David Kessler David Kessler (L); Ashley Judd
During their discussion, Kessler and Judd also talked about the language surrounding suicide, and how the word “committed” should be dropped in favor of saying “died by suicide,” as “committed” implies a sin or a crime.
“‘Committed’ [suicide] comes from this hierarchy of punitive transgressions, and committed to an institution or an asylum,” Judd said. “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.”
Judd also reflected on a time when her mother gave up her first-class plane seat for a young girl she later learned was on a Make-A-Wish trip. The “Why Not Me” singer offered the girl tickets to a show, too, something Judd said showed how Naomi’s kindness prevailed even in her darkness.
“She managed to keep a lot going for herself even while I saw what was going on behind the scenes at home,” she said. “And it was exceedingly torturous for her.”
Ashley Judd, Naomi Judd and Wynonna Judd during APLA 6th Commitment to Life Concert Benefit at Universal Amphitheater
Ke.Mazur/WireImage Ashley Judd, Naomi Judd and Wynonna Judd
Judd and her sister Wynonna confirmed the loss of their mother in an emotional statement shared with PEOPLE at the time.
The Judds — a music duo comprised of Naomi and Wynonna — were set to celebrate their induction into Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame the following day. Ashley and Wynonna, 58, attended the ceremony to accept the honor and gave a tearful but composed speech.
“I’m gonna make this fast because my heart’s broken — and I feel so blessed,” Wynonna told the hundreds of people gathered in Nashville’s CMA Theater for the Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “I mean, it’s a very strange dynamic to be this broken and this blessed.”
Wynonna later announced that a final tour she and her mother had planned together would go on in her absence.
“I’ve made a decision, and I thought I’d share it on national television that, after a lot of thought, I’m gonna have to honor her and do this tour,” she said during her mother’s tribute event.
Ashley Judd (L) and Naomi Judd arrive at the Los Angeles premiere of
Michael Tran/FilmMagic Ashley Judd and Naomi Judd
“The show must go on, as hard as it may be, and we will show up together, and you will carry me as you’ve carried me for 38 years … So we will continue this spectacle,” said Wynonna. “That’s what she would want, right?”
A week later, Ashely honored Naomi in a Mother’s Day essay for USA Today.
“This Sunday is abruptly, shockingly, my first Mother’s Day without my mama,” she wrote. “She 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.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” she continued. “I was supposed to visit her on Sunday, to give her a box of old-fashioned candy, our family tradition. We were supposed to have sweet delight in each others’ easy presence. Instead, I am unmoored. But my heart is not empty. It is replete with gratitude for what she left behind. Her nurture and tenderness, her music and memory.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text “988” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to988lifeline.org.