Ashley Judd spoke at greater length about the mental illness that led to his mother’s suicide, Naomi Juddnearly three months ago, and about the very different times of grief she and other family members have gone through, in an hour-long interview for Spotify’s “Healing With David Kessler” podcast.
Judd and Kessler agreed it was important for viewers who may be dealing with grief to hear from someone who is in the throes of it, in addition to the experts who appeared on the podcast to answer more. from a distance. “It’s scary to be vulnerable and transparent and to talk about acute grief and suffering in real time,” she said. “And I certainly know that I’m doing it in community with a lot of other people who have suffered very visceral losses recently, and I hope it can be something helpful.”
The variegation in grief was a main topic of the podcast. “One of the things that I think we’ve done well as a family – that’s my pop, my sister, Wynonna and I – is that we’ve really given each other dignity and permission to grieve in our individual and respective ways,” Judd says Kessler. “And yet, we managed to stick together. So we can be at the same dinner table and recognize, “Oh, this one is angry; this one is in denial. This one is in the process of negotiating; this one is accepted. I am in shock right now. And we’re not trying to control, redirect, or dictate how the other should feel at any given time. Ashley said Wynonna is “in a pretty different place than I am right now. And we don’t have to be in harmony to have compassion for each other. … I had to let go of this notion of control that yours has to look like mine. I mean, it’s really self-centered, isn’t it? »
As to where she is at herself, Judd said: ‘I think for the first 10 days I was in high-level shock, because there’s all the things in our society that we get into. to keep busy. …I’ve definitely experienced some denial in the form of this numbness…I haven’t felt anger yet. I imagine it’s in there. I don’t think I’m immune to the stages of grief. And me a-huuuuundred percent have depression.
Judd said her mother had sought help, but in her eyes, not always the right help, something she had given up trying to have any control over over the years.
Naomi, she said, “has been walking with her best understanding of her mental illness for a few years, because she’s gotten a few correct diagnoses. And there was one particular help thread that she really wanted to rely on very heavily. And there were plenty of other increases that could have been beneficial, and for some reason, those weren’t as appealing to her.
Judd said she would disagree at different times with her mother about mental health treatment. “There were times when she got excellent and expert professional help, and chose not to pursue this in the way that I thought was best for her. And I had to respect her autonomy and give her the dignity to take those decisions for herself, even when I thought her thinking was distorted,” she said.
“I am not the arbiter of right and wrong, and I resign from the committee that says you have to accept my point of view. And then what that leaves me with, David, is my grief and the loss of my mother-in-law, and my discomfort about ‘What if that happens?… What if she doesn’t stay at that medical rehab? What if she doesn’t get help with this place that handles dual diagnoses? What if she doesn’t go to these meetings? Oh my God. Now she fired that person. You know, it leaves me with my sense of responsibility, and that’s why I need my own recovery. And the best thing family members can do for themselves is get their own help.
Judd told Kessler that for much of her life, Naomi’s illness was not even recognized as such.
“I think back to my childhood and realize that I grew up with a mother who suffered from an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness,” she said. “There are different behavioral expressions, interactions, whimsical flights, choices that she made that I understand were an expression of the disease. And I understand that and I know that she was in pain and can today understand that she was absolutely doing the best she could, and if she could have done it differently, she would have.
“And my most fervent wish for my mother,” she continued, “is that, in her transition, she was able to hopefully let go of any guilt or shame that she carried for any shortcomings that she could have had in her parenthood from my sister and I. Because certainly on my side everything was forgiven a long time ago. What I know for myself is that it takes a solid recovery program to be the woman that I am today. And I want well-being and vitality and to have the greatest possible chance of happiness. And my family happens to come from a lot of grief, from a lot of trauma. We’re pushing back generations of pain, and I believe it’s in me to do things differently.
Judd and Kessler also talked about different kinds of grief she had experienced earlier in her life, including grief after giving up the belief that adults were reliable after being sexually abused at age 7 and that her accusation had been dismissed by those she had spoken to. She has also spoken, in recent years, of contacting a man who she believes raped her in the 1990s, and convincing him to sit down with her to have a conversation about “restorative justice.” “. “I didn’t need anything from him,” she said. “It was just gravy that he made amends and expressed his deep remorse, because the journey with grief and trauma is an inside job.”
Other topics covered on the podcast related to her mother’s death included the language around suicide, such as why it’s important to say “died by suicide” instead of using the term “committed suicide.” And Kessler even called himself out for using the word “triggered” in front of Judd, while acknowledging that not all who deal with the problem professionally agree to banish it.
“I was speaking at a national conference for therapists,” Kessler said, “and I polled different therapists about whether we should still use the word. And most of them said, yes, that’s the word that’s (most) commonly used. A lot of them started using other words like ‘heightened emotions’ or ‘activated.’ But using in a conversation with Judd, Kessler has said in the podcast: “I looked at your face and realized what I had said, and how I had used a word that was so activating and heartbreaking for you.”
Judd said she appreciated the “host’s humility as a professional, saying you’re learning and growing too. And I understand that I live in a world that is not going to adapt to my very understandable sensibility around that word, and that I will have to take care of myself. … You know, my mother committed suicide from a gunshot wound, and I was the one who found her, I was with her and I walked her home. And so it’s extremely difficult for me. And as you helped me understand, it’s not just trauma and it’s not just grief — it’s traumatic grief. And I have plenty of ways to work with images and graphics, but it’s going to stay with me for a long time.
As an example of how things can suddenly kick in, Judd talked about recently being in Germany with his partner and seeing a Wild West-themed stunt show at an amusement park, n’ being unprepared for his reaction when fake gunshots erupted at length.
“I mean, right now I can feel my arms starting to ignite even when I’m describing the memories,” she said. “I couldn’t get out of the audience because they closed it because of the pyrotechnics that was going on. And I got so dysregulated, my breathing was rapid and shallow. I got as far away from the stage and its sounds as possible. I was crouched in the back. There was actually an exit, but my thinking was so cloudy that I couldn’t even perceive it. And I immediately started texting with my community of supportive girlfriends and my wisdom teacher. I put my headphones on and put on some soothing music, and I knew it was up to me to try and get through it, and I had a few choices, but it got me a number without my permission. You know, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m going to have a moment here and see my mom’s moment again… thing.’ It happened to me and degenerated like the old supersonic jet.
Judd came up with a metaphor to describe how she is currently compartmentalizing as she deals with grief. “It’s like mom is the lowest book on the library shelf. So my daily life or my projects are the closest books – like “Oh, I’m going to Switzerland on Saturday” or “Oh, Brandi Carlile is in town”. And then there’s mom, and I just kind of have to push the other books aside, and then it hits me again.
Going forward, she said, “I think it will add a few things to my life in terms of mental health awareness. I already know from my speaking engagements, which I enjoy so much, that it’s a part of my life that brings me tremendous meaning and connection, talking about health and wellness – those kinds of requests are increasing, which is meaningful to me. But, she said, these are still the early days of dealing with the trauma, even as she resumes her humanitarian work with the United Nations and other organizations overseas.
“The word integration comes to mind. I think sweetness comes to mind,” she said. “Healing is not about letting go of a certain part of the process. It doesn’t mean, oh, I’m not crying anymore, or “this part doesn’t hurt anymore”. I think it’s the opposite of that, if anything.
The podcast ends with a reminder that the new three-digit number for the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline is 988.
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