Wynonna Judd opened up to a grief and loss specialist in a new conversation about the challenges of the holiday season as she experiences the first one without her mother, Naomi Judd, who died unexpectedly earlier this year. She was 76.
Wynonna and her sister, actress Ashley Judd, confirmed in a statement on April 30 that they “lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.” Ashley confirmed in an interview earlier this year (and the autopsy report, a public record in Tennessee, also confirmed the cause of death) that her mother died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Now, Wynonna — one half of the award-winning mother-daughter country duo, The Judds, with Naomi — has shared a conversation with grief specialist David Kessler about losing loved ones and the first holiday season without Naomi.
“It has rocked my foundation in a way I can’t describe, at times,” Wynonna said of her mother’s loss, adding, “it’s crazy, because it’s a roller coaster ride I never thought I would take.”
Wynonna shared that she cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 40 people, prepping the meal throughout the week and hosting it on an alternative day (she admitted that “Thanksgiving day sucked,” and she gave herself permission to cry as needed). Wynonna recalled needing to retreat to the bathroom to find a moment of peace amid her efforts to be “all things to all people.”
“Of course, that [peace] lasted for all of 38 minutes, and then I went into panic. Because I realized something, and that is that I'm now the matriarch. And I think the pressure of that alone was like, 'Oh my gosh, my mom isn't here this year, and I made her favorite foods, and I did it really well….’” Wynonna recalled, later adding, “I’ll be honest with you: For about the majority of it, I was numb.”
Wynonna and Kessler reviewed several tips for coping with the loss of a loved one over the holiday season, in hopes of helping others. That includes a reminder that there’s no such thing as a perfect holiday (such as picturesque ones shown in many commercials and on social media), let go of the pressure to create a perfect holiday, ask directly for things you need, and more.
“This, losing my mom, is like no other,” Wynonna said. “It’s beyond anything I’ve eve experienced… I just can’t believe it. I cannot believe she’s not here.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide or is in emotional distress, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.