In an after-show interview with Us Weekly, the Australian wildlife conservationist reflected on her tribute performance and explained that it was a "really, really tough week" for her.
"It was kind of revisiting a place that I haven't gone to since 2006," said Irwin. "It's a really challenging thing to do because there is a lot of emotion — I don't think I've ever cried as much as I have this past week, to be honest!"
In a pre-taped package that was shown before her live performance, Irwin opened up about the loss of her father.
"What shaped me the most would probably be when my dad passed away," Irwin told her dance partner Derek Hough while fighting back tears. "For the rest of my life, I'll kind of feel like he's gonna come home."
Irwin admitted that she "couldn't watch the package" before the performance, and that Hough was covering the starlet's ears and singing to her before they went onstage.
"You're already emotional and to add more emotion on top of that. ... I felt strong and secure and ready for it, and then in the end, after it finishes, then you can let the emotion out and kind of just take a breath for a minute. Then you can pick yourself back up,” said Irwin.
The contemporary performance landed Irwin the highest rating of the night, a 28 out of 30, and she also received the first perfect 10 of the season from judge Bruno Tonioli.
Although Irwin's mother Terri, 51, and brother Bob, 11, were in the audience cheering her on, the 17-year-old told Us Weekly that she was waiting until after the show to reconnect with her family.
"I haven't seen them yet because I'm afraid I'm going to start bawling again," she said. "Tonight, we have a plan: I'm going to get pizza and chocolate milk and lay down! And then hug my family!"
Irwin said that she let all of the emotions pour out of her on the stage, and is happy that she got to share that moment with the world.
"I'm glad we got through the dance and now I'm ready to just embrace the sunshine again," Irwin said.