Ashley Judd on Mental Illness, Her Mother’s Death & The Importance of Grief Support.

Ashley Judd on Mental Illness, Her Mother’s Death & The Importance of Grief Support

Nobody’s grief process looks exactly the same. It’s personal, specific, and often, private — which is why today’s tender conversation is such a privilege. David speaks with actress and activist Ashley Judd on the recent death of her mother, as well as her experiences of sexual assault and abuse. Ashley lets us into her grief process, giving an intimate look inside acute grief and trauma. This episode is filled with examples of caring, restorative grief support. And it’s for anyone working (or supporting someone) through the raw emotions of a recent loss.

Ashley Judd

Heralded for starring in both box office hits and for her unforgettable performances in independent films, Ashley Judd is a renowned actress, humanitarian, and political activist.

One of the most vocal and influential figures of the #MeToo movement, Judd was named to TIME’s “Person of the Year” as one of the silence-breakers and change-makers who helped shift the culture and conversation around sexual abuse and harassment. A feminist and social justice humanitarian, Judd has worked internationally with NGO’S, grass roots organizations, governments, and supranational bodies. She serves as Global Goodwill Ambassador for UNFPA, is the Global Ambassador for Population Services International, and is Chairperson of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project: Curbing Abuse, Expanding Freedom.

As an actress, Judd’s films tell very personal stories– which is exactly what she does at speaking engagements. A voice for the often voiceless, Judd speaks on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. Whether it’s sharing the story of a terminally ill patient suffering from a preventable illness a world away, or the story of a family struggling to find clean drinking water in Appalachia, Judd shines illuminating light on the vulnerable and the at-risk. She also dives into topics of women’s rights, mental health, the environment, advocacy and more.

Ashley began her life-long activism at the tender age of 19 when she organized a campus-wide walk out of classes at the University of Kentucky to protest the use of the “n” word by a revered member of the Board of Trustees at the University of Kentucky. A member of an all white sorority, none of whom joined her protest, she risked her friendships and social standing to do what she knew was right. When the Governor would not remove the offending Board member, Ashley reached out to the Black organizations on campus to organize a march on the Kentucky state capitol.

Her young activism flourished from there, soon encompassing the anti-apartheid movement and America`s marital rape laws. She has been indefatigable for racial justice and equality ever since. Some of the many highlights of three decades of activism include her iconic and courageous Nasty Woman speech at the Women’s March in 2017 which garnered tens of millions of views.


I invite you to join me in this conversation with Ashley Judd. Ashley thoughtfully shares her experiences with grief and trauma including childhood abuse, almost losing her leg in an accident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the very recent death of her mother, Naomi Judd to suicide.

In this conversation, we talk about the pain of acute grief and the power of intentionality and attention to healing. We talk about sobriety, her experiences with sexual abuse, and breaking the silence. She also shares about the very new and fresh acute grief around her mother, Naomi Judd death by suicide on May 12, 2022. Ashley and I talk about the importance of support in acute grief and the ways that she is addressing her grief, stressors, and feelings during this difficult time. I hope that you will find this conversation affirming, powerful and healing. I am so glad you are here today.

Ashley’s wisdom and intentionality are clear as she shares her strategies for healing. She is a courageous advocate for gender equity and uses her voice and strength to be an agent of change. She is deeply involved in TimesUp and Metoo and she is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations organization UNFPA.

FOR MORE SUPPORT - David's online grief support group, Tender Hearts - Understanding loss and grief - Death of a parent - Death of a child and sibling - Death of a loved one by suicide - 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline - National Alliance of Mental Illness - American Foundation of Suicide Prevention - Adult Children of Alcoholics® & Dysfunctional Families - Al-Anon Family Groups - Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief - Tear Soup: A Recipe of Healing After Loss - Grief Therapy, Elf Help Books

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Dysregulation is part of grief

Ashley shares some of her struggles with sleep. How has your grief changed your sleep, eating, body and rhythms?

Death by suicide is not a choice

We talked about the way the language around suicide has changed. How does thinking of death by suicide as a result of mental illness change your thinking and understanding?

Know the 3 c’s

We can’t control others, we didn’t cause their illness and we can’t cure them. But we are responsible for our attitude and actions. Ashley shares her awareness of the 3 cs and how she has learned to give others the dignity of having their own reactions and feelings. She says that she has let go of the need to control, redirect, and dictate other people’s experiences. 

We need community

I loved how Ashely shares about the people in her life who support her and how she learned to seek out and nurture those relationships. How can you create meaningful and supportive relationships in your life?

All Feelings are valid and appropriate

It’s important to express your feelings. Ashley shares her experience with drawing her feelings. What would your feelings look like if you drew them? I encourage you to experiment with this technique.

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