Naomi Judd’s husband, Larry Strickland, was unaware of how deeply the iconic singer struggled before her death. Looking back, Strickland wishes he had had “more compassion” for his wife of 33 years.
“I look back on the first of the year and I see moments and times when my wife was normal and happy,” he said on the Academy of Country Music’s Mental Health series Lifting Lives. Checking in. “[It] it just never occurred to me that she was as sick as she was.
Naomi died by suicide on April 30 after battling anxiety and depression for years. The 76-year-old was getting ready to embark on the Judds Final Tour with daughter Wynonna before her death.
“She was on the couch a lot and I was constantly doing that [say], ‘Get up, you have to get up, you have to move. You have this tour coming up, you have to get well or you’re not going to make it,” the former backing singer recalled. “And I would get mad because she wouldn’t move, no matter what I said, no matter what I did, I couldn’t get her to move. I was not compassionate.”
Strickland, 76, became visibly emotional.
“I look back on it now, and knowing what I know now, I wish I had more compassion,” he continued. “More understanding, and kinder and more loving, and holding her and being with her instead of constantly shoving and shoving her. But I had no idea she was at the point she was.”
Strickland, who hopes to help “remove the stigma” around mental health, said he recently learned that he is “extremely vulnerable, much more than I ever knew I was.”
“You can be pushed insane in a split second, which happened in my family,” he shared. “Constant stress and anxiety can push you into a lull. It doesn’t take much.”
When asked what he is currently grateful for, Strickland replied, “My stepdaughter, Ashley Judd.”
“She is a light in my life. No matter where in the world she is, and she travels a lot… without fail she calls [me]’ he shared. “She FaceTimes me every day. Every day. I get to tears just thinking about it because it’s just the best thing that’s happened to me in my time.
Strickland promoted the ACM series in an accompanying interview with People. He called the months leading up to his late wife’s death “a very chaotic, frantic, frantic time.”
“It was extremely difficult. She had several therapists she saw, and her energy level had become very low. She became very weak,” he recalled.
Strickland said he has been with Naomi “24/7” for the past 13 years.
“I never left home without Naomi knowing where I was going and when I would be back. As for taking care of myself, I’m not sure if that would suit my situation. If you have a partner who has a mental illness , walk that path with them,” he explained.
Strickland said he leans on that of both his stepdaughters.
“We need each other so much to hold onto, and the comfort of our relationship, we must have,” he added.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
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