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Granger Smith and Wife Amber Reflect on ‘Crushing’ Guilt They Felt After 3-Year-Old Son’s Death

Granger Smith and Wife Amber Smith are 'Trying to Cope' With Guilt After 3-Year-Old Son's Death
Granger Smith and Amber Smith.Rick Kern/Getty Images

Former country music singer Granger Smith and his wife, Amber Smith, are opening up the death of their son River Kelly in 2019. He was 3 years old.

While appearing on the Tuesday, September 19, episode of Tamron Hall, the couple reflected on the guilt they felt after River’s drowning accident.

“I was processing it badly,” Granger, 44, recalled. “I was doing a terrible job because it was crushing me. … You know, it’s almost a joke that people say, ‘Here’s the one thing you got to do is just keep them alive until they’re 18 and get them out of the house.’ 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. I was responsible.”

Granger, who noted that Amber, 41, was in the house at the time of the accident, said that his guilt “just about killed” him.

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Amber, meanwhile, struggled with her own feelings of regret.

“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 explained. “So, I felt that guilt that maybe if I would have just brought the boys inside, this wouldn’t have happened. But then I was also grieving for the heavy guilt that [Granger] was feeling, blaming himself, when it can happen to anybody.”

Granger also opened up about the “slideshow” of grief that he found his brain replaying on a loop after the accident.

Granger Smith and Wife Amber Smith are 'Trying to Cope' With Guilt After 3-Year-Old Son's Death
Amber and Granger Smith. Courtesy of Tamron Hall Show/YouTube

“It happens in extreme tragedy or PTSD, grief, when something happens in your mind that you cannot comprehend. … Your brain puts together these images back to back to try to calculate, ‘How do we finish this loop? There’s got to be an end to this loop somewhere,’ and so it just runs through your mind,” he explained.

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Granger then shared what his own personal slideshow consisted of: “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, zero percent chance of survival, we’re telling the kids, my son Lincoln’s hands on the casket.”

Despite living with the aftereffects of their loss, Granger and Amber have found newfound joy in their son Maverick, who was born in 2021. “He is never a replacement for River but he’s a beautiful new chapter in God’s story,” Amber said of her “amazing” youngest child.

Granger, who also shares daughter London, 11, and son Lincoln, 9, with Amber, added that Maverick is “very familiar” with River.

“He knows River. He knows his picture. He kisses his picture. He knows that that’s his ‘Bubba,’” the minister explained.

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While Granger and Amber have had each other’s backs in the wake of the tragedy, not everyone has been so kind. Amber has previously opened up about receiving hurtful messages from social media users who blame her and Granger for their son’s death. In July 2022, she took to her Instagram Story to share a screenshot of one such message.

“Why was he not being properly protected and supervised? Not my business, not trying to be cruel, but to have a beautiful baby drown and then just have another kid, like … oops sorry about that one, we’ll just replace him. How do you guys deal with knowing his death was 100 percent preventable? And then just move on?” the direct message read.

In a subsequent Instagram Story, Amber noted that she “can’t fault” the social media trolls. ”We live in a fallen world. It’s taken me 3 years to not let these comments hurt me, but I forgive them. I am rooted in Jesus,” she wrote.