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While grieving the tragic passing of her mother, Ashley Judd suffered yet another leg fracture in what she describes as “just this freak accident.”
She made the revelation Wednesday while appearing on Zoom opposite UCLA professor Dr. Jonathan Flint as part of an Open Mind lecture and conversation series put on by the Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.
The injury — a fracture of the femoral condyle that she sustained sometime over the summer — came less than two years after Ashley fell during a hiking excursion in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In February 2021, she tripped over a fallen tree, suffering a “catastrophic” injury that shattered her leg in four places and led to a harrowing rescue journey and months-long recovery.
The recent fracture was far less dire and “healed in two months, lickety-split,” Ashley told Flint toward the end of the wide-ranging, hourlong conversation. “It was what it was. Clumsiness is associated with grief, and there were other people in our family, after mom died, who fell down stairs and had accidents, and that’s just what mine happened to look like. It really allowed me to grieve. It really allowed me to stop what I was working on at that moment and to grieve.”
Naomi Judd died April 30 as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in her Tennessee home, the one she shared with longtime husband Larry Strickland. Ashley previously revealed that she is the one who discovered her mother shortly after the gunshot. Strickland was spotted over Ashley’s shoulder at the start of Wednesday’s online event as she revealed that an Internet outage at her home led her to scramble and head over to “mom and my pop’s house” for Wi-Fi service.
It’s a good thing she did, as Ashley was able to go deep with Flint on a variety of topics pertaining to her personal history including intergenerational trauma, childhood molestation, 12-step recovery, spirituality, the value of community, coping mechanisms, life in the spotlight and how she navigates online haters, especially now after she says she’s gained weight as a result of the second leg injury.
Ashley also opened up about how she processed her mother’s death, and she was quick to credit her inner circle. “The day that my beloved mother died by suicide, I had so many people to call. There were five women who were with me within moments of my sharing that tragic news with them, and they are my chosen sisters,” Ashley recalled. “I was just reflecting overnight. I had one of my 2 a.m. wake-ups overnight, and I was reflecting on those first days after her passing and how there was always someone with me at my house.”
She added that when it happened, her partner — a man she didn’t reference by name but is reportedly a researcher named Martin Surbeck — happened to be in Europe. “Thank God, because Pop was also in Europe and my partner flew to Vienna to collect Pop and fly him home [because] Pop never would’ve been able to navigate that transatlantic flight by himself,” Ashley explained. “That was a real blessing, but my friend slept with me in the bed and held my hand all night. That’s the value of community.”
Her community rallied around her, organizing food, taking out the trash, sweeping porches and also “put the furniture coverings on at night” when it was still dewy outside. “My community held me physically and they held my home and they held my soul,” she praised.
Ashley reported that she’s doing well right now, something that her “wisdom teacher” confirmed earlier in the day. “I just spent some time with my wisdom teacher today, and there’s a lot going on in my life right now. We’re approaching the [six] month anniversary of my mom’s passing and my sister’s on tour,” she said, referring to Wynonna Judd, who was due to tour opposite her mother and longtime collaborator. “I’m seeing two of the concerts this weekend, which brings up a lot of deep poignancy, both joy and sorrow.”
She continued: “There’s the legal piece of what’s going on with my family and my wisdom teacher remarked that I seemed very grounded and centered today. That’s because I have my morning practice and meditation.”
Though she did not elaborate on that “legal piece,” it was rumored that Naomi’s death led to a battle between sisters Ashley and Wynonna over the will and estate. The latter denied such a rift and just this week, during an appearance on NBC’s Today, said the sisters are closer than they’ve been in a long time. “We love each other and we show up for each other. We don’t agree on much but we support one another,” said Wynonna who is continuing on with The Judds tour, with dates scheduled through 2023.
Speaking of her sister, Ashley said that she had previously attended one of those concerts. After the outing, she shared an image of herself on Instagram and while she didn’t pore over the comments, she’s sure that “there is a cohort of people who are being vilely ugly” about the fact that she has gained some weight as a result of her leg injury and while grieving her mother’s death.
“I’ve put on some weight and I’m sure people are talking about it but I don’t pay any attention to it because I know it’s a temporary condition and the weight will come off when it’s supposed to. It’s none of my business what people think of me,” she said. “It is absolutely none of my business. I have a healthy boundary about it but I also know that misogyny is a real thing in our culture. You try being a once ultra-fit woman who’s 54 and put on some weight. That is going to spark some very sexist conversations by both men and women and others in our culture.”
Flint asked Ashley to offer up any lessons she’s learned from a life in the public eye as someone who has felt the glare of the media. She responded by saying that healthy boundaries are good for her mental health, self-esteem must come from within, and her identity has to be both “self-generated and self-validated.”
She concluded by offering this life lesson: “Thirty-three percent of the people are going to love me no matter what I do, 33 percent of the people don’t really care, and 33 percent of the people aren’t going to like me no matter what I do. Globally, it’s none of my business what other people think of me. It’s between the God of my understanding and me. My core values are really set with my most intimate friends, my closest advisors — like a spiritual director or a sponsor/mentor-type of person who knows me and knows my heart and knows my soul — and the rest of it is just static. That’s really what I’ve learned by being in the media — I can’t take care of myself and another person’s feelings at the same time.”
See the full conversation below.
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