Tragedy to Triumph Part I: Local mothers who lost children turn to community service

Special Report

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — It’s likely that you know a parent or are a parent who has lost a child.

It’s a grief that goes against nature and often parents never see a healing process.

Sadie All brings us the story of two mothers who were able to transform their grief into positivity for their community.

A good mother takes pride in her mission to protect, provide and encourage her child. It’s a burning flame that doesn’t fade … Even after death.

“I will grieve my daughter until the day I die,” Chrisitna Crist said.

“When my son died, Jayna died along with him,” Jayna Sullivan said.

Two local women have had to see their motherhood through the other side of tragedy. You may see them in their grief

“I live my grief, you can choose to drown, or you can choose to swim. Sometimes I just have a nostril out of the water, but I’ve got a nostril out of the water and I’m breathing,” Crist said.

But you won’t see them stuck there.

“I have a lot of love for him, bottled up inside of me and it’s a shame for it to be wasted,” Sullivan said.

Christina Crist lost her 15 year old daughter, Hannah, to suicide in 2013.

“She was excited about an art project, she had big plans for the weekend. This was not a young lady that you would have thought was making this decision later on this evening,” Crist said.

Jayna Sullivan’s 17-year-old son Garrett Sands was shot and killed at a party in 2018.

“It was stunning and shocking how my son died,” Sullivan said.

The unimaginable pain they suffered, propelled them forward.

“It shifted my world off its axis and it totally took my normal life and just, like catapulted me in a different direction,” Sullivan said.

Both coming out of the tragedies, new women. Christina remembers her high school sophomore, as an artist, goofball and good friend to others.

“She loved to joke, she loved to laugh … Her smile could light up a room,” Sullivan said.

In no way did Christina ever expect that her daughter was suicidal. She searched for evidence after Hannah’s passing: A notebook or conversation with a friend.

Christina never found what she was looking for, instead she found Team of Mercy.

“I did not grieve alone at all. I can honestly say that,” Sullivan said.

The group was started the same year as Hannah’s suicide. A bio hazard clean up organization to assist loved ones of suicide victims. The group’s founder reached out to Christina after learning her story.

“The founder had asked, what would be your needs and I’m like, ‘I really need to be around people who have been through this because I have no idea what I’m about to go through,'” Christina said.

Since then, Christina learned all that she could about suicide and became active in the group’s support outreach. She visits people and places in the Wabash Valley teaching tools to prevent suicide. Even working with school students.

“I believe we helped save a young lady’s life that had a plan to take her own life.”

Christina says simply being kind to one another can go a long way. It’s something that’s helped Jayna Sullivan in her own loss.

“All these things that he did for other people, that kindness is gone now and we wanted to continue that.”

At Garrett’s celebration of life, she says lines stood for two hours just to make sure it was known that his kindness did make an impact. Jayna says that was the birth of the kindness project.

The family first started handing out cards wherever they could.

The cards tell a little bit about Garrett. The outreach drew other mothers suffering loss to Jayna.

“I’m thankful for them. There’s a handful of mothers that I actually kept in contact with. Not just to show that I wasn’t alone but I could see how they were progressing in their life too and it gave me, I guess, hope.”

One mother that Jayna never officially met until our cameras were rolling was Christina.

In part two of this piece we’ll look more at the impact these two mothers have had on their community and the simple message that goes a long way.

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