April Simpkins is reflecting on losing her 30-year-old daughter to suicide.
In January, April lost her daughter, Cheslie Kryst, to mental illness. Kryst was a former Miss USA who worked as a lawyer and Extra TV correspondent.
Simpkins shared that Chelsie, the second-eldest of her six children, was her “best friend” on a May 4 episode of Jada Pinkett Smith‘s family talk show, Red Table Talk.
“She was the first person I talked to when I woke up,” April said. “We would literally just go about our morning, Facetiming each other. She’d be putting on her makeup, I’d be getting myself ready at my desk. ‘How’s your day?’ ‘What’s going on?’ So to not have that makes mornings awful for me.”
Cheslie died around 7 a.m. on January 30. “I was leaving my [exercise] class,” April said. “I was going to call her on my way home and when I looked at my phone, I noticed there was a text message from her.”
The text from Cheslie was apologetic. “I think at that point, I near blacked out,” April said, “because by the time I read the text, an hour had passed. I don’t even remember step-by-step what happened. I do remember at some point, I was calling my husband, screaming, and he’s saying ‘What? What?’ I got home and we’re just trying to figure out what to do. I had not read the rest of her message. I just couldn’t.”
She continued, “It took me a while to read that all the way through. I would read some sentences and then I just would just collapse. But after I really absorbed it, I became thankful. Thankful that I had her for 30 incredible years, that I got to watch her. I think she knew that I would need those words, moving forward, to just bring me comfort.”
April said that after she received the text, she and her husband David Simpkins called the police and jumped on a plane from their home in South Carolina to New York. As the aircraft was taxiing on the runway, the police called back and “confirmed that she was no longer with us.”
Cheslie’s mom said that after she and David checked into a hotel in the city, they went outside to get some fresh air. “I remember just sobbing on the sidewalk,” she said. “I just couldn’t move my body anymore. I don’t remember anything. All I know is we had to bring my baby home and then plan her funeral.”
Later, they flew back to join their family at another daughter’s house. “I walked through the door and just collapsed in my son’s arms,” April said. “I couldn’t remember how to breathe. It was so hard. Feeling the way I felt and watching my children hurt, it’s almost like I’m bleeding.”
April recalled the moment she last saw Cheslie during a family trip to Universal Studios Orlando earlier in January. “We rode rides together. We laughed together,” she said. “That was the last time I hugged her.”
“I don’t know that I’m going to get over the grief,” April said of losing Cheslie. “I’m trying to accept that grief and I are going to do life together.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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