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Granger Smith’s wife recalls heartbreaking conversation when she told her kids their brother died

Granger and Amber Smith's son River was 3 when he drowned in 2019.
/ Source: TODAY

Amber Smith, the wife of country singer Granger Smith, is opening up about how they told their children their brother had died.

The couple’s 3-year-old son River drowned in 2019. They are also parents to daughter London, 10 and son Lincoln, 8. In 2021, they welcomed another son, Maverick.

Smith told the “Meaning Full Living” podcast in late June that she and her husband decided to be forthright when telling London and Lincoln that River died.

“We had to be very honest from the very beginning,” she said.

“That’s one of the things the nurses told us in the hospital. We were like, ‘How are we going to go home and tell — our children were 5 and 7 and they were both there during the accident. They saw. So we said, ‘How do we go home and tell our kids that their brother’s not coming home.’ And the nurses said you have to be very honest.”

Smith said it made sense not to hold back the reality of the situation.

“Kids are resilient and they’re going to know if you’re sugar coating things, so we just went home with that intention of being very honest and saying, I hate using the word ‘died,’ but we went home and said ‘River was without oxygen for too long. They did everything that they could but Bubbie died,’” she said.

“And then we just let them process their emotions and we just have continually told them that whatever they’re feeling — if they’re angry, if they’re sad, if they’re mad, if they’re happy ... it’s OK.”

She said the two children spent about eight months in play therapy. The parents also let their children know about their own grieving process, and made sure they knew that it was OK to continue talking about their late brother.

“He’s still so very much a part of our lives that I think that has helped them process their grief and heal to where now … they laugh and they tell stories about him,” she said. “They laugh about how funny he was. Of course, there’s still moments of sadness, but I’m pleased I guess is the word I should say as to how they’re healing. I’m grateful for how they’re healing and how resilient that they are.”

Amber and Granger, who have been the target of cruel comments about River’s death, have been very outspoken since his passing. In May, they posted a video of Maverick in a pool to support water safety.

They also discussed the emotions they felt having another child.

“I couldn’t do that,” Amber said in a video released last August called “Honesty in Suffering” from the storytelling media company I Am Second that was recorded while she was pregnant with Maverick. “I felt almost guilty like it would be some sort of a betrayal to River.”

“It is one of the greatest definitions of grief and joy coexisting together,” she said.