Cheslie Kryst’s mother discusses grief and healing as a family after daughter’s death

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April Simpkins, the mother of Miss USA winner Cheslie Kryst who died by suicide in January, has opened up about grieving and healing as a family after her daughter’s passing.

During an appearance on the Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk – which is hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow Smith, and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris – Simpkins discussed the pageant-winner’s struggles with depression. Simpkins explained that her daughter de ella suffered from “high-functioning depression”, in which someone who appears to be fine is suffering silently. She also revealed Kryst had attempted suicide in the past.

“It’s healing for me to talk about Cheslie,” Simpkins said as she entered the room and hugged the trio.

“I don’t know that I’m going to get over the grief,” she began. “I’m trying to accept that grief and I are going to do life together.”

Kryst’s stepfather David Simpkins also joined his wife on Red Table Talk. He shared his fondest memories of his stepdaughter, and how he feels Kryst’s presence most when he’s walking through New York City, a place where the two spent a memorable trip in June 2021.

“It’s hard balancing the grief and the gratitude,” he said. “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 de ella and she got to be part of mine.”

When asked about the methods their family has used towards healing, Simpkins shared that they’ve talked to a psychiatrist and met with a grief counselor as a family. Apart from the two teenage boys that the parents share together, Kryst was very close to her three older siblings. However, each member of their family grieves differently.

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David Simpkins recalled how one of their sons had asked permission to play in the school’s basketball game, around the same time as Kryst’s passing. At first, David Simpkins was offended by the request, but he soon realized that “we’re all going through this differently”.

April Simpkins added: “If that’s what he needed was a taste of normalcy, at that moment where everything is chaotic, then we’re going to let him have his moment of normalcy.”

The couple also shared helpful tips for those who wish to help a grieving friend or family member, but aren’t sure how to go about it.

“I told my assistant to please reach out to my co-workers and when I show up, I need a little bit of an oasis for my grief,” April Simpkins said. “Please just tell them to say, ‘We’re glad you’re here’ and that’s it.”

Kryst, who was also an attorney and correspondent on Extra, was crowned Miss USA as Miss North Carolina in 2019. She made history that year alongside Nia Imani Franklin, Kaliegh Garris and Zozibini Tunzi marking the first time that Black women held all four major titles in pageant history. She died on January 30, 2022.

New episodes of Red Table Talk air Wednesdays at noon eastern time on Facebook Watch.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email [email protected], or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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