It's been nearly eight years since Taylor Armstrong's husband, Russell Armstrong, died by suicide in August 2011, and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills alum has said keeping her late husband's memory alive for their daughter, Kennedy Armstrong, has been a struggle.
Taylor opened up about her relationship with Russell in the March 18 episode of the Divorce Sucks with Laura Wasser podcast, detailing the years of control, jealousy, and emotional and physical abuse she experienced during their marriage. "[There was] definitely a lot of verbal criticism, and that wears a person down. A lot of people I talk to, I feel like emotional abuse stays with you. Those tapes play over and over in your head," Taylor recalled. "Having a young child at home, there were times when those tapes were playing from the night before while I'm laying on the floor with a coloring book with Kennedy, but I'm not really with Kennedy; I'm still in my head or thinking about what could potentially happen later once he got home. And those were really the years that I regret the most, that I didn't find that courage to leave earlier so that I could really be more present for my child and not a constant ball of nerves."
The RHOBH alum said that she finally decided to file for divorce from Russell after he fractured her orbital floor and she had to undergo reconstructive surgery on her right eye. Kennedy was 5 years old at the time.
It was on one of the days when Taylor was supposed to meet with Russell to discuss the custody of their child that she discovered his body after he died by suicide. "I went to go meet him one day, and his office was dark and he wasn't there and he was a workaholic, so it was completely unusual for that to be the case. And I just had this sinking feeling that something terrible had happened," she said. "And it had never crossed my mind in the past. He was very narcissistic and not someone you would ever think would take their life. But ultimately, I had found him hanging in the house that he had moved into."
Kennedy was actually waiting in the car outside of Russell's home with Taylor's assistant at the time. "After I found him, I ran into the street where they were parked, and I was on the ground and cried [hysterically], of course," Taylor said. "And then all of a sudden it just occurred to me that she was there. And so we had her nanny come to the end of the street, and my assistant drove her down so that the emergency vehicles, it wouldn't be any more of a chaotic scene than it already was."
Taylor said that she knew it was important for Kennedy to remember her father after his passing. "But after the suicide, speaking of the abuse and having children in the home, I always felt that I had shielded Kennedy from knowing what was going on because we had a live-in nanny, and he would get home after she went to bed because she was little and those things happened behind closed doors," Taylor shared.
"But I was driving her to school one day, and she was in her car seat, and my psychiatrist had said to continue to bring up her father to her so that she doesn't think people just disappear. And I was saying, 'Do you miss Daddy?' And she said, 'No. N-O.' And I said, 'I miss him sometimes. Do you remember when we went to Hawaii?' And I was trying to give her some references, and she waited for a minute and then she said, 'Mommy, why would you miss a boy that screamed at you all the time?'"
Taylor said she became very emotional in that moment. "Thank goodness she was sitting behind me, because I had tears running down my face just feeling like I thought I had done a better job of protecting her," she said.
Later in the interview, Taylor explained that one reason she delayed leaving Russell was because he made her feel like she would lose custody of Kennedy. "I think the biggest fear with the financial control was trying to figure out how to leave because I had access to credit cards but no cash, I was terrified of how I was going to acquire an attorney or legal services, how I would ever fight a custody battle with someone whose resources were so much greater than mine and his access," she shared.
"He was determined to make me believe he would bankrupt me, and once I was living in a cardboard box, he would take custody of my child because I would be declared unfit to care for her. And when you're living in fear and someone has a clear financial advantage over you, at the time it felt believable to me. And I feel like that's a huge fear for people."
Kennedy just turned 13 years old, and she's living a typical teenage life these days, using "eyeroll emojis" in texts and all, according to Taylor. However, Taylor said she is still determined to make sure that her daughter grows up to have happy and healthy relationships, and she's hoping that her second marriage to attorney John Bluher, with whom she tied the knot in 2014, will set a good example.
"I hope that now she's seen what a healthy relationship looks like," Taylor said. "My biggest fear is the fact that I stayed as long as I did could perhaps influence her relationships in the future. People who have experienced domestic violence in their home are much more likely to be abusers or be abused, and that's something that I have to make sure that it stops here."