"We both longed to talk about the things that we'd left unsaid in our life together."
Laura Dern realized how little she knew about her mother, about her life, and the difficulties she had experienced when she received a frightening diagnosis in 2018 that gave her six months to live. Her mother, actress Diane Ladd, now 87, had been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, per PEOPLE.
On TODAY on April 25, the Oscar winner and Jurassic Park star chatted with Hoda Kotb about how she and her mother, Oscar-nominated performer Diane Ladd, bonded during a tough time by participating in the type of conversations that adult children frequently dread having with their parents.
Laura Dern with Diane Ladd, i'm not crying pic.twitter.com/Vs4e3AVqWD— 💭 (@thinkerdern) April 22, 2023
“I was shocked at how little I’d asked her," Dern said. "The hard stuff, because I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t want to bring it up and hurt her.’ But even the simple stuff. I’ve been raised by an actor, I’ve worked alongside my mother, and yet I’ve never asked, ‘Why did you want to become an actress?’"
"The doctor told us the one thing that can help her is getting her to walk to breathe deeper," Dern, 56, tells PEOPLE. So, with Ladd on oxygen, the two began cautiously walking around Santa Monica together.
Laura Dern says she and her mom Diane Ladd share a reverence for female friendships, including her friendship with Taylor Swift, who cast Dern in her Bejewled music video. ✨👭❤️ pic.twitter.com/9hVTesyztZ— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 25, 2023
Their conversations "grew into a profound deepening of our relationship," says Dern, as they talked everything from their personal journeys as performers to the grief and heartbreaks of their life, including Ladd's divorce from Dern's father, actor Bruce Dern, 86, and the death of Ladd and Bruce's first child. "We both longed to talk about the things that we'd left unsaid in our life together. The places we didn't go because we didn't want to hurt each other by bringing up heartbreak or trauma," Dern said. Ladd replied, "I thought I was dying, so Laura and I just told each other everything. Just fixing ourselves and our relationship was a darn good beginning."
We’re thrilled to be able to officially share Laura Dern & Diane Ladd’s new book, HONEY, BABY, MINE: A Mother and Daughter Talk Life, Death, Love (and Banana Pudding), with you all today!https://t.co/TbXvXgfWao pic.twitter.com/3DuMDnoiVE— Grand Central Pub (@GrandCentralPub) April 25, 2023
After the two began going on regular walks together, Dern advised that she record their chats and Ladd's life experiences on her phone so that her grandchildren may have them. Four years later, Ladd's condition has improved, and the two are sharing their private discussions in a new joint memoir, Honey, Baby, Mine, in the hopes that others may be encouraged to start their own. The novel is based on their candid and amusing chats after Ladd's diagnosis.
"All the deep listening filled us with love," says Ladd. "And it was very healing."
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Kevin Winter