Loss of Naomi Judd to Suicide: It’s Not as Infrequent as You May Think

“Be free, my beautiful mother. Be free.” -Ashley Judd after the death of Naomi Judd

The country music world was rocked Saturday with news that superstar and Grammy award winner Naomi Judd, the mom from the singing duo “The Judds” with daughter Wynonna, had died at the age of 76.

A survivor of Hepatitis C that she contracted early in life through her job as an RN, my first thought was that it had somehow affected her health and was the cause of her death.

But as I read her daughters’ statement, my heart sank.

“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We 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.”

We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness.

I immediately thought, suicide. But surely not … not with Naomi. Not this strong woman who had been a single working mom who raised two daughters on her own, broke into the music industry and sailed to the highest success with daughter Wynonna, and survived Hepatitis C while battling everything else life threw at her.

What I didn’t know was that she had been battling depression for years.

Her death was one day before she and Wynonna were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. They also had plans to take The Judds back on the road in September.

Daughter Ashley, in her public remarks at Sunday’s induction ceremony, lamented through tears that she was sad her mother couldn’t hang on one more day.

The timing of suicide is theirs alone.

I remember hearing Joan Rivers talk years ago about the suicide of her husband Edgar who, if I remember correctly, was packing his suitcase and told her he was going on a business trip. Only he didn’t go on a business trip. He went to a hotel where he downed pills to end his life.

It hits all facets of life. Locally, a forty-something friend’s twin sister committed suicide more than 20 years ago when they were 15 years old.

More recently, a political friend who had been instrumental in volunteering at the local GOP headquarters and serving as precinct captain committed suicide in 2015, likely because cancer had returned.

A year ago, a twenty-something young man who had volunteered at local GOP headquarters as a kid with his older sister during the George W. Bush years was lost to mental illness.

Many other families have also been touched by suicide. Including my own.

Over a decade ago, as I was blindsided at being falsely accused by a leader in the Sixth Congressional Republican Committee of something that never happened (and was later exonerated after the intended anguish and loss of reputation had been accomplished), my brother-in-law committed suicide in RVA.

My husband’s brother. The funny one who was always cracking jokes.

Interesting how the funny ones are often those most in pain but silent about it to the world. Robin Williams comes to mind.

We never had a clue.*

So I missed a Sixth District meeting (which inflamed the accusations since I wasn’t there to defend myself) because my family had a funeral to attend and a broken family to embrace.

But politics marched on….

With all the political turmoil going on at the time, I’ve never completely processed that suicide. And I’ve never talked about it.

Just be kind. You have no idea what is going on with people you attend church with or work with or volunteer with or see every day. Who knows … you could be their lifeline.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text Crisis Text Line at 741741.


‘River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope‘ by Naomi Judd

*I read this post to my husband who gave permission to expose a very private part of our lives.

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