Trigger warning: child loss
Advocating for bereaved parents after child loss is what I like to refer to as my beautifully broken burden. Beautiful because it’s somewhat astounding that I’m able to help even a single soul when there was a time I couldn’t even help myself. Broken because I wouldn’t have this passion if not for my own daughter who died. And, last but not least, burden, because that’s what it can sometimes feel like on the days when I so desperately want to help others with their grief while also feeling so lost within the heaviness and deep depths of my own.
Country music singer Granger Smith and his wife Amber have been thrown into this unlucky advocacy club after their three-year-old son River drowned at their home in June of 2019. In an Instagram post written by Granger Smith sharing his heart over his son’s passing, River was described as “special,” and anyone who was around him “knew that immediately.” Through these acute stages of their grief, this grieving family has decided to carry an openness surrounding River’s death, and it’s admirable to loss parents all over.
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I have to deliver unthinkable news. We’ve lost our youngest son, River Kelly Smith. Following a tragic accident, and despite doctor’s best efforts, he was unable to be revived. Amber and I made the decision to say our last goodbyes and donate his organs so that other children will be given a second chance at life. Our family is devastated and heartbroken, but we take solace in knowing he is with his Heavenly Father. Riv was special. Everyone that met him knew that immediately. The joy he brought to our lives cannot be expressed and his light will be forever in our hearts. If there are words to say more, I cannot find them in this moment. Love the ones close to you. There has never been a more difficult moment for us than this. . . In lieu of flowers or gifts, please send donations to Dell Children’s Medical Center in River’s name. The doctors, nurses and staff have been incredible.
This family’s unapologetic act of grieving out loud is raw. There is a new world after child loss that’s unknown until you’ve been thrown into its misery. The kind where every moment in your life will forever be defined as “before the death of my child” and “after the death of my child.” Because it’s the type of misery that’s monumental, and nothing else could ever mark time much like that moment. And for some, much like Granger and Amber Smith, this new life will plant a passion to advocate that’s as fierce as the love that’s still carried for their late child.
“People keep saying, ‘you’re so strong’ ‘how are you functioning?’ ‘I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed.’ I am broken,” Amber said in an Instagram post on Monday. “My heart will never be the same. Yes, I have strong moments, but I also (as any grieving mother would do) cry, scream, question and fall to my knees. Then I get back up and I fight.”
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Missing my baby so much ❤️. People keep saying, “you’re so strong” “how are you functioning?” “I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed.” I am broken. My heart will never be the same. I will never be the same. Yes, I have strong moments, but I also (as any grieving mother would do) cry, scream, question, and fall to my knees. Then I get back up and fight. I just want to share my journey with all of you because it will be a long road, and if we can help at least one person going through something like this, then it is worth it to me to be open about my feelings, my faith, my struggles. To any of you experiencing a loss of any kind (and maybe I’m just trying to remind myself here) – You can do this. You can grieve and still be strong for your family, husband and or other kiddos. Lean in to Him in your weakness and learn to not beat yourself up (like I do) when you are having a moment of calm. Shut out the negative and focus on the light and the love. 💫 Be kind to those around you. Before you choose to judge or tear down, always try to encourage or lift people up. That person next to you, that car in front of you, that woman down the street, that man in your office, those kiddos in the store, you never know what kind of trials they are facing. Thank you all again for sharing your stories of loss with me, for lifting my family up through prayers and encouragement. YOU are the reasons for my strength at times and I’m so grateful. ♥️
This mom is so fresh in her grief, but her simple words for other grieving, as well as non-grieving, parents and individuals are wise beyond her years. It’s true, nobody knows how they would survive child loss until it befalls them. Even then, there are moments where you’re certain you’ll succumb and fall to the horrendousness of it all. But once it happens, you are helpless in the matter. It is done, and it’s important to understand that this was never asked for. It just happened.
And perhaps the most crucial concept to understand about newly grieving parents? We, the bereaved, cannot up and die alongside our child. So we fight. Because, really, what else is there left to do?
It’s up to us to do with our tragedy as we will. It’s ours to sulk in, make beauty from, or advocate for in the way that we so choose. And it’s powerful to see Granger and Amber Smith, a couple so new within their grief, already understanding that and creating beauty from their ashes.
Through social media posts, videos, and $218,000+ raised and donated to Dell Children’s Medical Center in the name of their son River, this bereaved couple is destroying the stigma surrounding child loss and telling the world that there is a life to live and pursue (albeit different and full of as much sorrow as there is joy, of course) after the death of a child.
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Because of all of you – our friends, family, Yee Yee nation family – we were able to donate over $218,000 to @dell_childrens . Thank you doesn’t quite seem to cut it. This is just the beginning of something special. We are committed to bringing light from our darkness for years to come. ***Please watch the link in my bio to see more about our special day in honor of River. We’ve seen people ask, “how can they be on social media after losing a child?” And that’s a fair question. Everyone grieves differently. For some, they may not understand, but we have decided not to hide away. Riv was loved by so many and we will continue to spread love, positivity, awareness, and God’s glory in his name. If our message helps just one other family, then it’s worth it. We have felt so much love and have seen our community come together in such a special way, and I truly believe God has a plan and this is setting off a “chain reaction of holy passion” (a lyric from one of my kiddos favorite songs) – and isn’t that our overall mission in this life? To spread love and share our faith in honor of Him? ✝️🙏🏼♥️ Thank you Thank you Thank you #bethelight #livelikeriv
In a video released by Granger and Amber Smith, the bereaved father says that their daughter asked how long River lived, where he responded it was just over a thousand days. After thinking on that for awhile, Granger says that he began to wonder, “What if we all were given a gift of 1,000 days on this earth? And you could live those days barefoot, red hair flying back on your go-kart, on your tractor, full-speed ahead. If you could do that, with your family around you, with no real cares in the world, that’s a good thousand days. That’s a good way to live.”
One thing is certain, it appears this little boy was given more love in his 1,000 days than some receive in their entire grown-adult lifetime. I’m sensing some honorary music is to come from Granger Smith as a tribute to his late son. And I, for one, am anxious for that day when/if his bereaved father feels ready.