Tragedy to Triumph Part II: Local mothers spread kindness, outreach after death of teens

Special Report

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Monday we told you the story of two women who have suffered the loss of their teenage children.

Christina Crist and Jayna Sullivan met officially for the first time during their interviews with our Sadie All.

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

Jayna Sullivan lost her 17-year-old son, Garrett Sands to reckless homicide in 2018.

After the shock and disbelief that Christina experienced after her daughter’s suicide …

Everybody was devastated by her decision.”

Christina Crist

She knew if she was going to move forward, she’d better get to work.

How I have dealt with it, is I get busy. I stay busy.”

Christina Crist

Shortly after her loss, Christina did find a gain in Team of Mercy. She learned all she could about suicide and became the head of the support group.

She now believes that situational mental health illness played a factor in Hannah’s decision.

“She didn’t know that it’s ok not to be ok all the time. I really believe that that’s what took her life.”

Also in her loss, she gained a whole new Christina.

“If you would have told me then, that I would be doing what I’m doing now, I would have been like, you really have the wrong person.”

Before, being around grieving people would have made her uncomfortable. What she knows now is different.

“How gut-wrenching the pain can be. I absolutely love when I get to sit with a new survivor and just let them be.”

A new goal for Christina became finding connection with other survivors.

“I need to find the other individuals … We are meant for unity as individuals and as human beings and I believe it is our responsibility to take care of each other.”

Christina says last year alone Team of Mercy helped two thousand people affected by suicide in the Wabash Valley.

“They are living and thriving today.”

The group provides bio-hazard scene clean up, support groups, fundraising for funeral expenses and whatever else they can to help families cope.

Jayna Sullivan’s heartache is much more recent. Her 17-year-old son Garrett Sands was shot and killed at a party in 2018.

There’s almost a state of disbelief and it has to sink in and it did and hit hard, it hit really hard.”

Jayna Sullivan

What Jayna found that helped her cope, was spreading the kindness that was once generated by her son.

“He was a very lovable child to me and that continued on to his teen years … He danced with me in my living room to ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael.”

With the inception of the kindness cards at Garrett’s celebration of life, Jayna dug a little deeper and started really being seen in her community.

I realized that doing things for other people is what made me feel better.”

The Garrett Sands Kindness Project started picking up trash, hosted blood drives to honor Garrett being an organ donor and perhaps their biggest success: Prom dress giveaway.

Jayna collected prom dresses to give to students in need during prom time. She got to hear the stories, what these dresses meant to the young women giving them up and for some, how hard they worked to afford them.

They would cry giving me their dress wanting to do something for another person.”

Jayna says that’s the point of the Kindness Project, it works both ways.

“The Kindness Project isn’t just about doing things for other people it’s about doing something for yourself and giving to others.”

Jayna says after all, seeing his mom serve her community with of love and acts of kindness is what her son deserves. And Christina says, it’s something we all deserve.

“It spreads. Just like hate spreads, kindness spreads a lot quicker,” Christina said.

There is a lot to Jayna Sullivan’s story. Her family faced even more tragedy after the sentencing finished in the crime that killed her son.

We touch more on that and on her not just making waves, but making some noise in her quest for justice. Check out the web exclusive.

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