Granger Smith + Wife Amber Explain What Kept Them Together After Son River’s Death
After their three-year-old son River died in a drowning accident at home in June 2019, Granger Smith and his wife Amber made a pact: They were going to stay together, no matter how much their grief pulled them apart.
"It was, like, almost a business agreement," Smith tells Today in a new interview. "It was like, 'Okay, 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."
The Smiths — who are parents to daughter London and son Lincoln, and have since welcomed another child, baby boy Maverick — knew that they faced an uphill battle. Statistics show that the loss of a child places immense strain on any couple's relationship, though the exact percentage of couples who divorce or split after the death of a child varies greatly, with some sources estimating it to be as low as sixteen percent.
Still, finding a path toward healing together is difficult for any couple, and Smith and Amber knew that grieving "in different cycles" would make it "really easy to call each other out on it or get frustrated."
Four years after the tragedy, Smith says one important thing kept their marriage together: Amber never blamed him for River's death.
"I was the one with River. I was in the backyard with him when he went into the pool," he says.
"She could have at any moment said: 'How dare you do this to our boy? How could you have turned your back on our baby?' Easily, in her deepest and darkest moments of anger or guilt or depression, she could have said: 'It was you in the backyard,'" he continues. "She never did — not once. Ever. And if she did once — if she slipped in her worst, darkest moment — one time — that could have put a slice in me that was irreparable in my soul.
"That might have been the thing that split us up forever — she didn't do that," Smith concludes.
In the days that followed River's death, Smith spoke openly about the circumstances that led to the tragic incident.
"I was outside playing with London doing gymnastics in the yard, and the boys were playing a water gun fight," he recounted. Somehow, while his back was turned, River squeezed through the pool gate to refill his water gun from the family pool, and fell in.
"Somewhere between 30 seconds and three minutes, Amber and I are inside our pool gate, doing CPR on our son," Smith continued. River was transported to the nearby Dell Children's Medical Center in the family's home of Austin, Texas, but he was unable to be revived. Two days later, the family chose to donate his organs.
Amber says that "by the grace of God," she never felt blame for her husband over the accident, though she acknowledges that "in our human flesh, that's what we tend to do.
"This wasn't something that he did or something that I didn't do — we're a couple," she reflects. "How could I ever put blame on him?"
Since River's death, the couple have become staunch advocates for water safety awareness for all families. Recently, Smith announced that he will be concluding his music career in order to pursue a career in ministry, saying that music never really felt the same for him after the loss of his son. Early this month, he released his book Like a River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward After Loss and Heartache, which details River's death and the family's grief and healing process.