Cheslie Kryst‘s mother is opening up about losing her daughter.
The former Miss USA’s death was ruled a suicide, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner confirmed to PEOPLE on Tuesday. She was 30 years old.
“I have never known a pain as deep as this. I am forever changed. Today, what our family and friends privately knew was the cause of death of my sweet baby girl, Cheslie, was officially confirmed,” her mother, April Simpkins, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
“While it may be hard to believe, it’s true. Cheslie led both a public and a private life. In her private life, she was dealing with high-functioning depression which she hid from everyone — including me, her closest confidant — until very shortly before her death,” Simpkins continued.
Although Kryst’s “life on this earth was short, it was filled with many beautiful memories,” her mother wrote.
“We miss her laugh, her words of wisdom, her sense of humor and mostly her hugs. We miss all of it — we miss all of her. She was a vital part of our family which makes this loss even more devastating,” Simpkins added.
“Cheslie — to the world, you were a ball of sunshine wrapped in smiles. We talked, FaceTimed or texted one another all day, every day. You were more than a daughter — you were my very best friend. Talking with you was one of the best parts of my day. Your smile and laugh were infectious,” she continued. “I love you baby girl with all my heart. I miss you desperately. I know one day we’ll be together again. Until then, rest easy and in peace.”
In lieu of flowers, Simpkins asks that any donations be made to Dress for Success, “an organization that was dear” to her daughter’s heart.
“If you or anyone else is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255,” she added. “Thank you all for continuing to respect the privacy of our family while we grieve.”
Simpkins’ own history with beauty pageants had a profound impact on Kryst as a child.
In 2002, Simpkins was named Mrs. North Carolina — becoming just the second Black woman to hold the title, according to the Charlotte Observer.
“I remember watching her win and going to appearances with her during her reign,” Kryst, who was also an attorney and social justice advocate, wrote in a 2019 blog post for the North Carolina Bar Association. “Her title provided her with a platform to advocate for issues that were important to her and people listened.”
The experience inspired Kryst to start competing.
“It was a time in my life when I didn’t know who I was and wasn’t confident in myself. I was that little weird kid who had a unibrow and didn’t have any friends,” she said in 2019, according to the Associated Press. “I thought I want to be just like her.”
Following her death Sunday, the Extra correspondent’s family remembered her for inspiring others “around the world with her beauty and strength,” they wrote in a statement.
“Cheslie embodied love and served others, whether through her work as an attorney fighting for social justice, as Miss USA and as a host on Extra. But most importantly, as a daughter, sister, friend, mentor and colleague — we know her impact will live on,” they added.
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.