Mornings will never be the same for April Simpkins, mother of late beauty queen Cheslie Kryst.
In January, Simpkins lost her 30-year-old daughter — a former Miss USA who worked as a lawyer and Extra TV correspondent — to suicide at age 30. On a May 4 episode of Jada Pinkett Smith’s family talk show “Red Table Talk,” now streaming on Facebook Watch, Simpkins shared that Kryst, the second-eldest of her six children, was her “best friend” and an essential part of her mornings.
“She was the first person I talked to when I woke up,” Simpkins 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.”
Kryst died around 7 a.m. on January 30. “I was leaving my [exercise] class,” Simpkins 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 Kryst was apologetic. “I think at that point, I near blacked out,” Simpkins 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.”
Simpkins 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.”
Kryst’s mom said that after she and her husband 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,” Simpkins 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.”
Simpkins said she last saw Kryst 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.”
She shared that Kryst suffered from high-functioning depression and had attempted suicide before. “She was in her early 20s, just before that first attempt,” she said. “That was the first time I noticed smiles were a little forced.”
Over the years, though, Kryst seemed to get better. “It was after that first attempt that she and I grew very close and I wanted her to feel comfortable calling me — if ever you’re in crisis, call me. And she began taking all the right steps. She began seeing a counselor. She was getting good sleep at night. She knew all the things to do.”
Now she clings to memories of her “incredible” daughter. “Her intelligence was there from birth, honestly, and a lot of her achievements didn’t really surprise our family. She always sought to do better, to learn more.”
“I don’t know that I’m going to get over the grief,” Simpkins said about losing Kryst. “I’m trying to accept that grief and I are going to do life together.”
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741, anytime.