Ashley Judd’s relationship with mother Naomi Judd was, at times, a difficult one.
But in a new interview, the actor makes it clear that any animosity she had toward the country music superstar and matriarch had been resolved long before The Judds singer’s death in April.
"I look back at my childhood, and I realize I grew up with a mom who had an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness," the 54-year-old explained to David Kessler, the host of the “Healing with David Kessler” podcast. "And there are different behavioral expressions, interactions, flights of fancy, you know, choices that she made that I understand were an expression of the disease."
In Ashley Judd’s 2011 memoir, “All That Is Bitter and Sweet,” she alleged that during her youth, amid the early days of her mother’s relationship with husband Larry Strickland, the couple “were wildly sexually inappropriate" in front of her and her sister, Wynonna Judd. And during a visit to TODAY that same year, she said she grew up in "a dysfunctional family system that didn’t work very well."
But she no longer holds resentment about any of it, telling Kessler, "I understand that and know that she was in pain, and (I) can today understand that she was absolutely doing the best that she could. And if she could have done it differently, she would have."
In the end, Ashley Judd hopes her mom had the same sense of grace about her own past actions.
"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," she said. "Because, certainly on my end, all was forgiven long ago."
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
"Mom walked with a better understanding of her mental illness for some years, because she did get a couple of correct diagnoses," she recalled. "There was one particular thread of help on which she really wanted to rely very heavily. There were a lot of other augmentations that could have been beneficial, and, for whatever reason, those were not as attractive to her."
For the benefit of her own mental health, the "Trafficked" star has taken a very proactive approach.
"What I know for myself is that it takes a robust recovery program to be the woman that I am today," she said. "I want wellness and vitality to have the greatest chance at happiness that I can. And my family just happens to come from a lot of grief, a lot of trauma. We’re pushing back against generations of hurt. And I believe it’s in me to do things differently."
And even as she and her family now navigate the enormous grief they feel in the wake of Naomi Judd's death, the focus is on making sure they all can do so in whatever way they need for their own well-being.
"One of the things that I think we have done well as a family, meaning my pop, my sister, Wynonna, and me, is we have really given each other the dignity and allowance to grieve in our individual and respective ways," she told Kessler. "And yet, we’ve been able to completely stick together. So we can be at the same supper table and recognize, ‘Oh, this one is in anger;’ ‘This one is in denial; ‘This one is in bargaining;’ 'This one is in acceptance.’ 'I’m in shock right now.' And we don’t try to control or redirect or dictate how the other one should be feeling at any particular moment."
She added, "We may be in slightly different places (with our grief) and, yet, we're in community."