Larry Strickland Reflects on Late Wife Naomi Judd’s Depression Battle: ‘The Tragedy, the Trauma — It Changes You’
More than seven months after Naomi Judd's death by suicide on April 30, 2022, her husband Larry Strickland is opening up about her battle with mental illness and how her death has affected his family.
In a vulnerable new interview People, Strickland describes Judd's state in the months before her death as "weak," saying it was "a very chaotic, hectic, hectic time."
"It was extremely hard," he reveals. "She had several therapists that she was seeing, and her energy level had gotten really low. She was getting really weak."
"Nobody can understand it unless you've been there," he continues. "Think of your very worst day of your whole life – someone passed away, you lost your job, you found out you were being betrayed, that your child had a rare disease – you can take all of those at once and put them together and that's what depression feels like."
Judd battled depression and anxiety for many years prior to her death at the age of 76, and she had been open about her struggles in the past. Still, Strickland says he didn't know the seriousness of her disease, and when he looks back on her final days, he wonders if he could have done things differently.
"I just feel like I might have overdone it," Strickland admits. "I was trying to get her to eat. I was trying to get her to exercise. I handled her medications and had to make sure she had what she needed. I was trying every way I could."
"If I had known where she was, I would've been much softer on her," he adds. "I would've been gentler and more understanding instead of tired and exhausted because it was wearing me out, too. To know now that she was contemplating [suicide], I look back and just wish I had been holding her and comforting her instead of pushing her. I don't know if that would've helped, but it certainly wouldn't have hurt."
Strickland stayed by Judd's side for the entirety of her battle with mental illness, saying he was with her "24/7" for 13 years. When he did leave, he made sure his wife knew where he was going and what time he'd be back. The singer's death has left a hole in Judd family, but Strickland says he and Judd's daughters, Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd, have bonded together for support.
"We need each other so much to cling to, and the comfort of our relationship, we have to have that," he says.
Strickland has also turned to programs, such as the Academy of Country Music's Lifting Lives series, The Check-In, to share his experience of mental illness in an effort to help others. He admits that talking about these struggles publicly isn't something he would normally do, but the tragic loss of his wife has left him a different man.
"I was used to staying in the background," he says. "But after going through what our family's gone through — the tragedy, the trauma — it changes you."
"I'm willing to do whatever I can to hopefully help anyone not go through what our family has," he adds.
Anyone who might be experiencing suicidal thoughts is urged to seek help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.