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Amidst Loss, Sisters Ashley and Wynonna Judd Reunite After Years of Family Discord

The sisters support each other as they grieve.

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Family relationships are often complicated — but when your relatives are famous and your ups and downs are tabloid fodder, familial bonds are even more difficult to navigate. Sisters Wynonna and Ashley Judd are no exception. The loss of their mother, however, changed all of that. Since Naomi Judd’s death by suicide in April, the two have reunited to support each other in grief.

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Wynonna and Ashley have had a publicly rocky relationship for years. In her biography All That Is Bitter and Sweet, actress Ashley revealed that she felt neglected by mother Naomi and Wynonna as their musical duo, The Judds, rose to fame in the country music world. “[My mom] and my sister have been quoted as saying that our family put the ‘fun’ in dysfunction. I wondered: ‘Who exactly, was having all the fun? What was I missing?’” she wrote in 2011. The book, in which Ashley which discussed the tumultuous nature of the Judd family dynamic and her troubled childhood, contributed to the tension between the sisters. 

The tension extended to other members of the family as well. In 2012, Wynonna married third husband Cactus Moser in a small, intimate ceremony — so intimate, in fact, that mother Naomi and sister Ashley weren’t invited, despite the fact that they all lived on the property where the ceremony was held. Of her wedding, Wynonna told Us Weekly that “Ashley [was] so busy with [her then-husband race car driver Dario Franchitti] having won the  Indianapolis 500, that she probably [didn’t] even know.” Wynonna also said of her family dynamic: “We’re getting ready to sit down with our life coach and re-evaluate what we want out of this relationship … we just don’t have a lot of contact right now, if any, because we’re all doing our own thing.”

In 2013, Ashley Judd filed a police report after finding a tracking device on her car, accusing Wynonna of spying on her during a custody dispute over Wynonna’s daughter Grace, who had been in Ashley’s care. Authorities reported that the device was traced back to an investigator in Nashville working for Wynonna, who declined to comment. 

The sisters have publicly disputed their political views as well, particularly after Ashley’s speech at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, D.C. Taken together, the disagreements caused a rift so great that even the death of their mother couldn’t compel the sisters to reconnect. Naomi, who was one of the most celebrated country music artists of all time, had been struggling with severe mental illness before she committed suicide in April, the day before she and Wynonna were scheduled to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She allegedly left both Ashley and Wynonna out of her will, which only increased division between the sisters. 

In the last couple of weeks, however, news of a reconciliation have proliferated. Earlier this month, Wynonna said that she and Ashley were finally coming together, supporting each other in the midst of their grief. She told CBS Sunday Mornings, “We both kind of look at each other like, ‘I’ve got you,’ right? And we look at each other and we say, ‘Yeah.’ We’re so united right now, I think more so than we have been in a long time.”

The circumstances that led to the sisters healing their relationship are tragic, but the the repair of a lengthy sibling feud that played out in the public eye is cause for celebration. Their reconnection highlights the importance of checking in with loved ones and family members who may be struggling, even when those relationships are strained or difficult. At the ceremony for The Judds’ induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame, CEO Kyle Young spoke about Wynonna and Naomi, but the sentiment extends to Ashley as well: “Their stories have been well documented … it’s all complicated — and it all emerged  in beauty and triumph.”

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