April and David Simpkins | CREDIT: RED TABLE TALK
Warning: The following story, about a family’s heartbreak in the aftermath of suicide, may contain triggering topics. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Watch the full interview here: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fredtabletalk%2Fvideos%2F331195172274185%2F&show_text=0&width=560
Miss USA 2019’s parents are opening up about the “grief and gratitude” they’ve felt since Cheslie Kryst’s death. They hope that their story can help other families.
On Wednesday’s episode of Red Table Talk on Facebook Watch, Chelsie’s mother, April Simpkins began by reflecting on the range of emotions she experienced after first learning that her daughter died by suicide on Jan. 30.
“I never thought I would be here. She truly was my best friend,” Simpkins told co-hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris.
On the morning of Cheslie’s death, Simpkins was leaving her weekly exercise class when she “noticed there was a text message” from her daughter, she said on the program.
“It took me a while to read that all the way through,” Simpkins shared of the lengthy note, which described the severity of Cheslie’s depression.
“I would read some sentences and then I would just collapse,” she added.
Excerpt from last text message sent by Chelsie to her mother:
According to Simpkins, her daughter had “attempted suicide before,” and had then “began taking all the right steps” to improve her mental health, including “seeing a counselor [and]… getting good sleep at night.”
Though Chelsie seemed to be on the right path, the text from her daughter concerned her enough to have her reach out to the police in New York, where Cheslie lived, Simpkins said on Red Table Talk.
“Immediately, I’m thinking, okay, this must be like the first [suicide] attempt,” she recalled. “Let’s get on a plane, get up there, meet her at the hospital, let’s see what we can do.”
While their plane was preparing for take off, the parents received a call from the police and learned that Kryst “was no longer with us,” Simpkins said.
“I don’t remember the plane ride. I remember hearing my husband sobbing,” she added.
After arriving in New York, Simpkins described the state of her and her husband, David. “David and I didn’t know what to do,” she recalled. “We went outside to get some fresh air. I remember just sobbing on the sidewalk, I just couldn’t move my body anymore.”
The pain was no easier to bear as time went on, especially whiling trying to balance her on grief with that of her other children.
“Cheslie and her older siblings were very close,” Simpkins said. “Last year they were all together and each of them had a gold bracelet that was kind of sealed on their wrists to represent their bond. They grieve differently for Cheslie than our younger two.”
“By the time they were born, Cheslie was out of the house. She was a favorite because she would come visit, but the bond wasn’t the same,” added Simpkins, who said the family is seeking help together.
Simpkins described talking about her daughter as “healing” and hopes opening up will “encourage people to be kinder.”
“Depression is not always marked by someone laying in bed, or unable to do things,” said Simpkins. “There are people who are high-functioning who can get through the day because they wear the face. And we all are taught to wear that face. Cheslie wore the face.”
“She laughed a laugh that was infectious. When something made her really smile, from the gut, her laugh came out,” Simpkins added of her daughter. “She had that, but it did not remove the depression.”
As the conversation came to a close, Cheslie’s stepfather — who has been a part of her life since she was 12 — shared his biggest fear: that his memory of her would fade over time.
I’m so glad that she loved the camera because we got plenty of videos, plenty of pictures,” he added. “It’s hard balancing the grief and the gratitude. I think I’m more on the grief side of the seesaw right now, but I’m so grateful that I got to be part of her life, and she got to be part of mine,” stated her stepdad.
Cheslie Kryst | CREDIT: JOHN LAMPARSKI/GETTY IMAGES
If you or someone you know needs mental health help, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.