Backstage at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, Ashley and Wynonna Judd came together in a warm embrace. Wynonna was there to perform as part of CMT’s tribute to Loretta Lynn, but the sisters’ sweet reunion made it impossible not to think of their mother, Naomi Judd.
Six months after Naomi took her own life, Wynonna and Ashley are picking up the pieces. While Wynonna has hit the road in a final tour as the Judds, Ashley has stayed close to home, delving deeper into her wellness practices. Both women say they’re prioritizing health and healing, but it hasn’t been easy.
Ashley, 54, fractured her leg in a freak accident shortly after her mother’s death. “Clumsiness is associated with grief, and there were other people in our family, after Mom died, who fell down stairs and had accidents,” says the actress, who also broke her leg in four places in 2021. Fortunately, her latest injury wasn’t as serious and proved to be a blessing in disguise. “It really allowed me to stop what I was working on at that moment and to grieve,” she says. This mourning period also caused her to gain weight, but she’s not worried about it. “The weight will come off when it’s supposed to,” she says.
In addition to daily meditation, Ashley works with a “wisdom teacher” and has been leaning on her friends. “There were five women who were with me within moments,” she says of the friends she calls her “chosen sisters.” Sharing stories about Naomi with them has helped ease the ache in Ashley’s heart. “When she speaks about her mother, about the good and the tough times, it’s therapeutic for her. It’s helped her cope,” explains a friend.
Wynonna, meanwhile, has immersed herself in the music and fans she and Naomi once shared. She recently announced that The Judds: The Final Tour will add 15 dates in 2023 and calls it a “no-brainer” to keep going. “As an artist, I’ve never experienced this kind of emotion at a show,” says Wynonna, 58. “Every night [fans] are singing so loud that I stand back from the microphone and just weep.”
Wynonna has also revealed that she and her tourmates, including Martina McBride and Brandi Carlile, have re-created The Judds Farewell Concert, which she and Naomi performed for a TV special in 1991. “This is a big, fat, hairy deal for me,” says the singer, who taped the show at the same Tennessee State University venue where she played with her mother. The new concert will be broadcast on CMT in March.
In her heart, Wynonna knows that Naomi would be proud. “She’s an old school, showbiz trooper, which she learned from her mother,” says the friend. “It’s bittersweet, but the show must go on.”
Ashley has attended several of Wynonna’s performances on this very special tour. “It’s a huge indication that there is love between them,” notes the friend, who adds that “they’ve talked more in the past six months since their mom’s passing than they had in years.”
While the sisters may never see eye-to-eye on everything, the silver lining is that Naomi’s death has drawn them closer. “They both loved their mother and miss her dearly,” says the friend. “After all, blood really is thicker than water.”