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Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst's mother on high-functioning depression, dealing with grief: "She was snatched from my life"

Cheslie Kryst's mother on grieving daughter
Cheslie Kryst's mother on grieving daughter 14:52

When former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst would walk into her mother's house, it was like an announcement.  

"All of my other children would come through the front door very quietly and hit the kitchen and might say hello. She would throw that door open and say, "Hi, mom," her mother, April Simpkins, told "CBS Mornings." 

Her vibrant and bubbly personality instantly brightened the lives of those who were in Kryst's life.  

But that light dimmed after the 30-year-old died by suicide in January. Her mother said that Kryst struggled with depression for several years despite the happy appearance she put out to the world.  

"Depression doesn't always look like someone is sad or burdened. It is something that for Cheslie, she learned to live with," Simpkins said.  

Kryst's accomplishments include being a former Division I athlete, an attorney, winning the Miss USA pageant in May of 2019, and becoming a correspondent for the entertainment news program "Extra."  

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 08: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Miss USA Cheslie Kryst appears onstage at the 2019 Miss Universe Pageant at Tyler Perry Studios on December 08, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

Despite being beautiful and successful, Simpkins said her daughter was a high-functioning depressed person who had previously attempted suicide in her early 20s.  

It was after that attempt that Simpkins said she would try to always be there for Kryst—no matter what she needed. 

"You know, I lived in two worlds. I loved her dearly and deeply, but the other world was knowing that she was struggling with depression. And she and I had very intimate conversations about what she needs from me for support," she said. "So, I gave her what she needed from me. And Cheslie took from everyone what she needed from them—a hug, a smile, a kind word. She got what she needed." 

The two were more than mother and daughter, but best friends. Kryst's death left such a hole in Simpkins' life that she began to attend grief counseling, something she recommends to those who are suffering through a loss. 

"To lose someone so suddenly feels like they were snatched, like she was snatched from my life. I don't know how to grieve that way. I've never had to before. So I don't know what it looks like. And talking with someone to find out that what I'm feeling, what I'm doing is normal and it is healthy," she said. 

Simpkins has many memories with her daughter, but it was a recent trip to Turks and Caicos that the two took together that she holds onto. 

"We built sandcastles, we walked on the beach. We had breakfast. We shopped. That is one of my favorite memories of her," she recalled. 

While Kryst's death has left those whose lives she impacted less bright, Simpkins hopes that Kryst's legacy will live on through acts of kindness. 

"She left a legacy of kindness, of advocacy of helping and supporting others and it's in those acts that I see her. So I just have been asking so many people advocate, be kind, those are ways that I know Cheslie has impacted someone enough that they are doing something to honor her," Simpkins said. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available 24-7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Just call 1-800-273-8255. For more resources, please click here

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