In a chat with Hoda Kotb that aired Dec. 1 on TODAY, Parton said she's relied on happy memories of Lynn, who died in October at age 90, and Judd, who died in April at age 76, to navigate the otherwise difficult grieving process.
"With Loretta, she was very dear to me, like a sister," Parton explained. "Same with Naomi. We were (the) same age, and we loved the same things. And I loved her. And then I also lost Kenny Rogers — three of my dearest people — in essence, in a very short period of time.
"And I grieve over them almost like you do a family member. And I think of them, but you try to keep the good memories."
Parton said one song in particular, "Precious Memories" by Alan Jackson, reminds her of them.
"The line I love in that song is, 'Precious memories, unseen angels sent from somewhere to my soul.' And I think about that. Those precious memories," she shared. "They just flow in and out of you, and you remember special things about them."
Parton added that their lingering presences in her memories feel "like unseen angels, and you feel like they’re still all around you."
"Oh, my God. That's so beautiful. I feel very weepy," Hoda responded while wiping away tears.
The "9 to 5" singer also shared that she rarely has a day off, but when it happens, she spends it wisely.
“Every day I watch the TODAY show,” she said. “Then I just get up and I think, ‘Well, if I’ve got the day off, I might want to fry some sausage and make some gravy and make some biscuits.'”
The singer treats herself when it comes to her day-off meal because she doesn’t “have to worry about staying on a diet — (or) stay in” her dress. Those are considerations for work days.
Speaking of work, the country legend said her upcoming rock 'n' roll album is "some of the best work” she has ever done.
Parton turned down her initial nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because she “never thought” of herself “as a rock star.”
“I found out later that they give it to you if you’ve influenced other people. I found out more about it. But I had said at the start I didn’t want to accept it because I didn’t think I’d earned it. And still ain’t sure."
Parton said she wanted the "earned it" feeling, and that's why she decided to make a rock 'n' roll album. And she knows it's going to be good.
“I really think it’s some of the best work I’ve ever done,” she explained. “I think so, only because it’s different for me. I wanted it to be good.”
The album is supposed to drop next year, and the singer also already has a New Year's resolution for herself.
"I’m like everybody else: You make a bunch of resolutions, and you never keep ‘em. Third weekend of January, that’s just all forgotten," Parton said.
"But my hopes for the new year is a little more kindness, a little more love, a little more trying to pull together instead of falling apart."
She said she's challenged herself and others to "try a little harder" to uplift others.
"I’m going to try my best to try to bring as much joy as I can, and lift people up as much as I can in my way. And I just think we all need to try a little harder. I don’t care what our politics are, or religion, or our color, or anything else. We need to try a little harder."
Parton will also be celebrating the new year with goddaughter Miley Cyrus. The two will co-host “Miley’s New Year’s Eve Party” on NBC.
She added she'll be having "a moonshine cocktail" as part of the festivities.