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Wynonna Judd is sharing her emotional journey following the death of her mother, Naomi Judd, the other half of the Grammy-winning duo The Judds.
In an interview with CBS News Sunday Morning, the country singer opened up about her relationship with her mother before her death in April, her experiencing saying goodbye to Naomi and the various emotions she’s grappled with since.
“I did not know that she was at the place she was at when she ended it because she had had episodes before and she got better,” the singer recalled. “And that’s what I live in is, like, was there anything I should have looked for or should I have known?”
Naomi committed suicide on April 30 at the age of 76, a day before The Judds were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was an event Wynonna ultimately attended with her sister, Ashley, by her side. The singer says that since her mother’s death she’s leaned on her husband but also that the half-sisters have become closer, even as the family — which Wynonna says are “all very different” — grieves in their own ways.
“We both kind of look at each other, like, ‘I’ve got you,’ right? And we look at each other and we say, ‘Yeah,'” Wynonna explained. “We’re so united right now, I think more so than we have been in a long time.”
Throughout the interview, the singer discusses the fluctuating nature of her relationship with her mother and notes that in her grieving she has at times felt anger. But ultimately, it’s the love between them that has come through stronger.
“Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I say, ‘I really miss you. Why aren’t you here so we can argue?'” the singer shared. “She told me one time, she took my hand and she said, ‘My life is better because of you.’ Those are the memories that are starting to come through more and more.”
“I think when you lose your mother, a lot of that crap goes away because it doesn’t matter anymore,” she added.
Wynonna, who continues making music and touring, said she “has no idea” if it’s “therapy” in a way to perform, but that it’s in tune with her mother’s spirit of forging on and helps her handle her grief.
“I think it’s important to do it if that makes sense. I feel like I have my marching orders,” she explains. “I want to come out on stage and sing from my toenails a song that helps someone out in that audience It’s about me singing to help someone feel better. That’s always in my spirit.”
Actress Ashley Judd has also spoken publicly about her mother’s death and in a Sept. 1 essay for the New York Times, described how her and the family’s grieving process has been affected by privacy laws around police reports and the initial procedures authorities followed while responding to Naomi’s death.
The Double Jeopardy actress said that after being the one to discover her mother, she was interrogated and at one point considered a possible suspect in her death. It was a “traumatizing” experience for the Judd sibling, who, along with other family members, had to share elements of Naomi’s “mental illness and its agonizing history” through “terrible, outdated interview procedures and methods of interacting with family members who are in shock or trauma.”
Ashley added that now the family faces a potential new media cycle with the release of certain police reports. The actress noted that currently undisclosed details around her mother’s death — found in toxicology reports and autopsies — are allowed to be made public in states after they are closed. That includes Tennessee, where her mother died.
In her essay, she advocates for changes to these laws on the state and federal levels that would stop this information from becoming public, as, she says, “the raw details are used only to feed a craven gossip economy, and as we cannot count on basic human decency, we need laws that will compel that restraint.”
“We have asked the court to not release these documents not because we have secrets,” Ashley said. “We ask because privacy in death is a death with more dignity. And for those left behind, privacy avoids heaping further harm upon a family that is already permanently and painfully altered.”
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