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Ashley Judd details heartbreaking moment she discovered mom Naomi's body: 'I told her it was okay to let go'

 The actresses’ mom tragically took her own life aged 76

ashley judd naomi judd death© Photo: Getty Images
Faye James
Senior Editor
January 10, 2024
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Ashley Judd, 55, recently shared the deeply emotional and challenging experience of finding her mother, Naomi Judd, after she tragically took her own life at the age of 76 on April 30, 2022. 

Naomi, a celebrated country singer, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at her home in Leiper's Fork, Tennessee. The autopsy report revealed Naomi's struggles with significant anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.

In a poignant recounting, Ashley expressed her feelings during those harrowing moments: "It was traumatic and unexpected because it was death by suicide and I found her," she recounted on Wednesday’s episode of CNN's All There Is with Anderson Cooper.

Ashley Judd and mother Naomi Judd © Steve Granitz
Ashley Judd and mother Naomi Judd

Despite the shock and grief, Ashley found solace in being present for her mother in those final moments. 

"Even when I walked in that room and I saw that she had harmed herself, the first thing out of my mouth was, 'Momma, I see how much you've been suffering and it is okay... I am here, and it is okay to let go.'"

Ashley spoke of when she found her mom's body© Michael Loccisano
Ashley spoke of when she found her mom's body

She also recounted encouraging her mother to find peace and forgiveness, telling her, "All was forgiven long ago, leave it all here. Take nothing, be free."

The conversation shifted to Anderson Cooper, 56, who similarly had to confront the suicide of his brother, Carter Cooper. Carter, aged 23 at the time, tragically jumped to his death from the balcony of their mother Gloria Vanderbilt's New York City apartment while she watched in horror. 

Ashley found solace in being present for her mother in her final moments. 
© JP Yim
Ashley found solace in being present for her mother in her final moments.

Anderson reflected on his brother's death: "One of the things I have found so hard about losing my brother to suicide was, I get stuck in how his life ended and the violence of it."

Ashley empathized with Cooper's feelings, sharing her perspective on how the manner of death becomes a part of a person's larger story: "I really honor the place in you that’s coming from. I think we all deserve to be remembered for how we lived, and how we died is simply part of a bigger story."

Naomi's last public appearance was a moving performance at the Country Music Awards with her daughter Wynonna, singing 'Love Can Build A Bridge.' Shortly after, the toxicology report revealed several drugs in her system at her time of death.

 Actress Ashley Judd discusses the need for responsible and respectful reporting on suicides © Shannon Finney
Actress Ashley Judd discusses the need for responsible and respectful reporting on suicides

The Judd family, in a statement, acknowledged the complexity of mental illness: "Everyone who has gone through this tragedy understands that in the depths of a mental health crisis, thinking is profoundly distorted. Moreover, the worst days are never representative of the comforts and pleasures of the days free from the disease."

The Judds, consisting of Naomi and Wynonna, were iconic country singers in the 80s, winning five Grammys, nine CMAs, and selling 20 million records. Naomi's life was marked by challenges, including surviving sexual abuse and a violent assault, leading to her fleeing Los Angeles for rural Kentucky.

Naomi's story is one of resilience and triumph, having moved to Nashville to pursue a nursing career, which ultimately led to the launch of 'The Judds' career in music.

In the aftermath of Naomi's death, Ashley and Wynonna have supported each other, attending her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame and grappling with their immense loss. 

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