The country music superstar — who was part of the Grammy-winning duo The Judds with her daughter Wynonna Judd — died in April, just days before being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She was 76.
Ashley Judd told Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America” Thursday that her stepfather and Wynonna Judd had “deputized” her to speak on the behalf of the family “before things about the 30th of April become public without our control.”
“I’m tasked with an exceedingly difficult task in disclosing the manner of the way my mother chose not to continue to live,” she said.
Ashley Judd confirmed that her mother died by suicide.
“That’s the piece of information we are very uncomfortable sharing,” she said. “But understand that we’re in a position that if we don’t say it, someone else is going to.”
She indicated that she was being mindful about what information she chose to make public.
“I want to be very careful about when we talk about this today for anyone who is having those ideas or those impulses, to talk to someone, to share, to be open, to be vulnerable,” she said.
Ashley Judd told Sawyer that her mother — who revealed she had depression in 2016 — “knew that she was seen and she was heard in her anguish.”
“When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important to be clear and make the distinction between our loved one and the disease,” she said. “It’s very real … it lies, it’s savage.”
Ashley Judd also shared that she was with her mother on the day she died and was the one who “discovered her.”
“I have both grief and trauma,” she said.
The Emmy-nominated actor also shared sweet details about the type of person her mother was, including how she got to know the staff at her local Cheesecake Factory.
“I know everything about them because she told me everything about them,” Ashley Judd recalled. “Or [she’d tell me about] Dwanye at Walgreens who needs to get a dog, that’s the way she was. She always had hundred dollar bills stuffed in her bra and she was passing them out to the janitorial staff. You know, just an unfailingly kind, sensitive woman.”
She called her mother a “brilliant conversationalist” and “an underrated songwriter.”
Ashley Judd also shared a letter written by Wynonna Judd, who wrote that she needed time to herself in order “to process” her loss.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.