Grief to Healing: Granger and Amber Smith Reflect on Son’s Death
By Movieguide® Contributor
Former country music artist Granger Smith and his wife Amber recently reflected on the drowning of their 3-year-old son, River, on the TAMRON HALL show.
“I felt guilty about failing at the one thing—you know, it’s almost a joke that people say, ‘Here’s the one thing you got to do is just keep them alive ’til they’re 18 and get them out of the house,’” the singer said.
“It’s a joke, and I failed at that one thing. I failed at keeping my son alive when all I had to do was be there for him. And I was in the yard,” Smith said about the incident.
“I was the responsible adult. Amber was in the house. I had all three kids with me and I failed at that. And that is something that was very hard. It just about killed me, trying to cope with that guilt,” Granger said.
Amber added that she felt equally responsible.
“There was a moment that Granger had asked me to bring the boys inside and I had a long day and I needed to take a shower and I said, ‘I just need a break.’ So I went in to take a shower,” she said.
“So I felt that guilt that maybe if I would have just brought the boys inside, this wouldn’t have happened,” Amber said. “But then I was also grieving for the heavy guilt that [Granger] was feeling, blaming himself, when it can happen to anybody.”
“So many times, it was not pretty…sobbing tears, screaming in my car, punching my steering wheel, sitting by his bed, holding his blanket, crying until nothing else came out. That’s where I was, and that’s what’s real,” Amber said previously.
Despite the mutual self-blame, the couple knew they couldn’t let the tragedy split them apart. Movieguide®reported:
Smith said that they ‘just looked at each other and we knew the statistics — we knew that couples don’t make it. The odds are against us. The world is completely against us, and people are mean and they will perpetuate this.’
‘So we made an agreement, right then — it was like, almost, a business agreement. It was like: ‘OK, we’re going to do this. The world is going to come at us; we’re going to feel terrible; we have huge obstacles, but we are not going to split. We have to make this agreement for the other two kids — for, at least, the other two,’ Smith said, reflecting on that moment.
Smith told Hall that he used to be overcome by grief at any time. It could be when he is in a conversation or on stage. Smith referred to it as a “slideshow” of endless images.
“And for me, it was like, River facedown in the pool, the EMTs arrive, we’re at the hospital, doctors come in and say there’s no chance of him coming back from this, 0% chance of survival, we’re telling the kids. [Then] my son Lincoln’s hands on the casket…” he said. “There’s River facedown in the pool.”
Six months after River passed, Smith had a day where he felt almost normal. He performed, and the slideshow hadn’t played. He went to have drinks with his band after the concert like he might have done before River died.
“[I] took a few shots, felt a little tipsy, walked back to the bus and I thought, ‘This is the first time I felt tipsy since…Oh no.’ The slideshow came back and then I thought ‘Oh no, in this inebriated state, I won’t be able to slow down the slideshow,'” Smith said.
“‘I won’t be able to control it with these mechanisms that therapy taught me,’ and so I thought that ‘There’s no way. There’s no hope. There is no way.’ And so I reached for the one place that I knew could stop it. And that was with that gun.”
CMT reported that after Smith picked up the gun, images of his oldest children, Lincoln and London, appeared in his mind. He started to pray.
“I said, ‘Jesus, save me,’ and suddenly I felt life sort of stop for the first time,” Smith said. “The slideshow stopped. I slid the gun out of my hand, and it hit the bank, and I fell down on the floor, and I was crying, and I was horrified at my shame and my guilt and the weakness I was and the lack of strength that I had and the weak man I that I was. It all hit me at once, and that was the beginning.”
The couple has now come to a healthy place in their grieving. Smith wrote a book about the incident and the effects of it called “Like a River.” They welcomed another son, Maverick, in 2021.
Amber said, “He’s never a replacement for River, but he’s a beautiful new chapter in God’s story.”
Smith added that Maverick and River are extremely similar in almost every way. “There’s no two humans closer than any other in the world than River and Maverick, and they’ve never met.”