Larry Strickland is opening up about wife Naomi Judd’s “chaotic” final months before she took her own life after years of mental health struggles.
Strickland had been married to the country star for 33 years when she died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 30 at the age of 76.
While filming the digital series “ACM Lifting Lives Presents The Check-In,” Strickland, 76, recalled to People the period leading up to Judd’s tragic death.
“It was a very chaotic, hectic, hectic time,” he told the mag from the couple’s Tennessee home. “It was extremely hard. She had several therapists that she was seeing, and her energy level had gotten really low. She was getting really weak.”
Judd bared her battles with anxiety and depression, but Strickland said he was not aware how bad things were until it was too late.
“I just feel like I might have overdone it,” he explained in hindsight. “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,” continued Strickland, a former backup singer for Elvis Presley.
“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.”
He also revealed he neglected his own health while trying to take care of his struggling partner.
“For the past 13 years or more, I was with her 24/7,” Strickland said. “I never left the house without Naomi knowing where I was going and when I would be back. As far as taking care of myself, I’m not sure that fits my situation. When you have a mate that has a mental illness, you walk that path with them.”
Strickland also mentioned that he and Judd’s two daughters, Ashley, 54, and Wynonna, 58, have leaned on each other for support following their loss.
“We need each other so much to cling to, and the comfort of our relationship, we have to have that,” he shared.
Wynonna, who performed with her late mother for years as the country duo the Judds, remembered Naomi onstage at the Country Music Awards last month.
“In death there is life, and here I am,” she told the crowd while presenting an award. “Thank you for your love and your support.”
If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues raised in this story, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.
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