Grammy-winning singer Naomi Judd, 76, committed suicide by shooting herself after battling mental health problems for years, her daughter Ashley revealed Thursday.
Judd’s death on April 30, one day before she was to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, stunned the music world. Although her famous daughters, singer Naomi Judd and Ashley, an actress, alluded to their mother’s mental health problems in an early statement, the new details only emerged this week on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“Mother used a firearm,” Ashley Judd said on the show. “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.”
The music matriarch died in the upstairs bedroom of her Nashville, Tennessee, area farmhouse. Ashley Judd, who was visiting, made the gruesome discovery. She said her family had authorized her to speak candidly about her mother’s death to raise awareness regarding mental health and its treatments.
“She obviously was suffering, and, as such, her days up until that moment were hurtful to her,” she acknowledged.
“It was a mixed day,” Ashley Judd recalled. “I was at the house visiting, as I am every day, and mom said to me ‘will you stay with me?’ and I said: ‘Of course I will.’”
Judd said she had left the house to greet a family friend, then returned to find her mother’s body.
“I went upstairs to let her know that the friend was there and I discovered her,” Judd stated. “I have both grief and trauma from discovering her.”
Ashley Judd said the family remembers her mother for her talent and positive traits, but knew she suffered from mental illness.
“Mom was a brilliant conversationalist,” Judd said. “She was a star, an underrated songwriter, and she was someone who suffered from mental illness, who had trouble getting off the sofa. … But her brain hurt. It physically hurt.”
The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame Sunday, as planned, in a somber Medallion Ceremony at which both daughters spoke. The Judd family had insisted that the ceremony go forward.
“I didn’t prepare anything tonight because I knew Mom would probably talk the most,” Wynona Judd told the audience. “I’m gonna make this fast, because my heart’s broken, and I feel so blessed. It’s a very strange dynamic, to be this broken and this blessed. Though my heart’s broken, I will continue to sing, because that’s what we do.”
Hall of Fame member Ricky Skaggs, who inducted the fellow Kentucky-born superstars, urged the audience to celebrate The Judds amid the tragic news.
“We’re not gonna be sad today,” Skaggs said, before quoting the New Testament’s book of Matthew 5:4.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” he said.
On Thursday, Ashley Judd lamented that her mother couldn’t be present for the honor.
“Our mother couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by her peers,” Judd said. “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.”
In 2016, Naomi Judd took Oprah Winfrey on a tour of her farm, where she had lived for roughly 30 years. She pointed out how close her daughters lived to her, saying, “Ashley lives right up over that hill, right up the road. … And Miss Wynonna lives right over that hill.”
Calling her farm her “haven” and “sanctuary,” she added that she called it “Peaceful Valley the moment I laid eyes on it.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free hotline for individuals in crisis or distress or for those looking to help someone else. It is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.