When I asked her about this during our conversation, Ms. Judd looked down and closed her eyes, silent for nearly 10 seconds. She seemed to be steadying herself, searching for the right words.
“Grief hurts in a deeply particular way,” she said. “And isolation makes it worse.”
For many years, Naomi Judd’s mental illness went undiagnosed and untreated. (Her eventual diagnoses were post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, Ms. Judd said.) Naomi lived with wounds that stemmed from her childhood, Ms. Judd said, during which Naomi had experienced sexual abuse, teen pregnancy and the loss of her brother, who died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 17. During adulthood, Ms. Judd said that Naomi had faced addiction, domestic violence and crippling depression.
Ms. Judd says she had her own painful experiences during childhood, including rape, neglect and sexual abuse by a male relative, which are disclosed in her 2012 memoir. As a teenager, Ms. Judd said, she had lived by herself during two different years of high school while her mother and sister, Wynonna Judd, performed together as the country music duo The Judds.
“I grew up very isolated in my home, and I was the lost child in our family system,” she said.
This made for a dysfunctional and, at times, frustrating and painful mother-daughter relationship. “I came by my rage authentically,” Ms. Judd said. “I came by it naturally, and it was righteous anger.” It took time (and therapy) for her to build a more positive relationship with her mother. In her late 30s, Ms. Judd said she began to focus on the love that Naomi was capable of providing, rather than the things that her mental illness had prevented her from doing.
“I was powerless over my childhood,” Ms. Judd said. “The survival strategies I developed made my adult life unmanageable. When I took responsibility for those survival strategies, my relationships with both my parents transformed and healed.”